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7 Common Causes and Proven Cures for Procrastination

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7 Common Causes and Proven Cures for Procrastination

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2/19/2013 1:38 AM

7 Common Causes and Proven Cures for Procrastination

http://www.marcandangel.com/2010/11/22/7-common-causes-and-prove...

This is a guest post by Mike from Living Skillfully: Change Your Life. Do you put off doing things that would bring you closer to your desired goals? I know I do. But why are we so foolish? It has something to do with how our daily responsibilities overwhelm us. In the midst of all the important things we know we need to do, we somehow convince ourselves that none of these things need to be done right now. In other words, we decide that some peace and relaxation in the short term is whats most important. So we take another break, read another blog post, watch another TV show and just kick back and relax. And life is blissfully dandy for a little while. But then suddenly the inevitable deadline has arrived. Ahhh! Its panic time! So here are 7 common causes and proven cures procrastination. Im hoping these tips help you avoid that insane moment of panic.

1. Fear of the outcome


Sometimes were afraid well fail. Sometimes were subconsciously afraid well succeed and then wed have to deal with all the disruption (growth) and change that follows success. And other times its our fear of rejection or simply our fear of looking like a fool. The best way Ive found to defeat fear is to stare it down. Connect to your fear, feel it in your body, realize it and steadily address it. Greet it by name if you have to: Welcome, fear. If you are conscious of it, soon it becomes shy, hangs its head, and mooches off, scraping one shoe on the ground.

2. Helplessness in the face of complexity

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2/19/2013 1:38 AM

7 Common Causes and Proven Cures for Procrastination

http://www.marcandangel.com/2010/11/22/7-common-causes-and-prove...

We look at a task at hand and feel intensely un-resourceful. It may remind us of something we had to do when we were younger, before we had the skills to conquer it (even though thats no longer the case). Or it may actually be a daunting task at our current skill level. Either way, the task seems far too complex, so we try to avoid it. This time the solution is to break it down. Take that complex task and break it down to its bare essential components and then tackle each one of those components one at a time. Sometimes its also helpful to recall one of your previous successes with conquering a complex task just to get yourself in a positive mindset. Think of a time you were really on top of things, achieving great results when you were in the zone. Close your eyes and place yourself in that memory with all your senses.

3. Rebellion and laziness


We resent the task in front of us. We feel imposed upon. I have to do this, we think to ourselves. But I dont have to do it now. Rebellion is about control. We assert our control by choosing when (or whether) to do the task. A friend of mine whose home-schooled son is very rebellious came up with a clever hack. She said, Were going to do what kids who are in school do. Youre going to sit and do school work for 8 hours a day. Her son rebelled, naturally. When the rebellion was in full effect, my friend offered an alternative. Or, we could do this home-school style. If you finish early, we can go somewhere fun. And her son worked more productively than ever. So when you notice yourself feeling rebellious and lazy about a task, think of a way to reward yourself for getting it done now. Also, remind yourself of the consequences of not doing it.

4. Lack of motivation
I procrastinate doing my tax return. Its an administrative task and I dont like it. But it helps when I think about it this way: Im due a refund this year. When I concentrate on the amount of money I get back versus the time it takes to do my taxes, its an excellent hourly rate. And it motivates me to focus on getting it done. That by itself wasnt quite concrete enough, though. So I promised myself a reward: out of the refund, I would buy myself a kayak something Id been thinking about for awhile to help me get back in shape. The basic principle is reframing. If you know the job has to be done but its not emotionally important to you, find a way to make it important. (If I was going to be paying a penalty fee for turning my taxes in late, I could set aside the equivalent amount of the penalty for a reward, for example.) What are you going to get by doing this thats important enough to motivate you to do it now?

5. Lack of focus and fatigue


Distractions are everywhere. You must learn to ignore them. Minimize distractions by secluding yourself. Disconnect the Internet and power off your cell phone if you have to. Check e-mail and voicemail at set intervals instead of randomly every few minutes. Find a quiet space where you can concentrate on the task at hand. And only take breaks as a reward for accomplishing smaller sub-tasks.
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7 Common Causes and Proven Cures for Procrastination

http://www.marcandangel.com/2010/11/22/7-common-causes-and-prove...

