To be honest, I typically don’t procrastinate. I am very alert to deadlines and have never operated well under last minute panic. I am often ahead of schedule, when there is a schedule, but in regards to tasks with nebulous or extended timelines and goals, like writing a novel, I find it difficult to stay ahead of the game.
I’ve observed the reasons why I procrastinate because the ways in which I procrastinate, like watching mindless YouTube videos or staring off into space like I’m searching for life’s answers, only add fuel to the anxiety around getting started on whatever it is I’m working on. The more I procrastinate, the less I want to get started. The less I want to get started, the more time I spend procrastinating.
“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.” – Mason Cooley
The five main reasons I seem to procrastinate are:
1.I’m afraid to face the emotional work
This reason for procrastination came up in the past week as I was applying for a job that I was genuinely excited about. My qualifications were a great match, and I was excited by the company’s values. As I started drafting my cover letter, however, I began clicking in and out of my web browser, scrolling through YouTube or checking my email. The rest of the week I’d been very focused in writing my documents for job applications, so I wondered – what was different with this one?
“Procrastination is your body telling you you need to back off a bit and think about what you are doing.” – James Altucher
I clicked out of my browser to explore what was happening and I realized – I didn’t like how excited I was getting about the job because I didn’t want to have to feel disappointed if it didn’t work out. That fear of disappointment, consequently, is another big reason why I procrastinate.
2. I’m afraid of being disappointed
As a reason for procrastination, this doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.
I’m always more disappointed when I allow the fear of disappointment to keep me from even trying.
Nevertheless, this fear still ensnares me in its gnarly teeth more often than I’d like. However, becoming aware that this is an issue makes it much easier to push through and get started, even if I’m worried about the emotional consequences.
It always seems counterproductive to me that acknowledging negative emotions is the key to moving past them, but it always works. When I faced the emotional baggage holding me back from putting my all into the cover letter for that job, I was able to buckle down and write a pretty damn good cover letter, if I do say so myself.
3. I think it’s going to be harder than it actually is
This one used to get me in college all the time when I had to write essays. I’d have an essay due on some obscure topic like the emotion of sound in a novel and I’d think, dear god, how am I ever going to argue that point, but then when I finally got started drafting my thesis, it would always come together with much more ease than I anticipated.
I still get hung up on this one today when I’m working on my novel. I’m in the revision stage right now and when I hit a particularly challenging spot, like if I need to reorder some chapters and I’m not sure how, or if the plot point is faulty, I doddle pretty hard.
When I finally get started, though, it’s always so much easier than the mountainous trek I had built it up to be.
4. I’m afraid it will never be good enough
(aka – the fear that I’ll never be good enough)
If I’m honest, this reason is probably at the core of all these reasons.
The fear that I’m going to fail, or that I already am a failure, haunts me from a dark place inside my mind.
It would be so easy to give in to that fear and never do anything again, and I think procrastination is a twisted way of testing myself.
Will I give in to my fears? Will I decide that I’m unworthy? Or will I decide that I’m good enough?
Thankfully, I’ve learned that even if I procrastinate, it doesn’t mean I’ve already given into the beast of self-doubt. I can always still decide that I am, in fact, worthy of the effort.
5. I don’t have an action plan and I don’t know where to start
A lot of times when I sit down to work on my novel, I have no idea where to start. There are a million places I could start. How am I supposed to know which is the best place to start? If I start in chapter five and something changes in chapter 3, then all the work will be moot, anyway, right?
I can get caught in that loop of figuring out the best place to start for way longer than I care to admit. When I create a plan, or at least come to my writing with an intention, then I am able to jump right in and not even hesitate over clicking open my word document before anything else.
. . .
There are a lot of reasons why I procrastinate, and many of them are not nearly as profound or emotionally deep as the five reasons listed here. Compliment this blog post with my Medium article “The Real Reasons I Procrastinate: Internet, dogs, and coffee.”
I’m curious to know, are you fueled by last minute panic, or do you generally operate ahead of schedule? Leave me a comment and let me know!