Over the past years, I have become something of an expert in talking myself into and out of things. Perhaps the way in which I do this the most, these days, is dealing with procrastination.
We’ve all procrastinated. Even the most driven, organised, relentless people I know put things off. I consider myself a pretty organised person, and have spent a long time cultivating determination – and I procrastinate. A lot.
So let’s immediately do away with the perception that organised people don’t procrastinate. Everyone procrastinates. I want to make this very clear, because I think a lot of the problem with our fear of procrastination is our guilt about it.
It’s normal, it’s human, we all do it.
So how do I defeat procrastination?
I don’t believe there is any one way to ‘fix’ procrastination. I think, basically, that it’s a problem you can’t completely eradicate. But today I want to give you just one tip. Yes, just one.
Because when it comes down to it, the way I deal with procrastination is this: I work out why I’m procrastinating.
For me, there are several reasons that I procrastinate. The most obvious is when it’s a task that I just don’t like at all – hello, washing up, I’m looking at you. But quite often, the problem is more complex: it’s because I’m afraid of the task, or overwhelmed by the number of tasks I have, or the task feels too big.
Once I’ve worked out why I’m doing it, it’s a lot easier to work out how to stop it. That’s why I would give only this one piece of advice – because basically it’s cheating. This one piece of advice is a gateway to many, many more.
Let’s say I’m putting off a task because it seems too huge. The solution to this is obvious: break the task down. Now sometimes, it’s not a ‘huge’ task. It just feels huge. For example, if my depression is being particularly difficult, I often procrastinate showering or bathing. That seems huge. So I don’t tell myself ‘I need to go have a bath’. I tell myself I need to walk into the bathroom. Then I need to turn the taps on.
That might seem silly, but honestly, it works.
But what if I don’t know why I’m procrastinating?
We’re pretty self-aware creatures – especially those of us with anxiety and depression – but even we sometimes are at a loss for why we’re acting the way we are.
I often find that when I don’t know why I’m procrastinating a task, it’s actually that I’m just afraid of it. Not always, but quite frequently. So what I tend to do when I’m at a loss for why I’m procrastinating is to talk to someone about it. My partner, a friend, family member, colleague – anyone who I can vent to.
Sometimes just the act of venting about it is all I need to get going. Sometimes their support or advice is what I need. Sometimes talking about it helps me understand why I’m procrastinating and, then, I can find another way out. Either way, I’ve done something about it – if it doesn’t work, I know that I tried.
And that’s the key thing. We’re complicated. Procrastination often comes from emotion, and so the most important thing is to understand that feeling. It’s very hard to have compassion without empathy; you need to know what is wrong to be gentle with yourself about it. And you do need to be kind to yourself. You deserve kindness.
In short, and most importantly: you’re not a terrible person because you are procrastinating.
Just work out why it’s happening. Start there. See how it goes.
If you found this article helpful and would like to read more of my posts on mental health, you can check them out here!