Also, its hard to focus when youre fatigued. So get enough sleep, eat healthy and exercise regularly.

6. Not knowing where or how to start


Or maybe the task just looms in front of you as a big block, like a building with no doors. You walk around its perimeter and you dont immediately see a way in. How do you get in? Where do you begin? You cant figure it out, so you set the task aside. Im creating a course on procrastination. It started out as one of those buildings with no doors. How do I even start designing a course like that? I thought. Well, I wrote down a few reasons why people procrastinate (the starting point). I thought about reasons why youd want to stop (the end point or goal). Once something has a beginning and an end, its a lot easier to start seeing the middle. And usually you can work from both ends until you meet in the middle. Each of those reasons is a topic. And each of those topics has a start and an end, and so on and so forth. So dont give up. Uncover the starting and ending points and start filling in the blanks one at a time.

7. Perfectionism
One of the best bits of advice ever about perfectionism comes from Melody Beatties book Codependent No More. It just doesnt matter, she says. IT JUST DOESNT MATTER! But thats hard advice to put into practice sometimes. Ive often put off implementing ideas by using the excuse that Im not yet prepared to do the idea justice. Some part of me thinks Ill end up wasting the idea by implementing it poorly at my current level of skill. But guess what? My current level of skill isnt going to increase unless I practice. And I cant practice until I implement. And that means I have to implement with my current level of skill, make mistakes, learn from them and press on. So in reality, not implementing that idea right now is the only true way to waste it. And guess what else? There are plenty of additional ideas and variations I havent thought of yet, and most of them wont come to me until Ive started implementing and making mistakes. Its impossible to steer a parked car.

Conclusion
By taking the time and initiative to understand your own reasons for procrastinating, and devoting a little energy to take the necessary steps to move forward, you can beat procrastination. We all can. In fact, simply writing this article was a testament to this. I kept procrastinating on writing it because I lacked focus. So I locked myself in my den, eliminated all distractions, kept the end in mind and started writing. And as usual, starting was the hardest part. Now Im done. For additional guidance on beating procrastination, I highly recommend The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination. Mike Reeves-McMillan blogs at Living Skillfully: Change Your Life. His upcoming procrastination course is Stop Procrastinating, Start Succeeding.

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2/19/2013 1:38 AM

7 Common Causes and Proven Cures for Procrastination

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29 Comments
farouk November 22nd, 2010 at 5:08 am yes thats so true the only way to get over procrastination is to understand its underlying causes Living the Balanced Life November 22nd, 2010 at 8:53 am Perfectionism is a big one for me. I feel if I cant do something perfectly, then I have to wait until I can. Which means then it gets put off forever, since Ill never be perfect!

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2/19/2013 1:38 AM

7 Common Causes and Proven Cures for Procrastination

http://www.marcandangel.com/2010/11/22/7-common-causes-and-prove...

I am working really hard to overcome this as I feel it is a great burden we place on ourselves and the others around us. Bernice http://livingthebalancedlife.com/2010/focus-on-be-ing/ Lua November 22nd, 2010 at 9:08 am Thank you very much I`m a student in my last year at college and next week my midterm exams will began ! I was feel sad , lack of time But now after reading your article I`m so excited to start to study and focus in it I believe in my self and my ability to get high marks MissTyrious November 22nd, 2010 at 12:44 pm thank you so so much for this! you couldnt have written it at a better time! I had a paper to submit at 10 am today and I finished it at 9 am o_O After having procrastinated I seriously never understand why I did it in the first place. It doesnt make any sense, as youll have to do your task anyway. And I also find myself just doing useless stuff whilst procrastinating, instead of getting every thing done at once so that I can move on to better things. Your article helped me to understand a lot of things and Im definitely trying to put your tips into practice starting NOW. Parker Lee November 22nd, 2010 at 12:52 pm Hi Mike Wow, I think you pretty much covered every possible reason on procrastination, where were you when I was playing world of warcraft three years ago Thanks for sharing Mike! Parker Dream Innovation November 22nd, 2010 at 2:28 pm From personal experience, if you really want to make sure youre consistently on track, create a system for yourself. Often times we forget all the things we have to keep track of so using some sort of program to organize will be optimal such as Outlook or Google Calender. When we do this, we can plan ahead days in advance when we want to do what and when deadlines are. Establish a habit, and then, while it may be tiring at first and hard to keep, your brain will adjust to the changes and what wer your lazy sleep-in mornings will become when youre done with half of what you need to do! Good work, Mike, and good pick Marc!

