As a time management coach, I get asked a lot of questions about how to stop procrastinating.
“Anna, why can’t I just do the one thing that’s most important?”
“Why do I suddenly want to deep clean my baseboards instead of sending that email?”
“Why do I put off simple things like making that phone call or running those errands?”
We all do it, and we all want to know why.
Procrastination is something that everyone struggles with — and it’s definitely one of the (if not the most) common roadblocks on the road to better time management.
Most of us think that procrastination is just “being lazy,” and that if we have enough willpower, we can push through.
But wishing procrastination away doesn’t work. Simply saying, “Okay, I NEED to stop procrastinating ASAP!” isn’t enough. It’s actually much deeper than that.
And that’s exactly what we’ll be digging into in this episode, so you can stop procrastinating.
Get to the root of the procrastination problem
Addressing procrastination starts with finding the root cause. We have to do the introspective work and figure out why we’re even procrastinating in the first place. It usually comes down to a couple of factors outweighing our self-control and motivation.
It’s like tipping a scale. On one side are self-control and motivation, and on the other are factors like anxiety, fear of failure, perceived difficulty, exhaustion, boredom, etc. We start procrastinating when the downsides are “heavier” than our normal self-control and motivation.
And there are a few different reasons for all of this.
This can be fear of failure, fear of rejection, or even fear of success. You don’t want to send the email because you’re afraid of getting a negative response. Maybe you don’t go to the doctor because you don’t want bad news. Or you haven’t filled out your applications for XYZ because you’re worried about what may happen if you DO make it.
In all my years as a time management coach, I’d say that this is the most common reason people procrastinate, especially when it comes to the bigger life decisions versus the day-to-day ones.
You may not even realize you’re doing it. But, if you feel frozen in place and can’t seem to figure out why, maybe ask yourself, “What am I so afraid of?”
Sometimes that responsibility is just too much to think about so you don’t do it. Or you’re so overwhelmed with everything on your plate and filling the pages of your calendar that you feel frozen – like a deer in headlights.
Simply put — you don’t know where to start, so you never do. And then putting it off and realizing how much things might be snowballing only makes it worse.
This happens a lot with work-related tasks — you don’t understand the instructions and don’t want a negative reaction from your boss or colleagues. Or maybe you’re in the process of buying a house, but don’t want to look incompetent in front of your friends or parents, so you don’t ask for advice. You don’t want to seem like you don’t know what you’re doing (spoiler: no one does!) so you make excuses as to why things aren’t getting done.
It’s hard for us to be motivated and to take action when we’re unsure about the end goal or what “done” should look like!
Listen, sometimes, you’re just tired — and whatever you have going on in your life right now, it’s okay to be tired. That’s totally valid, and it’s 100% okay to listen to your body and honor that feeling. But when we find ourselves in a never-ending cycle of exhaustion, and then not doing the things we need to do, that should be a wake-up call!
For example, I’ve got two little girls, Camilla and Elizabeth. They’re 4 and 2. And they share a room. We’ve definitely had our fair share of sleepless nights, but there was one week in particular – right after the most recent time change – that every single night someone was awake with a bad dream, or crawling in our bed with 5 stuffed animals or something. By the end of the week, my husband Scott and I were exhausted and beginning to make a lot of mistakes at work. I realized I was putting things off because I just didn’t have the energy to focus.
So instead of pushing through, we called in reinforcements and asked his parents to come spend time with the girls that weekend so we could get out of the house, just the two of us, and recharge our batteries. It certainly didn’t make up for a week’s worth of fragmented sleep, but it would have been pointless to try and continue pushing through the exhaustion to get stuff done.
Feeling refreshed, we were able to brainstorm some ways to help the girls with their sleep to get one step closer to solving the sleepless night problem and get our energy back.
Sometimes the perceived difficulty of the task can keep us stuck. I don’t know about you, but I don’t just dive headfirst into things I don’t feel I’ll be good at — or that are really hard. For example, I procrastinated on starting this podcast because I didn’t know how to start it. I’ve procrastinated on having hard conversations with my husband and even my teams in previous jobs because… well, they were going to be hard.
It really is that simple sometimes. If you’re bored by something, will you be motivated to do it? Probably not. It’s sort of the opposite end of the perceived difficulty problem – if something is simple or not time-consuming, you might put it off until you know you have to do it.
How to stop procrastinating
Now that you know what may be causing procrastination for you, it’s time to think about how you can manage your responsibilities in a way that doesn’t make you AVOID them.
For example, the solution to this will not be to get up at 5 AM every morning if you’re not a morning person.
If you put yourself in a box, you’re automatically putting yourself on defense. You hate getting up early, so working out is going to feel like even more of a chore when you’re coupling it with something you don’t like doing.
If there’s something that feels like pulling teeth to do, but you don’t HAVE to do it, then you’re probably making things a lot harder on yourself than they need to be. When you work with your body’s clock, your life, and the things you value in it, you set yourself up for better chances of success.
Try to create an EASY button for yourself
Can you set everything out for your workout (shoes, clothes, AirPods, water bottle, etc.) the night before? Can you make your lunches on Sunday night, even if you work from home, so you don’t spend too long making lunch (and taking an hour-long TikTok break after)?
This is definitely something that has worked in my own life! Going back to the workout example, that’s actually what I have to do to make sure I get up on time and make it to the gym.
I get there at 5:30 AM, but only because I get out of bed as soon as my alarm goes off (except Daylight Saving Time — that always throws me off). And I set everything out the night before so I don’t have any excuses not to crawl back into bed when we’re done.
But anyways, I know myself, and I know my parameters. And willpower alone has never been enough to get to the gym early in the morning. I’m not much of a morning person, but that’s the only opportunity I have during the week. So I put strict “guardrails” in place that help keep me in consistent.
It already feels hard enough to do the thing you keep putting off. Maybe you don’t think these little eliminations can help, but sometimes it’s the simple things that keep us stuck. Make life easier for yourself by eliminating distractions, no matter how simple!
Go easy on yourself
If you find yourself procrastinating maybe a little too much, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s something everyone does, and it’s a super easy pattern to fall into. But recognizing the WHY and putting up boundaries can help you stay focused. That’s the first step. When you do it once, it’s going to feel so rewarding you’ll want to do it again!
And if you need a little help with all this, I’m hosting a FREE, live workshop! It’s called One Step Closer: How to Make Time Management Work for YOU, on April 25th! If you’re struggling to manage your time and could use a little guidance now, sign up for the workshop here. There are four times to choose from, so I’ll see you there!
In this episode, we talk about:
- 6 reasons you may be procrastinating
- Why it’s important to find a routine that works for you
- How to create an easy button to help you overcome
- Episode 166: Too Busy For Exercise? How To Find The Time To Work Out
- Struggling to manage your time and need a little support? Sign up for my FREE One Step Closer Workshop at: https://annadkornick.com/one-step-closer
- Pre-order my new book, Time Management Essentials: The Tools You Need to Maximize Your Attention, Energy, and Productivity, coming June 2023: annadkornick.com/book
- Learn how to manage your time with intention using The HEART Method Roadmap: https://annadkornick.com/roadmap
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