Key learnings from our procrastination masterclass
June 06, 2023
We've all been there - putting something off until it's breathing down our necks and dragging ourselves across the finish line. It can feel like a rush to finish just before a deadline, and you may pride yourself on thriving under pressure.
But it's a negative pattern of behaviour that leaves us pondering if we have issues with time management or are just a bit lazy. The good news is, you are neither. So why do we do this to ourselves?
We invited Rema Lolas of Mind Matrix to host an interactive online procrastination masterclass for our community to give us insights on what might be behind our procrastination and how we can kick it to the curb.
Let's dive in to some key takeaways from the session.
What causes procrastination?
Rema shared that people procrastinate because of a four-letter f-word: FEAR.
So procrastination stems from a fear of something or a pain you're trying to avoid.
For instance, you may fear failure and the judgement of others or your inner critic.
You may lack confidence in your abilities and hesitate to start a task because of fear of failing to meet your or others' expectations.
You may fear being found out, which plays out as imposter syndrome.
You may fear asking for help leading to feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion.
What are your procrastination behaviours?
One or more of these may resonate with you at different times in different contexts. And when you can be honest with yourself, you can unpick your behaviours and begin to move forward.
Here's what Rema says to look out for:
Perfectionism: this is a big one and comes in two different flavours. There are the perfectionists who are never done because nothing is ever perfect, and they keep going and going. Then there are the perfectionists who are sceptics and never start because they're never going to be able to get it perfect first go.
All-or-nothing thinking: this will show up as wanting it done all at once instead of chunking it into manageable parts. Since immediate gratification can't be reached, procrastination kicks in.
Discounting: this is where you ignore all the good stuff you have already done and achieved and only focus on the big stuff that you still need to do. This can be exhausting and drive procrastination.
Responsibility: ever taken on extra work to prove yourself and show your value? This is enculturated in so many workplaces driving us to be over-responsible and take on work that isn't ours to do. Cue procrastination and burnout. This is where setting boundaries is crucial.
Value conflict: not to be mistaken for aspirational values like generosity and loyalty, but rather the values that drive you. It's the things you spend time and money on, research, think about and naturally do. So when something is at odds with or against your core values, it will fuel your procrastination.
What drives your motivation?
Here's where things start to build. Without a compelling reason or "why", the thing you're trying to do will feel like pain.
The strategy here is to focus on and move towards the pleasure of what you want to achieve so it outweighs the pain. This will help get you into action and out of procrastination land.
Now, we know what you may be thinking - your goal may feel so big and so far in the distance that it seems all too daunting and exhausting. And the pain of now feels more real than some distant pleasure. So Rema has some tips for us here that we'll get to at the end.
But the key here is to have a clear intention and focus on the pleasurable things you want to move towards to give you some initial momentum.
And finally, your reason should be something that lights you up and doesn't depend on recognition from others or extrinsic gratitude to fuel your motivation.
Are you being attentional or intentional?
When you're overwhelmed by the complexity of what you want to achieve, you may get distracted by lots of busy work.
Those shiny objects may make you feel productive but won't help you move towards your goals and are just procrastination in disguise.
So when you don't have clear intentions, you focus on everything that gets your attention and run out of time for the things that matter.
Now, let's get into some tips!
#1. Identify your fear Ask yourself, what am I fearing? What is the worst-case scenario running in your mind? And ask yourself if it's a real fear or an imaginary fear. This may be a good time to journal down your thoughts.
#2. Get intentional Check-in on those procrastination behaviours, then clarify your motivations and intentions. Understand what you need to do first and remove anything that isn't yours to do, is not a priority and stop doing those stocking stuffer items that will not move the dial. And delegate where you can.
#3. Prioritise your large tasks Chuck your larger tasks into small activities so it feels less overwhelming. This will help you build momentum and confidence. Google the Eisenhower's priority matrix or the Stephen Covey time management matrix for two prioritisation tools.
#4. Don't sit on the smaller tasks Getting some smaller tasks done will help build momentum and motivation. Rema recommends the "two-minute rule", which is excellent for getting you into action and can be used to build habits.
#5. Stop multitasking You'll feel so much relief when you focus on what you want to achieve, one task at a time. Celebrate as you tick things off to motivate and keep the momentum going. Even if you partially complete something in the day and pick it up tomorrow, it's more satisfying than lots of little tasks that take much longer to complete and leave you feeling drained.
This is just the starting point for understanding the habits and behaviours fueling procrastination. You may want to spend more time unpicking your perfectionism if you recognise that as a behaviour behind your procrastination. Or you may need to set some boundaries if you're doing work for others or are motivated by external factors.
We have several other blog posts and resources to help. But of course, chatting to a self-leadership coach like Rema will give you those personalised insights and "a-ha" moments that can help you build more self-awareness and help you reach your goals.