What procrastination is costing you and how to overcome it
If procrastination is stopping you from getting things done or making progress toward your goals and dreams, this post will give you some tips for overcoming procrastination or avoid procrastinating altogether. It’s just the motivation you need to stop procrastination from holding you back!
I recently made a disappointing discovery about myself . . . I have become quite the procrastinator.
As someone who prides herself on being productive and efficient, this threw me for a loop.
I knew I procrastinate from time to time, but after listening to this podcast episode by Brandon Lucerno, it became clear that lately I’ve really fallen into a bad procrastination habit.
I came across this podcast episode totally randomly, so clearly the Universe knew I needed to hear it!
He started the podcast by saying that in his experience, one of the main things stopping entrepreneurs from getting the results they want is WAITING. They wait for everything instead of taking action.
He says one of the reasons he’s seen success is because he doesn’t wait — he takes action.
As I was listening to him, I realized I’ve been doing A LOT OF WAITING . . . which is essentially a different way of saying I’ve been doing a lot of procrastinating.
I wait on so many things, big and small . . .
Ooh, look at this super cute pair of wedge sandals in my hard-to-find size of 4.5. I LOVE them. But I’m gonna take some time to think about whether I should get them. A week later . . . I really want those shoes — I’m getting them! I go online to order them and guess what . . . they’re gone. I then go into mourning over the loss of the perfect pair of cute wedge sandals.
They probably only make one pair in that size, so why on earth did I wait to buy them?? Ugh!
That’s obviously a really superficial example — procrastination can do a lot more damage than causing you to miss out on a cute pair of shoes.
So, I did some journaling to dive deeper with this.
I made a list of things I’d been putting off, ignoring, or “thinking about,” and then I made a plan for taking action on all of them.
And good grief, Charlie Brown — it was a long list!
This really lit a fire under me. I got more done and made more forward movement over the next two days than I probably have in the last month!
I also did a little research to learn more about why we procrastinate, and how to stop.
WHY WE PROCRASTINATE
So why do we procrastinate in the first place?
Well, procrastination is often caused by fear . . .
- fear of not getting it right (aka “failing”) and the potential outcome if the worse case scenario happens
- fear of being successful and potential negative outcomes of that success (this tends to be a subconscious thing, since most of us don’t go around thinking, “Oh no, what if I become successful? lol)
Sometimes it’s simply not important enough to you . . . you want it, but not badly enough to do all the things that result in having it, especially if some of the actions needed are things you really dislike doing.
It can also be caused by overwhelm and having more on your plate than you can handle. Some things inevitably just don’t get done because there’s not enough time.
Or, there are so many things on your plate that you don’t even know where to start, so you don’t (raising both hands on this one!).
In this Fast Company article, they describe five different types of procrastinators and their motivation for procrastinating: the Perfectionist, the Impostor, the Dread-Filled, the Overwhelmed, and the Lucky One. This is a really good read if you want to gain a better understanding of your procrastination habits.
In her blog post on procrastination, Krista Bauer says another reason for procrastinating is for protection — to protect yourself from things like embarrassment, failure, added responsibility, or rejection. This is another good read for understanding and overcoming procrastination.
HOW PROCRASTINATION SHOWS UP
Procrastination is like a sneaky chameleon, taking on different forms and often disguised as something beneficial.
Here are some ways procrastination shows up for me:
Indecision. I am the Queen of Indecision, with the shoe scenario above being a prime example.
Perfectionism. I tend to have high standards about my work and I think that’s generally a good thing. But, not when those high standards keep me from actually putting the work out there because I’m agonizing over every little detail and trying to make it perfect. No matter how hard you try, nothing will ever be perfect. Just acknowledging that can take a lot of the pressure off and help you get past this form of procrastination.
Carefully thinking things through. Doesn’t that sound like such a responsible and smart thing to do? I’m a thinker by nature, so I value thinking things through thoroughly (that was a tongue twister!) and not acting impulsively. But in reality, sometimes I’m overthinking things and stalling out instead of moving forward. There’s definitely a time for thinking things through — and then there’s a time to realize you’ve done enough thinking and take action.
Waiting until I feel like it. In addition to being a thinker, I’m also a feeler. I believe there’s merit to not doing something that doesn’t feel aligned with your energy or mindset at the time. But (there’s always a but!), in some cases the time is never going to be exactly right and/or I’m never gonna feel like doing whatever the thing is (like giving my cats a nail trim, for example). At this point, waiting till I feel like it just becomes a way to keep me from doing whatever it is.
Having a plan/being prepared. I love a plan! And planning and being prepared are very important. But, as my husband has pointed out to me on more than one occasion, I can have the tendency to spend a lot more time planning than actually doing. Busted.
