Why I Procrastinate

It’s been 2 weeks since my last post. I’ve been procrastinating.

Often when I read tips on how to stop procrastinating and get work done the tips include prioritize tasks and just do it!

As I work to launch and grow my latest project, Healthy South Shore as well as identify the best use of this blog space, I’ve noticed the what’s and why’s of my procrastination, or inability to take action.

As a curious person I always need to know why. When I paid attention to what I do and don’t do, I learned a lot. My inability to act falls under one of the following categories:

Fear. When I’m afraid of taking some action or the outcome of some action, I freeze. My thoughts go something like this: “It won’t work so don’t bother.” Or “People won’t like it.” Sound familiar?

Not wanting to take that path. As I’ve evolved over the years, my writing and speaking interests have changed. I find I stop doing something when I’m no longer interested in that path. (Stay tuned for a post explaining how I plan to use this blog space)

Too much time blocked off for one task. If I have too much time blocked off for a project, it’s easy for me to think “I have plenty of time! I can start in 30 minutes”. Tell me I have 1 hour to write an article and I’ll sit, get focused and have it to you by the deadline. Structure is critical.

Overwhelmed. When I feel overwhelmed about my to do list, I get stuck. This is when I need to ask for help.

Don’t want to do it. When it comes to cleaning my house, I stall. House cleaning is not a favorite activity and I just don’t want to do it.

Shortly after recognizing my own procrastination patterns a friend introduced me to the book The Tomorrow Trap by Karen E. Peterson, Phd. In it Karen describes two types of procrastination:

  • Task related procrastination – for example, my dislike of house cleaning.
  • Person related procrastination – which she describes as “the possibility of unresolved interpersonal issues (between you and another person) or intrapersonal issues (residing within you from previous life experiences).”  For example, were you criticized as a young kid? That criticism may show up from time to time to keep you from taking action on what really matters today.

Much (not all) of my procrastination is person related – both intra- and interpersonal.

Botton line: In some cases a “just do it” philosophy may work – especially when talking about “task related” procrastination. But if it doesn’t, you might consider digging a little deeper. Perhaps there is a past experience that needs healing, attention or a reframing of beliefs in order to move forward.

What do you think? Do you procrastinate? Have you ever wondered why? Have any strategies to share that work for you?

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2 Comments:

  • http://www.workconsciously.com Chris Edgar

    Hi Stacey — I like your comment about how telling ourselves “come on, just do it” can actually create the opposite of the intended effect. For some people, in my experience, putting off a project is actually a form of rebellion against parent-figures who told them to “just do it” and perhaps called them stupid or lazy for not “just doing it.” So, telling them “come on, get up and go” can just reinforce the same behavior pattern.

  • http://www.vickidonlan.com Vicki Donlan

    Procrastination often stems from an early life experience of receiving no positive feedback for action or having problems disappear before they are acted on. The “if I wait long enough maybe I won’t have to do it at all” theory rarely works, particularly for adults, because if we don’t act there is no result.
    Procrastinators can be turned into action-takers by setting up a reward system. When action is rewarded by positive feedback by others or even oneself- the behavior can be changed. So the next time you have the desire to wait before moving forward with the task at hand promise yourself something special – as small as a walk around the block right after you finish the task. You’ll get the job done, enjoy the reward and feel great about yourself.

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