Pushing Past Procrastination

            Why do we put things off when it feels so much better when we can get what we need to do over and done with?  Mental health issues like ADHD, OCD, Depression, and anxiety are commonly associated with procrastination, but it is something healthy people are plagued by as well.  Some folks just can’t seem to get that ball rolling.  I’ll be the first to admit I procrastinate sometimes.

The perfectionist is, at times, afraid to start in an effort to avoid an imperfect effort.  Others have poor decision making skills that leave them not knowing what to do first.  Some are afraid of failure.  Some are afraid of success.  As my memaw would say, “It takes all kinds.”  Sometimes it’s just lack of interest in the required task or laziness.  Whatever the case, there are some tips to help motivate and focus.

Before you get to it, when the to-do list is staring you in the face and nothing is being done, it helps the brain to consciously acknowledge that you are procrastinating.  You may be filling your time with social media.  You may be finding other, lower priority tasks to spend your time on.  If you are like me, the temptation to watch Bloomberg Live all day is right there in front of you at your workspace.  As is the random popular news item that escaped your attention and must be absorbed before it’s yesterday’s news.  I also have a habit of committing to binge-worthy streaming programs, and there seems to always be another one waiting to be watched.

After you realize you are procrastinating, it helps to ask yourself why you are procrastinating.  If there’s a clear reason for the delay, that will likely clue you in on what to do about it.  If it’s clinical like depression or acute anxiety you may choose to seek the help of a professional.  Medication or talk therapy may be appropriate to address the underlying clinical cause and procrastination as the symptom.

If it’s not knowing how to start a task, making a step by step plan may prove a wise use of your otherwise unproductive time.  If it’s a lack of energy or enthusiasm toward the task you may try to plan the most menacing tasks for when you are generally the most productive.  I get things done early when I need to.  In any case there is something to be said for starting the day by plotting out what needs to be done and when considering the priority.  You may feel pressured to accomplish a goal of the day because you told a friend what you were planning to do.  It’s one thing to be down on ourselves for avoiding a task or missing a goal, but answering to another human whose opinion of us matters may be that crucial spark of motivation that gets us up and at it.

For those people who get stuck in their head, it may help to convince your brain to act using logic and reason.  Ask yourself:  How much do I want to get this task accomplished?  Then ask:  What will I gain from doing it?  Finally ask the potentially punitive question:  What will it cost me if I don’t achieve this goal?  You may see that you really want to mow the lawn before it gets too hot. You may realize that avoiding heat stroke by not putting it off is a plus.  You can then rest assured that Code Enforcement will not send you one of their polite reminders of how high the grass is allowed to grow and how much it costs to ignore this regulation.

Lastly, in the planning and scheduling phase of finding motivation and overcoming procrastination, set a reward for yourself once you have achieved your goal.  Some people look forward to a cold beer when the job is done.  Some people choose a recreational activity like golf or a movie once the last pieces of the plan are in place.  I’m a big fan of the nap on the couch.  Whatever your style, plan a reward and proceed mindful that your reward will be there for you waiting at the finish line.

Kevin Thompson MA, LPC  kevscounsel@gmail.com

This guy got a kick out of it

This guy got a kick out of it