WHAT IS PROCRASTINATION COSTING YOU?
Procrastination can impact both your work and personal life, and even your overall well-being.
A study cited in the Fast Company article I mentioned above said that procrastination can be associated with higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue.
I can believe that, as procrastination has led to some considerable stress in my own life.
some of the ways that procrastination has cost me:
- Paying more for something because I had to pay a late fee or penalty for not paying on time (there’s probably a Wanted poster of me at the library for late returns)
- Having to jump through extra hoops because I was late doing something
- Being slowed down and dragging things out. If I would just do something right away, I’d start gaining momentum and traction earlier, and I’d also be finished with it sooner.
- A slow subconscious drain on my mental energy by having something hanging over my head that I know needs to be done, acted on, or decided.
- The stress of feeling rushed because I kept putting something off (and if you’re a Taurus like me, you’ll especially understand how stressful being rushed is!)
HOW TO overcome PROCRASTINATION
As with most problems, I believe awareness is the first step.
Just being aware of how you’re procrastinating and what it’s costing you can make a huge difference.
Once I became aware just how much I’ve been waiting or procrastinating lately, it really lit a fire under me. I took quick action on so many things that I’d been rolling over in my planner from one week to the next.
In the Brandon Lucerno podcast, he specifically addresses perfectionism in a really smart way.
He’s a big believer in “Done is better than perfect,” because he says it allows you to start learning and start gaining momentum.
Nothing anyone does is ever perfect right out of the gate. You have to have the imperfect version or action before you get to the ideal version.
So you’re either willing to start with something that’s less than perfect, or you never start.
I thought this was such a brilliant reframe.
He suggests asking yourself these two questions:
What lesson can I learn if I take action and the worst case scenario happens? (Considering the worst case scenario is what most people tend to default to.)
What will be the outcome of waiting? What will waiting cost me?
I would add to this list: What would happen in the best case scenario of taking action?
He also gives a four-step process to overcoming procrastination in the podcast, which I recommend listening to. It was an eye-opening episode for me and I got a lot out of it.
The Fast Company article and Krista Bauer’s blog post also list some helpful tips for overcoming procrastination that I recommend checking out.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON PROCRASTINATION
Procrastination, or waiting to take action or make a decision, can affect our lives in small ways (like missing out on a super cute pair of shoes), but it can also have really significant negative outcomes.
One big negative outcome is keeping you from taking action toward your dreams and goals, or slowing down your progress by tricking yourself into thinking you’re taking action by over-thinking, over-planning, and over-preparing.
As a life coach, ultimately my role is to help people reach their goals so they can live a life that lights them up. So, whether you’re one of my clients or followers, or you found your way to my blog for the first time today, I hope this helps you identify and overcome any of the ways procrastination may be holding you back from your goals and dreams.
If you’re feeling stuck and ready to achieve inspiring goals and create a life that lights you up, I’d love for you to explore a life coaching journey with me.
What to read next:
How to live a more balanced life
Align your intention setting with the seasons and the moon: A new way to plan your year
Ideas for living in flow with the Fall energy
Which of these 5 types of procrastinator are you? (Fast Company website)
Break Past That “Waiting” Game You’re Playing Because It’s Killing Your Business (The New Generation Entrepreneur Podcast)
5 reasons why you can’t stop procrastinating and how to avoid it so you can get things done (Krista Bauer Creative)
Fantastic article! It made me think of when I started blogging and I spent SO MUCH TIME on every post. I re-read them over and over, agonized about the finding the perfect pictures, the perfect title, the perfect intro. . . now when I started writing again I had the very different mindset of “it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be.” And I threw myself into it because it’s now a lot more fun that it used to be without that stress of perfection!
Something else that stood out to me was “A slow subconscious drain on my mental energy by having something hanging over my head that I know needs to be done, acted on, or decided.” This is why I try to knock out the week’s cleaning chores etc. early in the week, because if I don’t the knowledge that it has to be done and the week is coming closer and closer to an end is way more stressful than the actual task itself (like my current looming deadline of cleaning the master bath. . .).
This is why we need to learn how we work and how we can make things work for us, and not the other way around! 🙂
Hi Erika! Thanks for your thoughtful comments and feedback! That’s a great strategy about getting your chores done early in the week — I bet it feels wonderful knowing you have that done. PS — It’s great to see you back to blogging! You’re inspiring me to get going with some new content! 🙂
Hi! Yeah it’s fun to be back to it, the pandemic had me thrown for a loop and it helped the stress to focus on more physical hobbies, like gardening and house projects. But writing is a perfect winter activity! 😉