For most perfectionists, procrastination is the only thing that stops us from achieving our goals, which means figuring out how to stop procrastinating is a BIG deal.
So today that’s exactly what I’m going to do – I’m going to help you figure out how to finally stop procrastinating!
And I can assure you that’s not an empty promise. And that this blog post isn’t a useless list of tips and tricks (because I’m sure you’ve already read a million blog posts like that and none of them have helped).
Some bloggers like to keep their posts short and sweet. I’m not one of them, and this post is no exception. So get a hot cup of tea and let’s get into it!
How to make the most of this blog post
This blog post’s going to have everything you need to start making real progress with stopping procrastination, but my advice will only work if you do.
So, right now, I want you to think of one example of how you’ve been procrastinating in the last 3 months. Maybe you’ve delayed applying for a new job, starting a blog or studying. Maybe you’ve put off having a difficult conversation or creating a healthy habit. Whatever it is, I want you to have that example in your mind as you’re reading through this blog post, and to consciously apply my advice and do the exercises I recommend.
I’m giving you everything I can to help you, but you’ve got to help yourself too (just like anything in life).
How to stop procrastinating
Since this blog post is a big one, here’s a quick overview of the process I’m going to be walking you through:
- Learn why perfectionists procrastinate
- Figure out what negative feelings you’re trying to avoid when you procrastinate
- Learn how to feel those negative feelings instead of procrastinating
Free Procrastination Masterclass For Perfectionists
Get FREE instant access to the replay of my live Procrastination Masterclass for Perfectionists!
In the Masterclass I shared heaps of practical advice and examples to help you finally stop procrastinating! Here are a few of the things I talked about:
- My struggle with procrastination
- The real reasons perfectionists procrastinate
- The two most common reasons we procrastinate when studying and how to identify whether you’re doing them
- Why we self-sabotage and how to stop ourselves from doing it
- My favourite tools and resources for stopping procrastination
I also shared my thoughts on quite a few other topics and answered questions live!
If you’d like to watch the replay of my live event, make sure to click the button below for free instant access.
Ok, now it’s time to learn why perfectionists procrastinate!
The two types of procrastination
Before we get into the nitty gritty, I want to talk about the two ways we perfectionists like to procrastinate.
1. Justifying Delay
The first way we procrastinate is by justifying delay. We might want to start a blog. We might want to travel. We might want to write a book. We might want to find a new job. We might want to eat healthy and workout. Whatever it is, we really want to do it and yet we keep finding ‘reasons’ we should wait a little longer to get started. We keep finding ‘reasons’ to delay (and these reasons usually appear to be legitimate).
2. Distracting ourselves in the moment
The second way we procrastinate is by distracting ourselves in the moment. If you’ve ever done any kind of study, writing or blogging you’ll know this kind of procrastination all too well. It’s being entranced by Youtube videos for hours at a time. It’s endlessly scrolling through Instagram. It’s constantly checking the fridge. It’s doing anything and everything we can find to distract us from whatever the hell it is we’re supposed to be doing. So when I talk about procrastination in this blog post, I want you to know that I’m talking about (1) justifying delay and (2) distracting ourselves in the moment. And that’s because they both have the same cause – we’re trying to avoid negative emotion. So let’s get into that!
Why we procrastinate
We’re driven, ambitious and smart, and that means it’s seriously frustrating when we can’t make ourselves follow through with our plans. And I think part of the reason it can be so frustrating is because many of us misunderstand procrastination. Some of us think we procrastinate because we have a short attention span. Some of us blame the allure of the internet for our inability to do what we want. But, quite simply, the reason we procrastinate is because we’re trying to avoid negative emotion. That’s it. That’s the reason. We procrastinate because we don’t want to experience negative feelings. And while that’s completely normal, it’s not great when it stops us from achieving our goals!
Figuring out what we’re trying to avoid
OK, so I know it’s all well and good to say that procrastination is just us avoiding negative emotion. But how do we figure out what we’re actually trying to avoid? For some of us, this can be quite easy. But for those of us who haven’t done this kind of thing before, it can be a little trickier. So I’ll go through some examples of the negative emotions we might be trying to avoid when we procrastinate. As I go through them, I want you to have your procrastination example in mind (the one you thought of earlier) and to think about whether any of these might be going on:
- Feeling like you won’t be good enough
- Feeling bored
- Feeling frustrated
- Feeling self-doubt
- Feeling like you’ll fail
- Feeling like you’ll get unwanted attention (either positive or negative attention)
- Feeling scared of rejection
- Feeling scared of what other people will think
- Feeling like you won’t meet your extremely high expectations expectations
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling stressed
- Feeling uncomfortable
- Feeling challenged
- Feeling resistance
- Feeling dumb
- Feeling unsure of what to do next
There might be one negative emotion in particular that you’re trying to avoid, there might be a few or there might be the whole lot. So I want you to write down whichever ones you think you might be feeling in the moments/hours you spend procrastinating. Which of those feelings are you trying to avoid? Writing down these emotions will begin to build your awareness around the true reason you’re procrastinating, which is a very important part of this process. Seriously, write them down. If you want to stop procrastinating, you’re going to need to actually work through this (rather than just read about it).
