Let’s be honest. Everybody procrastinates. I do not know anyone who has not put off things in their life ever.
It’s not an issue when you do it occasionally. But it can grow into a serious problem when it gets a habit to put things off. When you do it often and it ties you for long stretches of your valuable time. This can lead to dramatic consequences in life, like loss of a job, a relationship or loss of money.
How do I know?
Because I have been there before. At least in part.
In their intention to overcome procrastination, people try a lot of things. Many approaches are ineffective because they are based on myths.
And know what, it can really hurt when others don’t understand you. When they think you only put things off for fun. For laziness. When you hear them say “I would not do this, it’s stupid”.
I’d say “F*** off! I know that!”
Now, don’t take the route of self-pity, self-blame and thinking you are too stupid.
Better let’s clear …
3 Myths About Procrastination
Myth No. 1 – You just have to grit your teeth and do your best
That is totally wrong. Only people who don’t suffer from real procrastination can claim this. Sure, from outside it seems people who put things off only have to get started. They must just move and do their things better. If it only were that simple, no one would have to suffer from chronic procrastination.
Truth is, there is rather an inner force that steals energy. That eats away motivation and drive. And it is beyond direct control. Shear willpower and discipline are not enough. You must understand the underlying causes of your drain of energy to tackle procrastination.
Myth No. 2 – Procrastination Stems From Poor Time Management
Well, no. It’s nothing to do with time management. I know people who organize and plan their day perfectly. They have thought through everything and have a clear to-do list. From seeing their plan you would think they are big achievers. However, they can not start or keep doing the tasks.
Procrastination rather has to do with poor self-management. It’s about knowing yourself and understanding your emotions, inner resources and abilities. And it is about knowing which triggers and levers to pull to switch your inner state.
It is also about knowing what holds you back. And this is often not obvious. The lack of drive often stems from being overwhelmed for example by the amount of work or the difficulty. Overwhelm is the perceived gap between own resources and the demand of a task. With emphasis on “perceived”. Imagination barely matches reality. There are people working till they collapse. And there are people who are paralyzed and can not get going.
Myth No. 3. – It’s In Your Genes, You Cannot Do Anything About It
Current science realizes that many traits are in part genetically and in part caused by circumstances. While the case for procrastination is not 100% resolved, it is clear that your conditions play a major role.
If you have cold and demanding parents, chances are that you are a procrastinator. This makes a genetic component rather unlikely.
You don’t believe me? At first glance it looks when, say, your father demands a lot of you, you should tend to give a lot and therefore develop diligence and discipline. The problem is, this demand can lead to the feeling of overwhelm.
When at the same time your father is emotionally cold and spares praise, you may have learned that you never did enough. That you must work even harder. With time you feel you never work good enough. Then instead of getting it done quickly and taking on the next to-do, you feel you are not finished.
When having the courage to close a task you received no positive feedback. This may have trained your inner belief that you are too bad and most tasks are just too difficult. On top of that, without you taking notice, you avoid doing a task because you “learned” that it has negative consequences most of the time.
You see, this root cause of procrastination is a highly emotional and socially trained adaptation. No genes or hereditary fate involved.
The good news is, while you cannot change your genes you can change your habits and inner beliefs. But you can not take the route of the common myths.