I am writing a blog about procrastination and distraction because I suffer from procrastination and distraction when writing my blog. And as a coach I want to investigate where this behavior comes from in myself and others. Below you will find an explanation of my findings.
What is procrastination?
Procrastination is the delay of tasks that you would like to do. I deliberately do not speak of tasks you should do, because words have meaning. Procrastination is very normal. More than 95% of people suffer from it in some form. The problem is that it can lead to feelings of guilt, insecurity and stress. Because your work gets stuck or you do not experience personal growth. And because your thoughts influence your actions, the result can be that you end up in a vicious cycle of stress, worry, anxiety and even lack of sleep.
Why are you procrastinating?
Your procrastination is related to your personality. Therefore, everyone can experience it differently. There are a number of specific characteristics that lead to procrastination.
When your self-esteem is linked to performance, so you feel good when you perform, but it puts tremendous pressure on always having to deliver. Sometimes this is also referred to as perfectionism. Associated with this are fear of failure, the fear that you will fail, and the expectations of others. Expectations of others can arise from past experiences and can also be created by yourself in your head. In this case, you procrastinate because you are afraid of something.
Some people are dreamers and can be easily distracted. Others have a rock-solid discipline to accomplish tasks. Discipline largely depends on how resistant you are to internal and external distractions. Internal distractions are thoughts and feelings that can slow you down. External distractions come from outside of yourself. People naturally look for the easiest way to be (positively) stimulated. This also explains the immense popularity of fast food, porn, drugs, alcohol and social media. We get huge dopamine hits, which make us feel good right away without having to make any real effort. In this way, we are rewarded for behavior that does not lead to a fulfilling and impressive life. It provides short term stimulation. If you’re working on big tasks, your goal is still a long way ahead. In fact, you have to wait for a deferred reward. You really have to work for that tasty stimulus, so you may be looking for a distraction that provides you with a faster dopamine shot. Feelings of enthusiasm or fear create distraction. If you get a message from someone, you may be enthusiastic or anxious about having to respond.
A lack of motivation can have various causes, but it often depends on whether you really want something yourself (intrinsic) or whether you want it because others want you to (extrinsic). I write more about this in my blog New Year’s resolutions and the power of words. Motivation can also be related to your energy levels. If you have little energy and are quickly fatigued, it is very difficult to muster the motivation to pick up something. That is why it is very important to take plenty of rest.
Below I have collected a number of practical tips to prevent or improve procrastination.
Work on tasks
- Make a to-do list, be as specific as possible, and do big tasks in small steps, asking yourself why you are doing the task and why you are putting something off. Try to prevent postponed tasks from disappearing to the next day. Analyze them and keep track of how and when you procrastinate.
- Provide attention peaks and dips. Work continuously for a longer period of time and take breaks in between.
- Do small things right away. Pick up tasks that take less than 2 minutes immediately. It gives you a sense of satisfaction and a drive to move forward.
- Start with the hardest job. When you have done that you are very satisfied with yourself.
- Visualize your task and what it feels like when it is done. This will arouse positive feelings.
- Write down things that come to mind during a task and do them later. That way you don’t have to keep thinking about it during your task.
- Make sure everything is ready before you start. This way you cannot be distracted when you start your task.
- Write a distraction list
- Remove apps you don’t use and turn off your notifications
- Set a social media limit for yourself.
- Put your phone away or turn it off completely
- Close all tabs on your computer so that you are not distracted by e-mail.
- Find a location where you will not be disturbed
- Provide a minimalist environment. Just you, something to drink and your duties.
- Put on music or work in silence. This depends on what works best for you.
Change your mindset
- Take small steps but get out of your comfort zone. It is the only way towards growth.
- Words have meaning. What you say to yourself or others gives meaning to your behavior. I write more about this in the blog New Year’s resolutions and the power of words.
- Reward yourself for completing a task and schedule relaxation. You just deserve it!
- Learn to say no. Especially if you want to work on your tasks, but someone asks you to do something. Say no and indicate that you will take this up with the person once you have completed these tasks.
- Just start somewhere. Even if you don’t have a plan or it is still vague. Getting started is always better than putting off.
- Be kind to yourself, but watch out for patterns. If you fail to complete your tasks once, that’s okay. If this keeps repeating itself after three times, there is often a pattern and it is important to investigate it.
A number of tools that I work with for my own procrastination and that of my coachees.
- Monkey Action
- Desire Map
For me personally, procrastination is a combination of fear in the form of perfectionism and self-discipline. I can be an incredible dreamer and easily distracted from the grand plan ahead because it all seems so far away. At the same time I also know that the journey is more beautiful than the final destination. And I stick to that when I apply the practical tips to myself to change my behavior.
Do you know where your procrastination comes from? And are you able to change it?