Procrastinator, good news! It’s not your fault. If you’re blaming yourself for procrastinating — calling yourself “lazy,” “unruly,” or “incompetent” — here’s your official license to stop doing it.
It turns out that procrastination has nothing to do with laziness. It’s an emotional discomfort we face from time to time. Unconsciously, because of this, one avoids starting work, and in some cases does not finish it at all.
A sufficient number of convincing psychological studies call the real causes of procrastination perfectionism and fear. “People who have started to struggle with procrastination, it is important to let go of the idea that all tasks must be done on five positives. In fact, these are muscles that must be developed,” says Liz Fosslien , co-author of the book “Big Feelings”.
With Molly West Duffy, he combined science fiction with stories published on the Internet. The author launched a discussion on social networks with the aim of painting a complete picture of how we experience unpleasant sensations and how they sometimes manifest themselves in unexpected ways. To learn more about the many reasons for procrastination, I spoke to Fosslien and was surprised to find that procrastination can be helpful if you think about it the right way.
Procrastination Type #1: Problems Starting Labor
There are three main reasons for this type of procrastination:
You know where to start
It’s hard enough to start doing something when you really don’t understand what the first step is, isn’t it?
In the workplace, this happens when the task is too vague or daunting. Imagine your boss asking you to “do something for customer satisfaction” and then rushing off to the next meeting. It remains to be seen what kind of improvement would be enough, what kind of budget you have at your disposal and what kind of approach you should choose. Then imagine asking your boss all the same questions, to which you apparently should know the answers. I’m so afraid.
Or the task is so big that it becomes overwhelming and you find yourself paralyzed. It’s easy to pretend it doesn’t exist at all. You immerse yourself in ordinary little work that allows you to ignore the problem and at the same time feel reasonably productive. Win-win formula!
You feel inferior
Sometimes we have a goal or an idea, but we feel like we don’t have the right to express ourselves. “For example,” Fosslien recalls, “when you start posting material on the internet, you run into problems with illustration.” And the problem is that she can’t draw. It’s just that he doesn’t have a diploma attesting to artistic mastery. “Let’s study mathematics and economics. It seemed to me that I was pretending to create my own illustrations, and therefore I was afraid to publish them.
There is no doubt about the quality of the work. First of all, it’s about what people think of you because you got here. This sentiment is particularly prevalent among historically underrepresented or marginalized groups. It’s very similar to impostor syndrome, and we all know how “fun” it is.
What do you want to do with meat in the first place
We often encounter meat in our personal lives when it comes to exercising more or eating healthier foods. (No one prefers noodles to traditional zucchini pasta. That’s what she said). In our professional life, we are reluctant to do work that we do not consider valuable – for example, writing status reports that no one will read. Or a project that you think is poorly thought out or is leading your team in the wrong direction. On the other hand, it seems that you are busy at work. But there is a real conflict within you, and that is why you have not started the task yet.
Type of procrastination #2: you do nothing
When you have enough time to complete a task, but you don’t complete it, the root cause almost always lies in this:
You’re afraid people won’t like your work, so you find ways not to expose it to the public. “You put so much pressure on yourself (to do everything perfectly) that the very idea of putting it out there in public seems scary,” says Fosslien.
One of the stories he and Duffy heard while chatting on social media was about an amateur photographer who took years to edit photos. Ten hours (if not days) were spent painstakingly processing the teeth in Photoshop – pixel by pixel. And for ten years, I was the only one who saw the difference. According to Fosslien, this is a classic distraction tactic. Unfortunately, “flattening” the result before showing it to the world makes you less receptive to feedback. You spend so much time on the perfect version that you take even trivial criticism too seriously.
When you do whatever you want except finish it (and then, like a schoolboy, pretend the dog ate the homework) — that’s also a way to indulge yourself.
Procrastination has a useful purpose!
If procrastination is a symptom of emotional discomfort, then the brain is trying to tell you what you need right now. The trick is to recognize and correctly interpret procrastination. Fortunately, Fosslien and Duffy’s research uncovered some helpful clues.
If you are afraid…
It is usually a sign of perfectionism. This seems illogical, as the mental model of perfectionism includes folders with colorful stickers, gold medals, and completing assignments on time. “A lot of people say they never felt like perfectionists until a psychologist pointed them out,” says Fosslien. “But when they thought about it, everything fell into place.”
Perfectionism has to do with the quality of work and the pressure you put on yourself. You’re so nervous about other people’s opinions that you can’t force yourself to finish the job (or even start it).
Overcoming perfectionism is a slow process, but Fosslien suggests two tactics. First, start showing a small piece of work to a trusted colleague or friend when it’s about 80% complete. When you intentionally share a work in progress, it gives you the opportunity to practice receiving feedback when you are emotionally ready to receive it. Second, change the internal monologue from “I need to commit to X” to “I’m a person learning to do X”. Progress is more important than perfection. Thinking right leads to victory!
If you see values (it’s similar to apathy)…
Maybe you are exhausted. We often associate burnout with overwork, but feeling futile is another common symptom. There are entire books written about ways to overcome burnout, or what they are. At the same time, it helps to find meaning in your work. And you don’t need to save the world. It’s quite simple to be able to put food on the dining table or save for your dream vacation.
If you don’t see the value (or the passion)…
It’s a sign that you need to talk to your boss and/or your team. If you’re worried about disagreements in strategy or too many reports, it’s time to make the changes you want. Give your reasons and refuse the task or change the direction of the work, if possible using data to confirm your statements.
If you feel inadequate…
Maybe you need to be more confident. Or is it a sign that you work in a toxic environment where subordinates feel inferior. In any case, procrastination is a reason to reflect on the origin of the feeling of inadequacy.
If the task is too vague…
This is a sign that you should ask for an explanation. I know it can be a boring and humiliating experience under certain working conditions! But if this is your case, it’s better to ask questions than to do something wrong (or do nothing at all).
If the task seems overwhelming…
Razbeite ee na part! As the saying goes, you can eat an elephant bit by bit. Project management methods such as comparing dependencies, capacity planning, and dividing tasks into smaller parts help simplify complex tasks. When everything is laid out on shelves, it’s much easier to figure out where to start.
If it’s a creative task…
Procrastination is a sign that you need to find inspiration and develop your own approach. If that sounds like an excuse, remember that Lin-Manuel Miranda’s creative power lies in procrastination. Here’s how he talks about it: “Incubation is an important part of the creative process… I don’t know of any other option.” (Did you perhaps say he “should wait”?)
What does your procrastination mean?
Very often we notice a certain behavior or emotion in ourselves and label it and then worry about it. Exactly with procrastination – we immediately put a label on ourselves. According to Fosslien and Duffy, a healthier response is to pause and think, “Why is it so hard for me to take the next step?” What’s really going on?”
If you learn to eliminate any emotional discomfort that is causing the problem, we have a chance to get back on track. And now, stop wasting time and get to work! (I laugh.)