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2/19/2013 1:38 AM

7 Common Causes and Proven Cures for Procrastination

http://www.marcandangel.com/2010/11/22/7-common-causes-and-prove...

- Kevin Amber Goodenough November 22nd, 2010 at 4:12 pm Great post! I am the queen of procrastinating, it runs in my family. This post was awesome, helped me look some of my excuses in the face, not pleasant but helpful. And gave me some great ideas for fighting the urge to let things go. Thanks! Amber Ashna November 22nd, 2010 at 4:32 pm This is a neat post Mike. I guess I have the problem of being a perfectionist which is often the cause of my procrastination. However, I agree with what you sayMy current level of skill isnt going to increase unless I practice. And I cant practice until I implement. I need to remember this every time perfectionism holds me back from doing something. Thanks! Mike Reeves-McMillan November 22nd, 2010 at 4:56 pm @Farouk, yes, exactly my point - find the cause and then address it. @Bernice, me too - perfectionism is a curse. I just had to learn to let go a bit and acknowledge that things can be good and useful without being perfect. @Lua, thats great, so happy to have helped. @MissTyrious, understanding does help, doesnt it? Because it helps us take the right action. @Parker, my pleasure, thanks. Isaac November 22nd, 2010 at 8:41 pm 8. The Internet Ande Waggener November 22nd, 2010 at 10:53 pm Great list. #2 and #7 are key for me. Little tiny steps and total permission to screw it up help me just move forward and build confidence as I go. eaglebeth November 23rd, 2010 at 1:59 am uhh yeah ill get to reading this later Smitherine November 23rd, 2010 at 2:30 am

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2/19/2013 1:38 AM

7 Common Causes and Proven Cures for Procrastination

http://www.marcandangel.com/2010/11/22/7-common-causes-and-prove...

I love this: You cant steer a parked car. Next time I put something off, I will remind myself that its up to me to move the damned car Charles November 23rd, 2010 at 3:43 am Procrastination is the art of good timing. Randy McLean November 23rd, 2010 at 6:47 pm As a few others have mentioned perfectionism was/is a big one for me. Then I thought about Microsoft. Windows isnt perfect but it is always released before every possible bug is worked out. And Mr. Gates is one of the most financially successful people on the planet! Dia November 24th, 2010 at 3:05 am Hi Marc, This is an excellent post on procrastination my friend. It is crucial that we undersand the causes, so we can overcome procrastination. Thanks for sharing Mike Reeves-McMillan November 24th, 2010 at 3:11 pm @Isaac, very true. @Ande, thats the way to make amazing progress. Do just that for a year and youll be astonished where you get to. @Smitherine, yep, you cant improve if you arent practicing. @Randy, thats a good analogy (one I use in the course, actually). The whole software industry is based around creating something thats imperfect but useful, and then improving it after its been in the real world for a while and you know how people are responding to it. Peter G. James Sinclair November 25th, 2010 at 8:25 pm Thanks Marc. Procrastination is the killer of future dreams. Initiative is the creator of todays greatest experiences and yesterdays greatest memories. We must seize today with all that it has to offer us and make it the greatest day we have ever lived. We must grab opportunity. Experience experiences. Love lots. Forgive heaps. Dare to try, test and experiment. For the present moment is our gift to unwrap and explore. Why wait? arina nikitina December 2nd, 2010 at 9:23 am

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2/19/2013 1:38 AM

7 Common Causes and Proven Cures for Procrastination

http://www.marcandangel.com/2010/11/22/7-common-causes-and-prove...

