Procrastination; Prioritization’s Ugly Stepister.

I’m a list person.  Always have been.  I like ’em.  I enjoy that feeling of being driven to write down what I would like to get done that day.  Then I breathe a sigh of satisfaction every time I get to cross an item off. Sometimes it’s a checkbox day while other days I aggressively put a dark horizontal line through the ENTIRE DAMN THING. Ahhhh.  

Sometimes I cheat, though.  Sometimes I sneak onto said list things that are already done, just to have the satisfaction of crossing it out. I deserve to get credit for it, don’t I?  Just because that item was completed before I made the daily list doesn’t matter. I like that “tick.”  Don’t you?  Or am I the only one who does that?  Uh huh, right.  Just like I’m the only one out there who procrastinates. 

People procrastinate for all kinds of reasons and the consequences of NOT doing the action(s) we know we need to do may be small or large, depending on what the outcome or goal was before we gave up on it.

We all get stuck in a cycle from time to time. 

A cycle of …

getting excited about a new goal…

to putting off the actions needed to achieve that goal…

to making excuses as to why we didn’t take those actions…

to finally blaming something or someone else for not achieving it.

Procrastination FUELS this cycle.

Procrastination doesn’t make any sense and we all know it. It’s definitely not logical and yet it’s a behaviour that’s so very common.  It’s not usually an accident, is it?  I mean, do we REALLY not know we are procrastinating when we are doing it? Rather than exclaiming “Oh bother, there I go procrastinating again. Oops. “, we are more likely to say to ourselves…”I’ll just go make a cuppa…or Well, that 3rd season of Peaky Blinders isn’t going to watch itself, you know. The deadline on that project will just have to wait as well as that blog post…and the dishes currently in the sink that my partner will be home to see in just under and hour…so where’s the remote?”

Here’s the thing.  We all have inside our heads the most powerful bio-computer on the planet. Our species has created the most advanced civilization that, is believed, to have ever been.  As a race, we are not stupid.  Individually, that may be another story, but on the whole, we are not stupid beings. So why is it, that when we know we have to do a certain task(s) in order to achieve something that WE say we want…we put it off.  Why do we delay, defer and postpone the behaviours and actions that we KNOW we need to do in order to achieve the thing that WE said we wanted? Gym example

Well, if it’s not because we are stupid, then it must be something else.

I submit that procrastination is a symptom. It’s a symptom of a deeper issue or root cause.  So imagine you felt quite ill, awful even. Your head is stuffy and pressurized, your body is aching, your stomach is all over the place and your throat is super scratchy.  You visit your GP for some help and the GP says to you “Here you go, just have some of these throat lozenges.  That’ll help you right out.”  ( I am not trying to incriminate any GP, the NHS or anyone else, by the way.  No medical professional was harmed in the creation of this metaphor.)

Well, aside from walking out of the medical centre a bit baffled, it’s safe to say that those lozenges are not going to help very much.  They may help with that one symptom, your scratchy throat, but there is clearly a larger, root cause, to your current ailment.

Procrastination, to me, is like that scratchy throat.  It’s just a symptom of a larger issue I may need some help identifying. There is something else driving me to choose procrastination over productive behaviour. That something is presenting with the symptom of procrastination. 

So, what could it be?  What’s causing YOU to procrastinate?

This reminds me of SHREK, the first one.  The scene where Donkey and Shrek are walking along discussing how Shrek has layers…like an onion. (insert Eddie Murphy’s vocal talents here___)

Let’s use that image.

Q: Why do people procrastinate? 

A: Because they’re lazy.

Really? Let’s go deeper.

A: Fear and Doubt.

That’s better.  Fear of failure, fear of success. Doubt of all kinds.  These can stop someone from trying…from doing…from taking an action(s) that they know they need to take in order to achieve their goals.

Let’s go deeper and even more tangible.

Here are 4 reasons why most people are procrastinating.

4 real reasons that you can actually do something about if you wish. 

You don’t need to treat the symptom of procrastination.  Treat the root cause and procrastination may not play a part for you at all.

Root Cause No. 1


Pursuing the Wrong Goal.  It’s not for me to tell you what your goals should/could be, but if the pursuit of your current goal leaves you procrastinating, perhaps it’s the wrong one for you.  Many people spend large parts of their lives pursuing goals that DO NOT connect with who they are as a person.  The goal doesn’t make them leap out of bed in the morning excited to get that little bit closer towards an achievement.  If your current goals have you hitting the snooze button over and over, then get yourself a better goal.  Get yourself one that lights you up, that connects with who you are! Self Analysis exercises are a great help in achieving this.  Or better yet, get yourself a coach.

If you don’t, you’re far more likely to procrastinate.

Root Cause No. 2


Even if you have a powerful goal, an unclear focus can be a goal killer. Let’s reverse engineer this one.  Have you ever found yourself staring into the abyss of too many important things to get done at one time?  All these tasks and projects staring back at you.  They are all important.  They all appear as if they have to get done RIGHT NOW.  Each of these things is pretending that they deserve the top priority.  It’s like a hurricane in your head..too much…maybe I’ll just go make a cuppa first.  Sound familiar?

Get better focus.  Clear the clutter.  Detox from the noise in your head. How is what you are focusing on right now DIRECTLY affecting the outcome? They are all important, yes.  But they can’t all be important right now, in the same moment.  Brutally prioritize.

If you don’t, you’re far more likely to procrastinate.

Root Cause No. 3


Got a great and powerful goal?  Check.  Super laser-focused?  Double check. Got your Action Plan written down and ready for execution?…hello? …still there?

Where’s the plan?  Where is that roadmap spelling out exactly how to get from HERE to THERE?

Imagine waking up each and every day knowing the 2 or 3 things that must happen that day to get you just that bit closer towards the goal.  If that map and Action Plan exist only in your head, then you are asking for trouble, in my opinion. Get in down on paper, on a calendar, on a whiteboard, in a notebook…ANYWHERE but locked inside your head.

If you don’t, you’re far more likely to procrastinate.

Root Cause No. 4


So, even with a wonderfully powerful goal, a razor-sharp focus and one helluva Action Plan, there’s still a little something that can derail your train. It’s you.  More specifically, it’s that little voice in your head reminding you of all the things you are just incapable of achieving.  That little voice that pops up from time to time reminding you of all the reasons you couldn’t possibly succeed.

You know that’s your voice, right? Or is it? 

Many of our Mental Barriers, Mind Monkeys and limiting beliefs are echoes of some peer, some colleague,  some parent, some bully or some experience that we had somewhere along the way.

Expunging them is not easy, but it’s not Rocket Science.  It takes practise, self-awareness and some help, sometimes. This step is not as easy to do on your own, but help is all around you.  Get a personal development book, take an online class, watch a Ted Talk or get a Coach. 

and remember…

If you don’t, you’re far more likely to procrastinate.

Now…Let there be lists!

joshua riffe