We’re all familiar with the feelings. Why do I constantly put things off? Why don’t I do the things I'm supposed to do but don’t really want to? Why do I always seem to be forcing myself to do things? How do I move beyond procrastination?
Procrastination doesn’t exist in a vacuum: there’s normally something underlying it. Asking yourself the following questions - and spending some conscious time reflecting on your responses - can help you uncover why you're resisting doing what needs to be done and help you to move beyond procrastination.
1. What is your self-talk like? What are the thoughts that support your resistance to taking action? Are they positive and supporting, or limiting and self-sabotaging? Could moving to thoughts of joy, appreciation and gratitude support an energy shift allowing you to take action?
2. Is lack of energy the problem What is your level of energy like, overall? Do you experience lows, lethargy, laziness and staleness after eating certain foods or drinking certain liquids? Begin to explore your relationship to food and drink and your resulting energy and moods. Do you feel blocked, lacking, low?
When energy is blocked, there is usually some disequilibrium among mind, body and spirit. Movement which supports the flow of energy (such as Yoga and Tai Chi) can restore balance and energy.
3. Are you feeling depressed? You might want to have a physical exam and ask for a professional opinion to explore the possibility of a deeper malaise that may be affecting you.
4. Do you have competing commitments? There may be something you value more than the task you are resisting. This competing commitment is often fear-based.
As an example, a self-employed entrepreneur was resisting organizing her office and work environment. When she inquired into her resistance, by journaling deeply into it, she discovered that, when she completed the organization of her space, her next goal would need to be to focus on her business. She was fearful about taking next steps towards growth - putting herself ‘out there’. Unsure about her skills, abilities and capacities, she resisted moving forward. Her competing commitment was to maintain the status quo and do nothing, to resist and procrastinate.
Try asking yourself what might be something you are valuing more than the task at hand.
5. Are you acting out some childhood resistance? Suppose you were brought up to believe that "neatness counts" or "you must always be organized." You might, as an adult, rebel against what was imposed on you by not keeping an organized living or work space. It’s important to look underneath the resistance to inquire about existing beliefs that are driving you to procrastinate.
Many folks procrastinate in order to maintain a positive self-image and be ‘good’, especially in ways they were taught as children. By procrastinating, they exonerate themselves from potential blame if something goes wrong or does not work out as they hope or plan. They may spend an inordinate amount of time rationalizing dysfunctional behaviors, but the truth is that they are resisting ‘failure’ in some way, shape or form.
Resistance may show up in any of these behaviors and attitudes:
- Ignorance: "I didn't know I was supposed to do that" (It’s not my fault).
- Skill deficiency: "I don’t know how to do it properly" (I'm afraid to try in case I fail).
- Apathy: "It really doesn't make any difference" or "No one really cares" (Poor me) or "I'm not in the mood" (My emotions are blocking any progress).
- Fixed habits and patterns: "I've always done it this way" (Change frightens me) or "I work better under pressure" (I'll do it when I'm really forced, because that is the only thing that can overcome my fear of failure).
- Inertia: "I just can’t seem to get started" (I'm too frightened I'll fail, so doing nothing feels like the only way out).
- Frail memory: "I just forgot” (It’s not my fault, even if didn't do anything to remind myself).
- Physical problems: "I was sick" (I usually am when faced with something I don’t want to do, because it gets me off the hook).
- Perfectionism: "I can’t get started as it won’t be perfect" (I was taught to believe that nothing less than perfection is acceptable).
Asking yourself questions like these can support you to get to grips with your procrastination and uncover what’s at the root of your inaction. By staying with your responses and inquiring deeply into them, you can raise your level of awareness about the nature of your resistance,¬ then take action to move forward, reducing or eliminating the root causes of your resistance.
So next time you feel the pull of procrastination, ask yourself this: what are benefits of completing a task versus the benefits of procrastinating? Delve deeper by adding these additional questions:
- What will happen if I do this?
- What won’t happen if I do this?
- What will happen if I don’t do this?
- What won’t happen if I don’t do this?
Reflect on your responses and align with the energy and positivity of doing the right thing, while visualizing successful completion. That’s probably all it takes to become a "doer" on a consistent basis.