Camping Out in Procrastination Station

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Are you a procrastinator? I like to think that I'm not, but the truth is that I put things off more often than I would like to admit. Part of the reason why I have a to-do list is to force myself to do the things that I don't like to do. I'm convinced that if I didn't write them down, and if I didn't give myself a due date, I would never do them.

So, why do we procrastinate?

I think we procrastinate for three main reasons: things are hard, boring, or not urgent enough.

When Things Are Hard

I know I put off tasks that seem too daunting. If I don't know where to begin, I don't want to begin at all. It's like staying at the bottom of the mountain because climbing up looks way too hard to even begin.

I'm not particularly tech-savvy, so I tend to put off tech-related things for as long as I can. I know it's going to take me a while to figure out how to do things, and I don't often want to take the time and effort required to learn new things when I know they're going to be difficult.

When I keep putting things off because they're hard, I usually end up making them even harder for myself because I restrict the amount of time I have to complete it. It's easier to do a hard thing when I know I have a lot of time to finish it. It's much harder when I'm facing something challenging and a narrow timeframe in which to complete it.

When Things Are Boring

It's natural to do the things that we enjoy. I gravitate toward watching shows on Netflix, reading books, scrolling through Instagram, or working on my writing. I put off things like spraying bug killer around my house, deep-cleaning my oven, and scrubbing my shower. Sure, those things need to be done, but I really don't enjoy them, so they end up being really low on my priority list, sometimes getting taken off altogether when too many other things come in higher.

But I think putting things off because they seem too dull or too difficult builds them up to be those things in my head. In reality, the tasks I procrastinate on aren't as bad as I imagine them to be.

Because I continually told myself it was going to be boring or hard, I'm convinced that it will be until I finally bite the bullet and do it. And then I usually find that it wasn't so bad after all.

When Things Aren't Urgent Enough

Urgency comes into play when I'm trying to decide what to accomplish in my day. There are some things I just can't ignore,-- things like finishing a birthday present for a friend before their birthday, planting seeds in the garden before it's too late, and reading the next chapter of a book before going to the meeting to discuss the book.

But then there are the other things, things that don't have a defined due date attached to them.

For instance, I have been meaning to look into identity theft protection for months. I have started the conversation with my parents a few times, but I haven't researched it or tried to understand it any further. I meant to. I know it would be beneficial. I'm concerned about identity theft and want to be protected from it. But I don't particularly want to read about it, research it, compare products, and try to be an adult about it.

Moving Out of Procrastination Station

Some things that I've actually told myself are that 1) I can't put tasks off forever, so I might as well start now, and 2) the sooner I start, the sooner I'll be done. I know that doesn't always cut it. But it helps to remind myself that I can do the hard things, the boring things are usually worth it, and the not-so-urgent things can wait a little while, but still do need to get done.

It's okay to knock out the easier, more fun, and more urgent things done first, but I'm learning to not put off the hard, boring, and non-urgent things forever. Accomplishing those tasks sometimes even feels more significant and impressive than the fun, easy things!

I've been trying to knock out the hardest (or most boring) tasks first, to get them out of the way and move on to more fun things. It's like eating your vegetables before your dessert. It's like a reward! Similarly, I sometimes pair a more fun thing with a less-fun thing, like listening to a podcast or watching an episode of a show while I do laundry or clean the bathroom. It makes less-fun chores more tolerable.

Sometimes I just have to do it. I have to make good decisions and "do something today that my future self will be grateful for." Sometimes I really have no choice but to bite the bullet and do hard, boring, non-urgent things. I just have to focus on how good I'll feel when I've completed those things. And I'm usually better for doing them. I definitely feel relief for being able to finally cross them off my to-do list and put them behind me (at least until the next time they need to be done).

 

What about you? Are you a procrastinator? Are there tricks you have to get things done instead of putting them off? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!