What it is and how to stop it
Do you delay everything until the last moment?
Is procrastination your only response to every obligation?
Can’t get anything done?
All of us procrastinate once in a while. Sometimes we want to wait before making a decision, sometimes we want to get more information.
But once this habit becomes too serious and is the only answer to obligations, it can develop into chronic, paralyzing, life-ruining procrastination.
What is chronic procrastination?
Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing something.
Everyone looks at procrastination as THE problem. Only if I hadn’t procrastinated...
But what almost no one realizes is that procrastination is not the issue, it’s just a symptom of other, deeper issues. It’s an unfortunate habitual response to stress caused by something else.
Simply put, procrastination is a habit. Chronic procrastination is a strong habit. But just like any other habit, it can be unlearned.
Imagine you have a task to do. You need to study for tomorrow’s test or prepare a presentation for work. These tasks raise your stress levels. If you indulge and procrastinate, it immediately lowers your stress levels by avoiding your task. For example, you have a snack or watch a TV show. You’ve avoided a stressful task (for now) and you feel better.
Our brain learns that procrastination makes you feel better. That’s called positive reinforcement. You get an instant reward (lowered stress) for your behavior.
If you do this often, it becomes a habit. Whenever you feel stressed and you decide to escape it by procrastination, you reinforce the habit. If you start doing it a lot, your procrastination develops into chronic procrastination.
But that’s not all. Procrastination feels better now, but usually makes you feel worse in the long run. Missed deadlines, failed promises to both others and yourself, unreliability, and many other consequences make you feel worse.
All these consequences lower your self-confidence. Lower self-confidence makes you more vulnerable to your insecurities (the fear of criticism, failure, rejection) and that leads to even higher stress levels from which you hide by procrastinating even more.
Simply, when you feel like a failure, your next challenge is only going to be more stressful because if you fail this one, it will confirm that you’re a failure.
What might be the signs of chronic procrastination?
- You have serious trouble getting anything done.
- You delay everything until it’s very close to or past the deadline.
- You never work on your important, but not urgent tasks because there are no deadlines.
- You procrastinate on setting your goals.
- You procrastinate every time you are supposed to start working or studying.
- Your life is full of “have to’s” and “shoulds”
- You keep an impossibly long to-do list, you keep postponing everything or stop looking at it
- You use distractions to not think about your life (drugs, games, TV, alcohol, news)
- You can’t enjoy most leisure activities because you don’t think you deserve it.
If these ring true to you, then you’re probably somewhere close to zero on the Productivity Spectrum.
How to stop chronic procrastination?
First, don’t procrastinate on this blog post. Finishing this blog post and putting it into action will help you immediately.
Second, your expectation that you’ll get anything done is low.. Also, believe it or not, your self-confidence is very low. That means that you shouldn’t expect to become perfect in a day.
Instead, if you’re in a deep rut, start slowly, give yourself a week to get back on track. What matters in the next few days is getting small wins - working 10 minutes on something, not avoiding someone, creating the first slide out of 20. These little victories matter, keep building on them.
Third, you don’t have to be perfect anyways. The goal is to transform yourself from procrastinator to producer. You just have to get to so-called bearable procrastination. That means that you sometimes procrastinate, but it has no severe consequences in your life.
Practical Steps to getting rid of chronic procrastination
1. Realize that you can get something done (and get it done)
Find areas of your life where procrastination is not that bad and start producing there.
The thing is, you probably don’t procrastinate in everything. Your productivity spectrum in your studies might look like this:
But it probably looks like this in different endeavors:
Look for easier areas of life, even if they’re currently your means of procrastination. Produce something there. Something, anything.
- Watching movies? Post a review on IMDB.
- Playing games? Write a short guide about the game on an online forum.
- Watching sports? Comment a game on Reddit.
- Do you have a hobby? Just write about it and publish on Medium.com
- Following news? Make a meme.
You could make videos, draw some pictures - the point is to get something done.
We know it sounds laughable because usually these things serve as distractions. But if you’re a chronic procrastinator, your expectation that you’ll get anything done is very low. The idea is to move you from consuming all the time (passive) to start producing something (active).
In this step, simply realize that you can get something done and get it done.
2. Become more mindful of your fears and insecurities.
Procrastination is not the issue, it’s a symptom. A symptom of what? There can be many causes, for example:
The first step to dealing with any of these fears is becoming aware of them.
Hi there, if you want to get a whole comprehensive guide about procrastination and learn about each fear deeply, check out our handbook.
We put thousands of hours of research into it, so you don’t have to. And also we keep updating it often to give you the best, most concrete strategies for dealing with procrastination.
How to become more mindful of the fears?
- Learn what they feel and look like - read about them
- Work on your mindfulness - meditate, journal about your thoughts and feelings, reflect on why your react to a task or a decision the way you do
- Focus on your feelings before work and when working - name them, work with them, learn how to overcome them.
3. Try to spread your producing efforts into other areas of your life.
You can write a review on IMDB, write your short guide or post your thoughts on Reddit, and survive the criticism? Good, that’s a step in the right direction.
Keep building your self-confidence and moving forward. This shouldn’t take you long, even if you’re in a deep rut.
When you feel ready, try to spread your producing efforts into areas that matter to you. How? Keep chipping away at endeavors that you have more trouble getting done. Find a bite-sized task piece, and get it done. Then another. Then another.
4. Forgive yourself and then figure out a better way
Whenever you fail, forgive yourself. Chronic procrastination is a strong habit. If you built it subconsciously every day, over 6 months or longer, you can’t expect yourself to overcome it overnight. If you do, you’ll disappoint yourself and be back at 0, or even worse off.
Beating yourself up over not working of 8 hours straight doesn’t is not helpful. It only leads to more procrastination. Feeling bad usually leads to giving into temptations.
But it doesn’t mean that you should be failing and accepting it all the time. If you accept bad performance, day by day, you will lower your standards more and more and that will hurt your self-confidence and your career in the long run.
What to do instead? When you fail, analyze why you failed and formulate a plan on how you are going to ensure that it won’t next time.
When you fail, accept it, reflect on it, and make a plan to get better.
5. Keep figuring it out
Figuring out your personal productivity and procrastination is worth it and it’s best done as early in life as possible.
Imagine a life where you can get done everything that matters to you, everything you set out to do. What a career you would have! And what relationships and experiences!.
That might seem like a long way, but if you keep trying, analyzing, and improving your productivity, you will get there.
Once you figure out the principles and build habits, you still need to keep to maintain them, but that’s easier than procrastinating all the time.
If you’re a chronic procrastinator:
- Realize that you can get something done and get it done.
- Become more mindful of your fears and insecurities.
- Try to spread your producing efforts into other areas of your life.
- If you fail, forgive yourself and then figure out a better way.
- Keep figuring it out
Ready to start producing?