Most people are capable of achieving greater things but fail to do so. Why? Some of the external factors cannot be controlled. However, most of the time factors for success lie within us. Procrastination is one of the many roadblocks that could hinder you down the road to greater achievements. Anyone can procrastinate. Sometime we don’t even realise that we are doing it. However, there are also those times where we already know that we’re procrastinating yet we fail to do anything to stop it. Why do people procrastinate anyway and what are the effects of procrastination to people? There are several reasons as to why people start procrastinating in the first place. Let’s have a look at some of the reasons why:
Common reasons why people procrastinate
The following are just some of the common reasons that people procrastinate. These are situations which should cause you to assess your behaviour and ask questions in order to identify the correct way to proceed.
- Skill deficiency
Achieving new goals and objectives requires learning and personal growth. You will need to develop new knowledge and skills. It is all part of life’s journey. Unfortunately, many people fail to see this. They see a knowledge or skill deficit as a permanent obstacle to achieving their objective. This causes them to give up on their goal before they have even started.
Instead of giving up, make an accurate assessment of the knowledge and skills required to complete the task and compare it to the knowledge and skills that you already possess. The difference is nothing more than a training gap. Rather than give up, you need to create a personal learning and development plan which will enable you to develop the knowledge and skills and, bridge the training gap.
You might ask if this is still procrastination as you are effectively pushing the achievement of the goal back. It is not procrastination; it is effective planning. You are identifying the necessary steps to achieve the goal and placing them in the right order.
- Lack of interest
Just because one person is interested in, or passionate about a particular job; it does not automatically follow that everyone else will be. People tend to avoid or delay jobs that they do not find interesting as it is harder to find the motivation. There are a few ways to deal with jobs that you do not find interesting depending on whether you are the person doing the job or the person assigning the task. Let’s first look at it from the perspective of the person doing the job where you could try the following:
Check that it does actually have to be done
Ask yourself if there is somebody better suited to completing the task. You may be able to delegate it or swap it i.e. you take a job you like better off someone and they take this job off of your hands
If you have low frustration tolerance, break the job down into its smallest components and knock one off at a time
If you can cope with large amounts of frustration in one sitting; schedule a time, block out all distractions and don’t even go to the toilet until the job is done
If you are the person who is assigning the job, you will be far more successful if you find somebody who is passionate about doing the job to assign it to; particularly if it is a one-off job. Somebody who is interested in the job will complete it quicker and to a higher standard with less stress for everybody.
- Lack of motivation
Many people make the mistake of thinking that they should be fully motivated before they begin working on a task/project. However that is an unrealistic expectation. Quite often, your real motivation will not arrive until you have started on the job and begun to see some progress. As you progress and you start to see the fruits of your labour, you become more motivated to keep working until you have seen it through.
So, what about the motivation required to start? The answer to this lies in having a thorough understanding of why you are doing the job and a vision of what the end result will look like. Before you do any work, you should know the benefit of doing it. I have been coaching productivity for a long time and I am still amazed at how much many people waste large chunks of time completing work which does not need to be completed. In addition, prioritisation should be based on importance i.e. in any given moment you should be completing the most important task that you can complete. Unless you understand the benefits of completing the task, you cannot accurately estimate its importance.
For smaller tasks or projects, understanding the benefits of completing the task is usually enough to motivate you. For larger projects, it is important that you build in a means to measure your progress so that you can gain the confidence and motivation from your achievements.
Less obvious factors that cause you to procrastinate
The factors mentioned above are usually quiet obvious to you e.g. if you are not interested, you will usually be aware of the fact. However, there will be times when you procrastinate but the reason behind your procrastination is not so obvious. This is due to deep-rooted thinking errors which cause you to view the tasks in a manner which is usually inaccurate and does not serve you.
- Fear of failure
There are many people for whom fear of failure is devastating. They see it as a final result which cannot be altered or rectified. They see each failure as a permanent stain on their reputation which means that each time that they do not achieve their objective; their self-esteem takes a big hit. This lack of confidence causes them to defer taking action on any task where they are not 100% confident that they will succeed. Of course, in the era of the knowledge worker, many of the tasks they face will be new to them and so they cannot possibly be 100% confident in their chances of success. Thus procrastination becomes a frequent occurrence and an endless spiral.
On the other hand, there are individuals that treat failure as a stepping stone towards learning and ultimately success in life. They understand that mistakes will be made. They have an attitude of realistic optimism which allows them to believe that they will successfully complete their tasks, even if it requires more than one attempt. As you might imagine, these people are far less likely to procrastinate. Instead, they approach each new challenge with a degree of relish and a level of preparedness to cope with setbacks.
Learning and growth are an essential component of a successful life. It is not realistic to think that you can succeed without experiencing a few setbacks along the way. If you fear that you might fail, identify the measures that you can take to increase your chances of success and, take them. Also, build in time to review your actions and learn from each experience. You will soon start to see each new challenge as the amazing opportunity for growth that it really is.
- Fear of success
Marianne Williamson once wrote that our biggest fear was not fear of failure; our biggest fear is fear of success. To many people, success equals pressure and stress. When they think about achieving more, they think only about the negative aspects that come with success e.g. as you achieve more, people begin to expect and demand more of you. As they doubt their ability to cope with increased expectations, they choose to procrastinate and sabotage their own success.
The truth is that there is no reason to fear success. As you succeed with new challenges, you become more knowledgeable and develop new skills. Your resilience increases. If you learn the core skills of personal organisation and master them, it really does not matter what work you are doing, they will get you through. At the end of the day, each task is just a task which needs to be completed and when you break your work down into the smallest tasks, there is nothing to overwhelm you.
There are times when it is easier for somebody to complete a task than procrastinate but they still choose to procrastinate. There is one main reason for this – rebellion. These rebellious procrastinators are more common than you might think. They deliberately delay tasks, impede protocol, defy standards, and falter expectations. Rebellious procrastination can be done by anyone, especially if they feel they have been mistreated in some way.
If you are dealing with a rebellious procrastinator there are some key steps you can take:
Discuss the issue openly with them and attempt to find a resolution
Assign work by email so that you have a written record of agreements
Stay on top of deadlines
For longer projects, arrange regular updates so that you can identify when things have fallen behind schedule and take immediate action
Avoid working with them, if possible
The reasons for procrastination vary for every individual. The exact reason for each person might not be obvious, as some of those reasons have underlying causes. On the other hand, the reasons stated above are among the most commonly seen reasons of why people procrastinate. Avoiding this kind of behaviour is never an easy task. It often involves an overhaul of personal behaviour and outlook in life. Whether you are suffering at the hands of a procrastinator or you are the procrastinator, the key to tackling the issue is action. You must take action to rectify the situation. With each point above I have provided some pointers which can get you started but you must remember that procrastination is a serious issue which, if left unresolved, causes problems in every area of your life.