Man leaning backwards on a couch, staring up
Man leaning backwards on a couch, staring up

A compassionate view of procrastination

Thank goodness for “the last minute”, or nothing would ever get done.

Procrastination is a common human behaviour that often leaves us with a sense of regret and self-criticism. We've all put off tasks until the last minute, only to scramble in a frenzy to complete them.

The reasons for procrastination can vary from person to person. It's NOT a sign of weakness or incompetence. Instead, it's a behavioural pattern that can be understood and managed.

The key is to recognize the underlying causes of procrastination and address them to prevent self-sabotaging patterns, and ultimately a feeling that we are working at cross purposes to our own best interests.

So, what might take us to “procrastination station” and drop us off there?

Task Aversion: Sometimes, we procrastinate because the task at hand is unpleasant, boring, or difficult. It's human nature to avoid discomfort, and procrastination can serve as a coping mechanism to delay these feelings.

However… when we delay something, it still occupies a corner of our mind. It lurks and haunts us, so many people subscribe to the “eat the frog” mentality and get the most unpleasant tasks out of the way as soon as they can.

Perfectionism: We may procrastinate out of fear of not being able to complete a task perfectly. If we set impractically high standards for ourselves, or we believe that someone else has extraordinarily high standards of us, the fear of falling short can be paralysing.

So…we can manage our expectations and consciously turn our focus to aspects of the task that we’re pleased with; skills we’ve demonstrated that we’re impressed by. We can remind ourselves that “progress over perfection” is a healthier and more sustainable path.

Lack of Motivation: When we don't see the immediate benefits of a task or feel disconnected from our long-term goals, we tend to put things off. It's easy to procrastinate when you lack a clear sense of purpose.

Then… before we start, let’s set some clear end goals. Let’s connect ourselves to the outcomes we want and most importantly, WHY we want them.

Overwhelm: The task as a whole feels enormous; too big fort he allocated timeframe of “now”. So, we will do it “later”. That makes sense. You probably don’t have the time, emotional bandwidth or even data or tools to do the whole thing now.

Then… don’t. Break it down into very small parts instead. These milestones represent little wins, so make them achievable within a desired timeframe. They’re building blocks and when they all come together you will be done. Set priorities, colour code, table or label so that once you have decided how to chunk it down, you can take it one step at a time.

Neurodiversity: You might have a spicy brain that doesn’t naturally lean into the orderly timelines designed to serve a neurotypical society.

So… reach out to the community and professionals who have a tonne of experience with tips and tools to help people with ADHD, depression, anxiety etc. People have been using and sharing all kinds of hacks to “adjust their factory settings” to make their own lives easier to manage, thus improving their wellbeing and self-esteem.

Ultimately… practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself. Self-criticism can lead to more procrastination. Acknowledge your efforts (even the little ones) and remember it’s ok to ask for external validation too. Most people want to see you win!