The causes of procrastination
The tendency to put what can be done today off until tomorrow can occur in different domains: professional, everyday and emotional. To stop it, you need to find out where it's coming from. Contrary to popular belief, procrastination, which is sometimes accompanied by strong guilt and incapability to act, is rarely linked to laziness, but is often a form of anxiety.
- Fear of failure. Faced with certain decisions, projects or tasks, we can feel incompetent, afraid of failure and criticism. So sometimes we bury our head in the sand and don't act.
- Perfectionism. Whether you're organising a party or a meeting at work, if everything has to be perfect, your need for perfection and of almost unattainable objectives can suppress the perfectionist that you are.
- Fear of success. This can seem ironic, yet reaching the end of a task can panic people who are afraid of being depressed after it's all over, and people who are hyperactive. It's linked to a fear of emptiness. The thought of having nothing to do can make some people extend their deadline.
NB: There’s no need to overdramatise this habit: some people only function well under pressure and even find an increase in adrenaline stimulating.
How to stop putting everything off
- Have confidence in yourself: Easier said than done! Procrastination is actually often linked to a lack of self-esteem and confidence in your ability, so it’s important to learn to work on yourself, alone or with the help of a therapist.
- Manage your time better: The clock is your worst enemy! To stop yourself being caught out by time, learn to organise yourself. Make lists of things that you need to do, but set yourself reasonable objectives. Preferably start with 3 or 4 things to do for a day that can be done, rather than stressing yourself out with a list of never-ending jobs you'll never get done. You'll get a real sense of achievement from crossing tasks off your list once they're done!
- Get rid of distractions! It’s crazy how we find a ton of other things to do when we don’t want to do the job we're meant to be doing: call friends, organise our shoes, surf the net...Stop! Identify these distractions and do away with them: try to disconnect yourself from the outside world by letting the answer machine pick up your calls for example, and concentrate on the task in hand.
- Project yourself! Imagine for a few minutes the feeling of wellbeing that you'll get when you've finished all the tasks that have been paralysing you, to motivate yourself into getting them done and enjoying that feeling of satisfaction.
To find out more
Try the best-selling book ‘Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity’ by David Allen.