Some exercises to help you
If you’re struggling to figure out why you’re procrastinating, I highly recommend working through the below exercises to gain some awareness around the feelings that typically cause you to procrastinate. Don’t forget to apply these to the specific procrastination example that you thought of earlier!
1. Justifying Delay
If there’s something you’ve been putting off (the first kind of procrastination), you can use these journaling prompts to help you start to figure out why you’ve been procrastinating:
- I can’t start yet because…
- I’ll be ready to start when…
- I don’t want to do it today because…
- When I start, I’m scared that…
And I really encourage you not to censor yourself when you’re answering these questions. The perfectionist in you will want to write down what’s ‘right’, but your answers will be more helpful if you’re not trying to make them logical or self-aware or wise. Word vomit onto the page for at least 15 minutes and I promise you’ll begin to uncover the real reason you’ve been procrastinating! And just another reminder – if you really want to figure out why you procrastinate, you need to do the work. So either write about it or talk to yourself in the mirror about it. Just do whatever you need to do to start figuring out what feelings you’re trying to avoid when you procrastinate. And do it today.
2. Distracting yourself in the moment
If you’ve been distracting yourself from doing something you ‘should’ be doing (the second kind of procrastination), I recommend downloading my FREE procrastination tracker to help you figure out why you procrastinate. This tracker is from my online course, Dream Habit: A 28-Day Habit Bootcamp For Perfectionists. Just click the button below to instantly download your free procrastination tracker! Journaling can also help you uncover why you procrastinate. Here are a few prompts to help you get started:
- When I’m [studying / writing / working etc] I usually feel…
- When I procrastinate, I feel…
- I wouldn’t procrastinate if…
Two examples from my life
OK, so we’re still at the stage of identifying the negative feelings we’re trying to avoid when we procrastinate. So to help you, I thought I’d give you some examples of the negative feelings I try to avoid by procrastinating. I gave many more examples in my free Procrastination Masterclass for Perfectionists, but here are a couple: 1. I seriously procrastinated on creating my online course because, whenever I thought about making it, I felt scared of rejection and what other people would think, I felt overwhelmed and unsure of where to start and I was extremely out of my comfort zone. I justified delay (i.e. procrastinated) so that I didn’t have to feel those negative emotions. It was also easier on my ego to ‘know’ that the reason I didn’t have a successful online course was because I hadn’t tried to create one, rather than that I’d tried my hardest and failed. Thankfully, I learned how to push through those fears rather than avoid them, and I’ve now created that online course. 2. I’ve desperately wanted to distract myself with Instagram as I’ve been writing this blog post about procrastination (yep, I know how ironic that is) because writing this blog post is hard – I feel uncomfortable, I feel resistance, I feel scared this blog post won’t be as helpful as I hope. And as I’m writing these words, I still feel all of those emotions. But I’m using what I’m teaching you in this blog post to keep myself out of procrastination and write this blog post anyway. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Of course, procrastination doesn’t just happen when you’re blogging or writing, but they’re examples of when I’ve struggled with procrastination recently so I wanted to share them with you.
Be kind to yourself
I also wanted to share the above examples to show you that stopping procrastination is a work in progress. It takes time and effort to change a habit (the habit we’re trying to change is our habit of avoiding negative emotion, and we’re trying to create either (1) the habit of taking action in the face of discomfort or (2) the habit of focusing in the face of discomfort, or both). I haven’t completely nailed this yet, but I have come a LONG way. So while this blog post will help you make some serious progress, this isn’t one-and-done. I want you to expect that you’ll still find yourself wanting to procrastinate (as I said, it’s a habit) and to be compassionate with yourself. This is some pretty deep stuff, and it takes time to work through it.
OK, hopefully at this point you’ve got a pretty good idea about why you procrastinate. You know that, when you procrastinate, you’re just trying to avoid feeling negative emotions. And by now you know exactly which negative feelings you might be trying to avoid. We all experience negative emotion, and that’s ok. In fact, it’s good. It’s how it’s meant to be. We don’t need to change those negative emotions to positive ones. Instead, we need to learn how to process them and how to stop reacting to them in a negative way. But we don’t need to get rid of them.
How to feel negative emotion
If you want to stop procrastinating, the answer is to learn how to feel those negative emotions instead of avoiding them. And this takes quite a bit of work – no one taught us this stuff in school! I’ve learned how to feel my negative emotions, instead of avoiding them with procrastination, from Episode 92 of The Life Coach School Podcast (and also just from that podcast generally, it’s AMAZING). I highly recommend listening to this podcast episode to learn how to feel your emotions instead of reacting to them. It is seriously life-changing stuff. And just a reminder, if you want results in your life you have to do the work – so make sure you make time to listen to that podcast episode!
