Procrastination is the enemy of an important goal, so we need to understand its causes before we can beat it.

The causes of procrastination may seem simple, either you don’t want to do it, or you keep getting distracted. Sometimes, it can be a little more complicated than that.

One of the hardest things to combat is putting off important projects because we don’t understand what holds us back. Maybe it’s a lack of focus, energy, or motivation. Still, there could be deeper causes of your procrastination that you don’t notice. If you can understand what’s blocking your focus, it’s much easier to stop the stalling and start working. 

Your concept of time is all wrong

A recent study found your concept of time weighs heavily on how important we deem the work. If it feels as though the deadline is in the future, we are less likely to put the work in. But if the deadline feels as though it is in the present, we tend to pay it more mind.

Psychologists call this phenomenon The Deadline Effect. Deadlines that fall in the same year as the present seem much more pressing than those which may be only a month or two different but fall into the start of the next year. Similarly, if we are given a deadline for next month, we will pay it much more attention than the task set for three months in the future.

The trick to combatting this is to set smaller, personal goals. Give yourself a task to finish every week or month so as to finish the work incrementally. You’ll have a goal to work towards and it will seem much more present than the final deadline.

You feel too constrained

Feeling constrained is a major cause of procrastination. The process of completing a lot of tasks has to do with following a set formula of research, implementation and an endless draft and re-drafting process.

If your more of a creative mind, however, this formula makes it impossible to follow and your mind will begin to wander. It can feel incredibly boring to get back into a routine of formula following and it makes the task feel impossible.

Your procrastination may be your mind telling you there’s another way about this formula that you’re not really seeing. Rather than stressing about not following a formula, take inspiration and let your creativity flow and try to find another way around the problem. You may just find that you have a much better way of doing the task. It may even be to a higher standard than if you were to follow the set route.

You are afraid to fail

One of the most common causes of procrastination, however, is the fear of failure. Everyone is afraid to fail but for some, this fear can be debilitating. Admitting that we may fail means that we must admit we have shortcomings which may lead us to do so. The truth is that not many are able to admit to this.

To conquer a fear of failure, we must reframe the way we think about failure. Although it can be a painful experience, remember that life goes on. Rather than feeling like the world will end if we fail, start thinking about what the step after failure might be. How do you pick yourself up? What can you do next?

You’re afraid to succeed

Surprisingly, a fear of succeeding can be another of the most debilitating causes of procrastination as a fear of failure. Success can mean more responsibility, higher expectations, and more complex jobs in the future. Not everyone feels ready to have this level of responsibility thrust upon them. This can lead to putting off completing tasks of high importance.

Again, the solution is to reframe and change your way of thinking. Although you may have higher expectations on your shoulders, you will give your reputation a boost. You may have more responsibility, but you will have more resources at your disposal. The complex work will also bring you an enormous sense of achievement and greater confidence when you finish the job.

You’re too hard on yourself

A lot of the time, we are not prepared to hand in an important deadline unless we are 100% happy that we have done all we can to make the work perfect. This perfectionism can be great when we’re actually doing our job well. But it can also make it difficult to actually sit down and get started.

The fear of making mistakes and not being able to pull off the perfect project can be just as difficult to get over as a fear of failure. We need to learn to be a little more forgiving to ourselves and allow some space for mistakes.

Make time for revisions towards the end of a project to allow yourself to pick up on silly mistakes and anything you may have got wrong. Knowing you have this time planned at the end can make it much easier to get started at the beginning.

Procrastination makes it difficult to start working on a project, and it can disguise itself in a lot of different activities. The key is to understand the deeper causes of procrastination so that you then try to recognise why you might be putting it off in the first place. Once you know what’s holding you back, you can start putting a plan in place to beat your procrastination.


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