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Why Do I Procrastinate?

Matt Groenig has a sketch from 1989 called, "The Procrastinator." The character has a paper due at 8 am but first must sort alphabetize his albums and refold his socks. I am guessing that a lot of us have similar tasks that we don't like to do and find other things that take on monumental priority at the moment! An HBR article notes that 95% of people procrastinate at some point. Turns out, I am not alone!

So, why do I procrastinate? In a phrase: an immediate need to manage a negative mood. In other words, I am frustrated, bored, angry, lacks meaning, self-doubt, etc. This revolutionary research from Dr. Pychl and Dr. Sirois paves the way to "why" we procrastinate by looking at how our current needs take precedence over our future needs. It's not logical that I binge watch Grace & Frankie rather than going for a walk. My future self would thank me for going on that walk. My current self enjoys the laughter and not working through stiff muscles from sitting so long!

I understand why I procrastinate. I think that is an important part of the equation. But what I really want to know is how can I stop procrastinating. Dr. Pychl has recommendations for that, too!

Think differently about a task

I procrastinate doing dishes because I don't have a dishwasher. The thing is, I am usually the only one home and dirty at least 75% of the dishes. If I think of playing a game with the dishes, "How many can I get done in 10 minutes?", I find it much more enjoyable and doable. I use this at work, too. "I need to update this documentation. How much can I get done in 20 minutes?"

Pick something - anything!

I usually find that once I get started, I want to keep going. And I feel SO accomplished when I accomplish something.

Break it down into smaller steps

Have a large project to do? Break it down into smaller steps (email Jeanne, Google "what does this error message mean", ask marketing for the appropriate logo).

Listen to what your procrastination is telling you

Sometimes, our procrastination is telling us something; perhaps it is time to let go of something or it's not the right time for something.

I still find myself procrastinating, but I have gotten much better about working through it. What are your go-to strategies?


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