The causes of procrastination are probably more obvious than you think. You’re lazy. You feel like you’re in a cluttered mess. You don’t appreciate and take into consideration other people’s time.
But in reality, procrastination often sprouts from much deeper psychological issues. Maybe you’re reacting to over-controlling parents, or maybe you’re concerned that other people will think you’re stupid, or not good enough if you mess up.
Whatever the problem, the first step to overcoming the behavior is figuring out exactly what’s causing it.
Father Figure Was Overly Strict When You Were A Child:
Research done by Timothy Pychl, Ph.D., found that females who grew up with authoritarian fathers (those who value obedience and are not so easy to warm up to) are more likely to procrastinate as adults.
Pychl says that this is possibly occurring because procrastination is a passive aggressive way to rebel against external creatures of control aka your parental units or guardians — something they weren’t able to do when they were young.
You’re Afraid To Succeed:
It might sound contradictory, but sometimes people put things off because they’re worried they’ll do a good job. That might put them in the mindset that with more responsibilities, they will be subjected by other people to have higher expectations.
For example, you might think your boss will be so happy and impressed with your work on a project that she’ll give you a harder project to conquer and assume that you’ll do an even better job on it.
If you’re in this position, think instead about the new resources your success will bring, such as added confidence and a positive reputation.
You’re Afraid To Fail:
By reason, you’d think if you were so concerned about failing, you would leave yourself enough time to finish and complete your work, but it doesn’t always work that way.
For one thing, the fear of failure can be so frightening that you can’t accomplish anything.
Likewise, if you procrastinate and do mess things up, you can blame it on the fact that you were rushed, or not properly prepared. That way, no one thinks of your performance or project as a reflection of your true abilities and skills.
To help overcome your fear of failure, think: “What if I fail — how will I bounce back?” In other words, envision exactly how you would pick yourself back up and try again.
You Don’t Want To Acknowledge Your Imperfections:
Oregon State University’s Academic Success Center has a prime example of how a student might undermine her success by refusing to acknowledge and see her own skill deficits.
Let’s say she’s a slow reader than the others and she’s been handed a task with reviewing several long articles. Instead of owning up to the fact that she needs extra help with her reading and facing the possibility that people will think she’s dumb or not good enough, she keeps putting the task off.
A better way to deal with this issue is to confront the problem and seek professional help, in a setting where no one will pester you.
You Need To Adjust Your Perception Of Time:
One recent study found that people who think a deadline falls in a time like the present, will be less likely to procrastinate than people who think a deadline falls in a different time, other than the present.
In other words, if it’s July 2015 and you find out a project is due in January 2016, you’ll be more likely to procrastinate and put it off, rather than if it’s June 2015 and you find out the project is due in December 2015. That’s because we categorize time in terms of years, and a same-year deadline seems sooner than a next-year deadline, even if they’re both six months away. Crazy right?
The next time you find out an assignment or project is due the following week, try looking at the deadline as “like the present.” In the study, people who partook achieved this by looking at a calendar in which the current date and the due date were the same color or some pattern.
You Have An “All or Nothing” Mindset:
Losing 20 pounds might seem like a tremendous task, so it’s tempting to put it off.
People with this mentality “think of the 20 pounds rather than the day-to-day struggle of chipping off the weight and gradually reaching a goal,” Judith Belmont, Ph.D., told Today Health.
One way to combat this type of thinking is to break things up into smaller tasks. Think about cutting out those snacks after work or school.
You Don’t Practice Self-Compassion:
Procrastinators tend to be more stressed than other people — even before they start procrastinating the tasks at hand.
According to a study, that’s possibly because they have self-defeating thoughts like, “I’m simply too dumb to get any benefit from additional studying, so I’ll just hang out on Instagram.”
On the other hand, people who are kind to themselves during hard times are better at self-regulating, which involves the urge to control your impulses, like going around on Facebook poking your friends. Do people even still do that?