I was like nodding in agreement to all the ideas here. These are the topmost reasons why people procrastinate or have very little motivation in life, in career as well. The pointed cures are presented simply so readers here get it right away. Then I came to the conclusion part that mentioned understanding the reasons. Now this is very important for the effort to overcome procrastination. Its noticeable how many people we know would say, Im going to do things on time, as they should be done. Starting now. The next thing to do does get done, even the next few ones. But after that, regression takes place. Its due to lack of deeper understanding of the causes, knowing how the attitude came about. But if we only give ample amount of time to really look into why we procrastinate, chances are the answers and solutions are most fitted. Then finally cutting off that habit is much easier. And hey, Mike? Dont wait longer to write some more OK? Dont procrastinate with pushing me to increased wisdom. LOL! selfempowerment December 4th, 2010 at 12:51 am Hi, Thanks for sharing and i totally agreed with all the points. Just to add in some more, i think poor time management, no prioritize of task also add in to the factors of procrastination. Cheerse Stephanie LH Calahan (@StephCalahan) December 22nd, 2010 at 7:27 pm Nice post. Here is another thought on procrastination: Understand the real time it takes to do tasks We often put things off because we think something will take longer than it really will. I just dont have time! Try These Instead: Play Procrastination Attack! Beat the Clock.Pick a time frame lets say 15 minutes where you know you can focus on a task and get as much done as you can in that time frame. Youll be amazed at how much you can accomplish! Sit in a chair and do nothing. Sit still - very still! Do not read. Do not listen to music. Do not watch T.V. Do not talk to anyone. Do not do anything! Just sit very still and do nothing. After about 10 or 15 minutes, you will get very uneasy. You will start to be aware of each precious minute passing you by while your goals are not being accomplished. Before you know it, your motivation will be reactivated and youll be off and running! To your success! Stephanie bill December 31st, 2010 at 5:05 pm Im going to read this website tomorrow Happy 2011, everyone! Jonha | iJustDid.org January 18th, 2011 at 12:42 am

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2/19/2013 1:38 AM

7 Common Causes and Proven Cures for Procrastination

http://www.marcandangel.com/2010/11/22/7-common-causes-and-prove...

I love articles that covers about procrastination but this one pretty much encompasses everything. I see myself nodding in almost all the reasons listed. Alyssa March 18th, 2011 at 7:39 pm I love this because all of these reasons are so obvious. Ive procrastinated in every way you mentioned, and the whole time I knew I was in the wrong. Its all about holding myself accountable. This article is especially good when I consider the fact that I am currently sitting at work, eating Wheat Thins, and putting off doing a four-page thesis paper over The Picture of Dorian Gray, as well as a college application I guess I have to do them now! Thanks, Mike :3 Oswald March 29th, 2011 at 3:45 pm I find somehow everything about life is procrastination when you are not following your dreams, and you cant WAIT to do things when you are really on the right path in your life - procrastination is a sign and symptom that you need to think hard about what you are doing and your goals. Eustress is great! I have a million things to do as I gear up for my next long -term trip abroad - (will be telling all about it) and I LOVE the stressful feeling of it! Paris October 6th, 2011 at 10:34 pm Oh my god! I read the first 3 on this list and LOVED it, they hit the nail on the head, and then i thought i need to save this to read later cause its important, CTRL D, and then, *stumble*. I PROCRASTINATED READING ABOUT A PROCRASTINATION ARTICLE CAUSE IT BECAME SUDDENLY IMPORTANT TO HELP MY PROCRASTINATION!!!.. help.. Martin Gysler March 20th, 2012 at 6:09 am A very interesting post, I also wrote an article about this very hot subject here: http://martingysler.com /2012/03/08/procrastination-or-the-pleasure-to-do-it-tomorrow/. Ill add your link in my post. Thank you! Sam Tornatore March 26th, 2012 at 5:29 am Great procrastination causes and tips. I like the perfectionism tip the best. A great mentor of mine says become perfect as you go If you wait till all the lights are green you will never get going. Thanks Sam Amy November 21st, 2012 at 7:03 am This is an excellent list, and in my experience, an important one to keep in mind. Theres a lot of unconscious feelings and thoughts that have to go with procrastination, and naming them and being able to sort through them is probably the best long-term solution to overcoming this habit (at least it has been

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