This article originally appeared on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Student Affairs Counseling Center site. While it’s geared toward students, procrastination is a pretty universal problem and one many writers particularly struggle with, so if this is an issue for you, the article is definitely worth a read.
Procrastination technically refers to the avoidance of a specific task or work which needs to be accomplished. But this technical explanation doesn’t begin to capture the emotions triggered by the word. For most of us, the word “procrastination” reminds us of past experiences where we have felt guilty, lazy, inadequate, anxious, or stupid–or some combination of these. It also implies a value judgment; if you procrastinate, you are bad, and as such, you lack worth as a person.
Procrastination and Its Causes
In order to understand and solve your procrastination problems, you must carefully analyze those situations where your work is not being completed. First, determine whether the cause is poor time management; if so, you will need to learn and develop time management skills. If, however, you know how to manage your time but don’t make use of those skills, you may have a more serious problem. Many individuals cite the following reasons for avoiding work:
- Lack of Relevance – If something is neither relevant nor meaningful to you personally, it may be difficult to get motivated even to begin.
- Acceptance of Another’s Goals – If a project has been imposed or assigned to you and it is not consistent with your own interests, you may be reluctant to spend the necessary time to see it to conclusion.
- Perfectionism – Having unreachable standards will discourage you from pursuing a task. Remember, perfection is unattainable.
- Evaluation Anxiety – Since others’ responses to your work are not under your direct control, overvaluing these responses can create the kind of anxiety that will interfere with work getting accomplished.
- Ambiguity – If you are uncertain of what is expected of you, it may be difficult to get started.
- Fear of the Unknown – If you are venturing into a new realm or field, you don’t have any way of knowing how well you’ll do. Such an uncertain outcome may inhibit your desire to begin.
- Inability to Handle the Task – If through lack of training, skill, or ability you feel that you lack the personal resources to do the job, you may avoid it completely.