4 Good Reasons You Might Be Procrastinating in 2022
If you’re putting something off and don’t know why, your subconscious might be trying to tell you something
It took me approximately 85 minutes to start writing this article. I edited a friend’s article, folded some laundry, and ate some leftover pizza. I did everything I could do that was not writing this article.
Procrastination is an interesting thing because there is pretty much always a good reason we procrastinate. But the sneaky thing is, we usually don’t want to know what it is.
Joseph Ferrari, a professor at DePaul University, has found that approximately 20% of people are procrastinators. And it’s a serious business. “We try to trivialize this tendency, but it’s not a funny topic,” he says.
Let me get one thing straight at the get-go. Procrastination does not mean you’re a lazy person. In fact, we often procrastinate for very good reasons.
Here are four reasons you might be procrastinating and four ways to step into powerful productivity instead.
Your intuition is spiking
If you’re procrastinating and don’t know why, your intuition might be trying to tell you something. People sometimes put off a task because something about it feels incongruous with their ideals, thoughts, or beliefs. Our intuition can be powerful enough to stop us from doing a task, but our monkey minds might not be able to sniff out just why.
Perhaps you are putting off calling another company to propose a future collaboration. Perhaps you are postponing it because you don’t like talking on the phone. Or maybe you haven’t worked out the details of the proposal. Or maybe — just maybe — you feel kind of “icky” about that other company and don’t want to be associated with them.
So often, we ignore our impulses because we want to be productive. But sometimes those tiny little voices are reminding us of whispers of information we picked up in the past that might inform a decision to be made in the present.
What to do instead: If your intuition is causing you to procrastinate, it might behoove you to procrastinate just a little bit more and get to the root of your hesitation. Your subconscious mind might be throwing up red flags that you’re missing. So, take a moment and really dive deep into what part of your task feels “icky.” Then, pull that thread until you have a good answer. After that, you can act accordingly.
You don’t think you’re good enough
If I had a dollar for every article written in 2021 about imposter syndrome, I’d be able to afford that shiny Brentwood vanity property the Altman Brothers are selling on Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles. Imposter syndrome is loosely defined in Harvard Business Review by Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Bureyas as “doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud.”
When I started my company, I struggled with imposter syndrome every day. Why should anybody trust me? What do I know about, well, anything? Who do I think I am to start a company? These thoughts still swirl through my head often and can be a very real cause of procrastination. We all, at some point, wonder if we are good enough to do the things we are doing. That’s human nature.
Fuschia Sirois, a professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield in England, says that low self-esteem can be a large factor in procrastination. And Joseph Ferrari calls these people, “avoiders, who procrastinate to avoid being judged for how they perform.”
If you’re worried about doing something wrong, worried about what your boss might think if you fail, or you’re simply worried that you don’t have the skills or experience to do a task, you might be tempted to put it off as long as possible. And by postponing tasks until the last minute, you then don’t have time to do your best work. Thus, the mindset can be, it’s not really your fault that you failed, you would have done better if you had more time
What to do instead: If you’re feeling you might not be good enough, guess what? Most of us feel the same way. No, seriously. A recent article in Inc Magazine says that approximately 8 in 10 people deal with imposter syndrome. And the way to overcome your procrastination based on not feeling you’re good enough? Give yourself a little compassion. Simple and difficult at the same time.
Sirois says, “Just sort of recognizing that, yeah, maybe I screwed up and maybe I could have gotten started earlier, but I don’t need to beat myself up. Tell yourself: ‘I’m not the first person to procrastinate, and I won’t be the last.’”
Often, friends can give us a little perspective when we are feeling less than adequate for a task as well. If you’re feeling like you aren’t good enough, give a good friend a call and they’ll more than likely have a few encouraging words to build you up.
You’re thinking too big
If you’re looking at the daunting prospect of, say, raising three million dollars of capital in one quarter, no wonder you want to procrastinate. That’s a huge goal. If you’re seeing the enormity of the forest instead of the trees that make it up, you might be tempted to procrastinate.
If you recognize that something is going to take you decades to complete, it might be tempting to put off getting started. And, for many long-term projects, it may be difficult to figure out where to start. Big thinking is good, but if you don’t break that big thinking down into smaller tasks, it can tempt you to put it off altogether.
What to do instead: Procrastination researcher Alexander Rosental says, “If you don’t believe in yourself enough to actually conduct a particular task, you can try to do it in smaller and more manageable parts to increase your self-efficacy.” When we achieve small goals, we gain the confidence to set and accomplish the next small goal. And so on.
For larger tasks, it’s helpful to simply do one thing — anything — to get started. Create a logo on Canva or choose a color scheme. Write an introductory paragraph. Do some research on how others have succeeded in your path in the past. Buy the domain name. Or just tell one person. Even a small step in the right direction can be encouraging in your productivity. And it can make your task a little less daunting.
You’re missing a piece
One of the biggest culprits behind most of my procrastinating is missing pieces. I put off sending that document because I need to go to a notary before sending it off. I procrastinate when I am missing a phone number that I simply need to text a friend to procure. And I put off sending a plan to someone because I’m missing a graphic from someone else.
Missing pieces can be maddening. Particularly when the missing piece is in the hands of someone else. You could be waiting on an appraisal, a go ahead on budget for a project, or in the case of the missing graphic, you could be waiting on a slowpoke coworker who would rather play World of Warcraft than format a flier.
Missing pieces can be a huge cause of procrastination because they complicate the productivity process. The pieces you need to complete can seem insurmountable and the pieces you need from others can be infuriating. All of this leads to lower productivity and higher frustration.
What to do instead: The best way to stave off missing piece procrastination when it comes to a piece you can provide yourself is to assess the amount of time it will take. Most often for me, the key is realizing that it will only take three minutes to complete an annoying task like making a quick call to schedule an appointment. When I realize the small time commitment, I feel silly for putting it off.
When you’re procrastinating because you’re missing something from someone else, I recommend setting a deadline. Deadlines are like little alarms in people’s heads. Imaginary or not, they get your attention and force you to get things done. And if you’re working with someone who takes their sweet time, consider an earlier deadline to offset their procrastination.
Remember — if you’re putting something off, don’t beat yourself up for being lazy. It’s more likely that you simply need to change your perspective to get things done. And if you listen to your intuition, believe you are enough, and procure all of the missing pieces to your project puzzle, you’ll likely turbo boost your productivity. Procrastination can be conquered if you find the reason behind it.