3 patterns of procrastinators — and how to get rid of them
I hate how the Oxford dictionary defines “procrastination.”
The act of delaying something you should do, usually because you do not want to do it.
When you add “ because you do not want to do it” at the end, it starts to feel as if procrastination is a choice. As if once you simply change your mind, you can do whatever it is you’ve been postponing for a while.
If only things were as simple as that.
Often, procrastination points to something deeper, a truth buried deep beneath all those layers of denial you might comfortably seek solace behind.
To be honest, I hadn’t put much thought into the reasons behind procrastination until recently. Now, whenever my friends complain they’ve been procrastinating on something important, I’ve come to notice that there are three tell-tale patterns of procrastination. This article discusses where they arise from and how you can get rid of them to be more productive.
Fear of the Process
“Reading through an 87000-word manuscript is too hard. It would take me ages!”
This is the excuse I was making when I sat down to edit my first novel. It seemed like such an exhaustive task; I was worried about where and how to start and how to keep doing it on bad days.
I wasn’t procrastinating because I was lazy. I was afraid the task was so huge, there was no way I could complete it even if I gave my best. No wonder I ended up procrastinating for months before finally pushing myself to complete it.
How you can get over this
This is the tried-and-tested method I used to finally wrap my head around the editing process and turned my first draft into a full-fledged novel:
- Break down the process into smaller steps and start with the smallest bit. For the editing process, I started with simply reading through the manuscript, albeit wearing an editor’s hat and making notes on the margins.
- Mark your daily progress on a calendar and celebrate small wins.
- Create an imagined deadline and stick to it. For better results, have a friend who holds you accountable by keeping something valuable to you at stake. For example, I promised my friend I’d donate $500 to a charity if I didn’t finish my novel in two months. This sounds rather strict, but trust me, it works like magic.
Fear of the Result
“I’m afraid it might not turn out as good on paper as it does in my head.”
My friend, Aradhana, told me this when I asked her why she’d been procrastinating on writing an article we’d discussed several weeks ago. This is a classic case of being afraid of the result so much that you can’t push yourself enough to start it even.
Research has linked the pursuit of perfectionism to an irrational fear of failure, ultimately leading to procrastination. Because you’re so obsessed with succeeding, you start looking at failure as if it’s something life-threatening.
How you can get over this
Understand that no matter how good you are at what you do, it’s impossible to be perfect all the time. If you learn to shift the energy spent worrying into learning lessons from any failure, you detach the immense weight you assign with the need to be perfect always. As author and speaker Gustavo Razzetti puts it, here’s how you can do it:
- When you begin a project, focus on completing it, not on every aspect of it being perfect.
- Avoid overthinking about the results while working and keep the momentum going.
- Accept the fact that no matter how much you prepare and polish your product, you’ll never be 100% ready.
- Done is better than perfect.
Fear of the Consequences
“After weeks of procrastination, the president finally resigned.”
This is the example the Oxford dictionary cites to show how the word “procrastination” is used in a sentence. In such a case, I would rather say the president was afraid of the result and how this one action would change their life, that they kept putting off the resignation for months.
During so many instances, I’ve postponed completing a task that would lead to an irreversible change in my life. And no matter how welcome the results might be, change is always terrifying. Procrastination arising out of the fear of the consequences is more common than you’d like to think.
How you can get over this
According to this article in Psychology Today, there are some mindset shifts you can apply to get rid of your fear of change and move forward with the task:
- It’s the end of a chapter, not the end of your book.
- Your life is not the product of your circumstances; it’s the product of your choices. When you put yourself in the cockpit and make your own choices, you view change as something you’re driving towards, not something you’re dragged into, screaming and flailing your limbs.
- You can’t control the way people perceive you.
- When you’re keen to protect yourself from uncertainty, you lose awareness of the present moment. Thus, you stop enjoying what life gives you.
Your procrastination always tells a story. It’s never a choice but an indicator of some deep-seated fear in your soul.
Next time when you find yourself procrastinating, look within yourself and try to identify what you’re afraid of. Are you worried it will be too hard, or are you worried the end-result might not be good enough? Or is the decision so life-changing, it will end up altering your reality forever?
Whatever the core reason might be, you can always rewire your brain, apply these mindset shifts, and replace your procrastination with productivity.
I create content in different forms related to self-improvement, body-positivity, and feminism on YouTube and other platforms. Join my email list to make sure you don’t miss out on anything new.