Have you ever found yourself cleaning out the fridge when there’s work to be done? Or spending an hour on facebook when you really should be out getting some exercise?
It’s amazing how creative we can get when there’s something that really needs to be done but we don’t really want to do it.
So what do we do about it?
Well, if we want an ongoing and sustainable solution to the problem rather than just a temporary solution which may mean the problem will recur, we need to figure out the reason we are procrastinating in the first place, and unfortunately, the reasons we procrastinate are many and varied.
If we can get to the bottom of the reason why we’re procrastinating though, we can figure out what to do differently. That means we can then stop procrastinating, and start getting things done, without having to fight ourselves to do it.
How to identify the root cause of your procrastination
Fortunately, figuring out the root cause of your procrastination is something you can do for yourself. There are 3 easy steps you need to take in order to do this. They are as follows:
3. Ask yourself why
Doing this means you can identify the solution you need to take, and tackle the problem where it needs to be tackled - at its source.
To make sure you can do this effectively, let’s look at each of these steps in turn.
This is pretty important.
Berating ourselves usually gets us nowhere fast and just makes us feel bad.
Continuing on with the task we’re procrastinating with won't help us get to the task we really need to be doing.
And forcing ourselves to do the task we’ve been avoiding may work in the short term, but won’t address the root cause of the problem, which means the problem is likely to recur.
So stop, sit down, and follow the next two steps to figure out what’s really causing the problem instead.
This second step is even more important than the first, and without it, step 3, asking yourself why, won't work properly.
Relaxing, truly relaxing, allows you to turn inwards and communication with your unconscious mind, and that’s exactly what’s needed.
If the answer to the reason you are procrastinating was easily accessible, you’d already know what it is and have done something about it.
The best way to facilitate this relaxation is to breathe - start by breathing all the way out, then taking a couple of slow, deep breaths. This slows down your body and mind, and allows you to access the answers you need.
3. Ask yourself why
This is a question to ask yourself on the inside, not one to ask yourself consciously. This is why it’s so important to stop and relax first, as you want to focus inwards, and ask yourself why you’re not doing it, and then allow the answer to come.
So direct this question inwards, then wait. The answer you then get points you in the direction of the best solution for you.
Three examples from the real world
Example 1: Lack of organisation
One of my video e-learning programme members had to send out emails containing valuable information to her clients. She had two kinds of emails to send. One got sent out without any issues or procrastination. The other would get put off regularly.
After watching a video training outlining this strategy, she stopped, relaxed, and asked herself why she was procrastinating around this particular kind of email.
She realised it was because the content she needed to send for this group of emails was in a number of different places on her computer and wasn’t at all well organised. That meant that every time she wanted to send out one of those emails, it was a real hassle.
Getting those documents well organised and in one place solved the problem, and all of her emails now get sent out as planned and with a minimum of hassle.
Example 2: Overwhelm
One of my 1:1 clients needed to put together a portfolio of all the professional development and ongoing education work she’d done.
There was a substantial incentive to do it as once she’d handed it in it would result in a pay rise of several thousand dollars a year, yet she wasn’t doing it.
When she stopped, relaxed and asked herself why, she realised she was completely overwhelmed by the task and had no idea where to start.
Helping her break it down into small chunks and decide what was needed to make the task easier really helped. She went out and bought a couple of folders for easier filing, decided exactly where she wanted to start, and then got stuck in.
Example 3: Boring or distasteful tasks
This one is an example from my life. When I ask myself why I’m procrastinating on something, the answer is often very simple. I don’t like doing it and I’d rather do something else.
My strategy from there is to ask myself if I really need to do it. Unfortunately, the answer is usually yes.
From there I usually use one of two strategies.
Either just do it and get it done given I don’t really have a choice on the matter, or find a way to make it more enjoyable - for example by listening to music while I’m doing it, or giving myself something to look forward to once I’ve done it.
Applying this strategy in your life
There are several reasons why we procrastinate, and getting to the bottom of these reasons is often the first step in helping us get past that procrastination.
So next time you find yourself procrastinating, instead of beating yourself up about it or trying to force your way through it, stop, relax and ask yourself why.
Let the answer you get lead you towards a solution that addresses the root cause of the issue.
That way you can come up with a strategy that addresses the problem at its source, which means you can stop procrastinating, and start getting things done, without having to fight yourself to do it.