Practice, practice, practice
Once you know which feelings you’re trying to avoid when you procrastinate, and you have a basic understanding of how to feel those feelings instead of reacting to them, you just need to practice feeling your emotions. As I said earlier, you’re not going to magically stop procrastinating overnight. You’re trying to change a habit and that takes time and self-awareness, so be kind to yourself. And decide to keep working on it, even if it doesn’t feel like it’s working straight away. Build awareness around how you feel when you procrastinate – what are you trying to avoid feeling? Understand that procrastination has nothing to do with a short attention span (though you could be trying to avoid the feeling of boredom) and that the allure of the internet isn’t the problem. All you need to do is practice feeling, instead of avoiding. And I’m not telling you it’s going to feel good to feel your negative emotions. In fact, it will most likely feel pretty shit. But if you’re prepared to endure a little discomfort you’ll be able to achieve anything you dream of! And don’t forget to watch the replay of my free Procrastination Masterclass for Perfectionists if you want to learn more about how to stop procrastinating – there are so many things I want to teach you that I couldn’t fit into this blog post! Just click the button below to get instant access to the replay:
Talk soon, Sam xx
P.S. Keep reading to learn about my online course for procrastinators called Get Out Of Your Own Way:
Take your life to the next level
Four years ago, I found myself trapped in a vicious cycle of procrastination and guilt. Whenever I tried to do simple life tasks (like going to the gym, eating right and organising my time) it felt like I was trying to move mountains!
After work, I was too exhausted to do anything more than make food and lay in bed watching another episode of my favourite show. I kept telling myself I deserved a break, but I never enjoyed it. I felt guilty for wasting my time but I didn’t stop (and when I did find myself with time to do the things I wanted, I just kept procrastinating – gahh!).
And I wish it stopped there, but then I beat myself up for procrastinating! I felt like I was behind everyone else and letting everyone down, so I procrastinated even more.
No matter how many hours I spent reading motivation articles on Pinterest or how many times I filled out a new planner, I just couldn’t make myself change – even though I knew I was the one stopping myself from progressing. And I had all the advice right in front of me!
And because this whole situation was frustrating AF (and I knew I was better than that, even though I didn’t have the evidence to prove it) I dedicated myself to figuring out how to stop sabotaging my own success.
After trying hundreds of different things, it finally clicked! And this year I’ve been able to quit my full-time job for blogging, I’m more productive and focused than I’ve ever been in my life and I’ve finally stopped feeling like I’m behind! Plus it’s actually easy to workout everyday and eat healthy (which I never thought would be possible).
And since everything I’ve learned has COMPLETELY changed my life, I decided to put the very best of it together in a step-by-step course!
My online course for procrastinators
Get Out Of Your Own Way is a self-paced online video course that gives you the tools and mindset shifts you need to stop procrastinating, follow through with all your plans and have the courage to finally pursue your dreams – even if your life is totally overwhelming and you have no idea what you want to do!
I’ll just let you know that this course won’t be for you if you’re looking for quick-fix procrastination tips (let’s be real – you’ve seen all those already and they haven’t worked) or you’re afraid to dig deep and uncover the real reasons you’ve been holding yourself back.
But if you’re ready to make a change and need someone to guide you through the very first step – it could be just the thing you need!
Thanks for this post Sam, it was exactly what I needed right now!
How amazing!!! It’s like you knew my life and told me all about myself. I never realized I was avoiding not just the task but also the negative emotion or discomfort that comes with the task. You’re brilliant! Thank you so much for posting this and adding something else to my Personal Development list.
Hi! I just wanted to let you know that I love your blog and decided to nominate you for the Mystery Blogger Award. The Award is a Q&A challenge to help bloggers build community; you can read more about it in my blog post here: http://www.haleymarieblog.com/2016/12/mystery-blogger-award-blogging-q-and-a.html. Thank you so much for your amazing content and for inspiring me to be a better blogger! xo Haley
Hi! I’m Claire and I love this post! It’s so helpful to someone like me that has a deep yearning to be organized and on top of my game but doesn’t have the motivation😬. Please check out my blog dancingonablogpost.wordpress.com . It’s not much yet but I hope that once I learn to not procrastinate(😊) it’ll be something more!
Great suggestions – especially about justifying delay – procrastination is something we all process on a regular basis. http://brenmurphy.net
I am so guilty of distracting myself in the moment! It just always seems like there’s something sooo much better that I could be doing! Just signed up to watch your procrastination masterclass and I can’t wait to see how I can move above and beyond and start getting work done on my dreams!
Leni | minimizeorganize.com
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