You’ve got a huge listing presentation tomorrow but rather than preparing for it, you spend an hour scrolling through social media.
Or maybe you’re due to give an address at a big real estate conference and instead of writing your speech you start reading the paper or call a friend.
Procrastination. We all do it, even though we know we shouldn’t.
So why does it happen?
According to US speaker, author, podcast host and former lawyer, Mel Robbins, it has very little to do with being lazy or a lack of willpower and everything to do with stress and how we view procrastination.
But, Mel also has some savvy ways to overcome procrastination.
Discover them below:
Procrastination is a habit, not an identity
Mel emphasises that procrastination is not an inherent part of your personality or identity, but rather a habit that has been developed over time.
This is a crucial distinction because habits can be changed, whereas identity traits are often perceived as fixed, entrenched and unable to be altered.
“You are not a procrastinator, you have a habit of procrastinating,” she says.
“(There’s a) big difference. When you call yourself a procrastinator like I used to, it becomes part of your identity.”
Mel suggests that if you reframe understanding of procrastination, you can start to see it as a behaviour that can be modified and replaced with more productive habits.
There are two types of procrastination: destructive and productive
Mel also introduces the concept of destructive and productive procrastination.
Destructive procrastination is the type that wastes time and energy, often leading to stress and guilt.
“Destructive procrastination can be the kind of procrastination that you might not even realise the extent to which you’re doing it,” Mel says.
“It could be micro procrastinations that you’re engaging in all day, like the fact of that you waste hours on social media, and by the end of the week ,you’re shocked to learn how all those tiny, little, micro delays add up to a whole lot of wasted time.”
On the other hand, productive procrastination is a conscious decision to take a break to clear your mind, which can actually enhance creativity and productivity.
This distinction is important because it helps us understand that not all forms of delay or avoidance are harmful.
Procrastination can be overcome
But don’t despair, Mel asserts that everyone is capable of overcoming procrastination.
She emphasises that procrastination is not a sign of laziness, lack of willpower, or stupidity.
Instead, it’s a habit that can be unlearned and replaced with more productive behaviours.
“You’re stuck in what researchers call a procrastination cycle because you don’t understand procrastination,” she says.
“You can learn how to stop procrastinating.”
This is an empowering message that encourages individuals to take control of their habits and behaviours.
Procrastination is triggered by stress
According to Mel, procrastination is not about avoiding the task at hand, but rather about avoiding stress.
She explains that when we procrastinate, we’re actually trying to make ourselves feel better in the moment by avoiding something that causes us stress.
“Every single time you’re procrastinating, it’s being triggered by stress… Procrastination is the attempt to feel better in this moment,” Mel explains.
This insight is crucial because it shifts the focus from the task itself to the underlying emotional state, suggesting that managing stress and emotional wellbeing is key to overcoming procrastination.
How do you stop procrastinating?
- Reframe your understanding of procrastination: Instead of viewing procrastination as a character flaw or a part of your identity, see it as a habit that you’ve developed in response to stress.
- Identify the stressor: Try to identify what is causing you stress and address it directly. This could be anything from a fear of failure to feeling overwhelmed by the size of the task at hand.
- Change your behavior: Once you’ve identified the stressor, you can work on changing your behavior. This might involve breaking down large tasks into smaller, manageable parts, using techniques like Mel’s ‘5 Second Rule‘ to kickstart action, or finding ways to manage and reduce your stress levels.
- Practice self-compassion: Finally, Mel emphasises the importance of being kind to yourself throughout this process. “You can stop beating yourself up about this and you can stop making yourself wrong,” she says. Recognizs that everyone struggles with procrastination at times, and it’s okay to have setbacks as you work on changing this habit.