Procrastination Isn’t Laziness

It’s easy to put ourselves down rather than thinking things through objectively.

Procrastination is all too common for me. I’ve procrastinated throughout my whole life, from the time when I was in school and even now in my work. Even this same blog post you are reading now, I’ve procrastinated starting for a while.

I’ve always thought that procrastination is tied to my being lazy. It’s from that inner voice that always says something critical — that one that always loves to put myself down.

It isn’t easy to be kind to ourselves. It is perhaps true that we are our greatest critics. Even looking at the mirror, we instantly focus on our “defects” and imperfections. It is so hard to say “I am enough” when we face our reflections in the mirror.

But as I gained more life experience, I realized that procrastination isn’t laziness. It’s a loss of either one of two things:

  • Loss of motivation
  • Loss of direction

Loss of Motivation

This one is tough because all of us go through this cycle of gaining and losing motivation.

There are times when we feel that we can do so many things, and we have flashes of insight left and right, and it seems we can easily start any endeavor. Friction to start is at an all-time low and we gain a lot of momentum due to our confidence.

We are in the zone.

On the flip side, there are also times that we are enveloped in ennui — dissatisfaction, discontentment. We feel that anything we do isn’t important, and there is a tendency to let things be because we haven’t the confidence or the willpower to go out of this rut.

We are in quicksand.

When we lose motivation, then procrastination is natural. Some projects remain untouched for a while because the motivation doesn’t seem to swell enough to start again.

What Do We Do When We Lose Motivation?

Ride it out. Procrastinating is a coping mechanism here. We need to take care of ourselves in our darkest hours. I would recommend looking at your bucket list and reversing it.

reverse bucket list is a list of things you have already ticked done. Instead of focusing on what you still need to accomplish, this flips the script and makes you focus on what you have achieved. This fosters a feeling of gratitude and makes you think of the small things that are good in your life right now.

There are other ways to gain motivation, but the main thing that we need to focus on is our perspective. We can always control what we can feel and decide about a given situation. Personally, Stoicism has helped me a lot with centering myself in times of personal demotivation.

Loss of Direction

I find that this is what I usually experience. When I procrastinate, I find that there is always something that blocks me from continuing. There is a subconscious wall that I don’t see, but need to hurdle before I can continue.

I don’t realize this until after a certain period has passed, usually when the deadline is close and I need to focus on the task itself.

I also see this with goals I set for myself, for example, I plan on going to the gym for an hour, 2x a week, every Monday and Thursday. I’ve set a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) goal, but it’s still not enough for me to start going for that goal. I keep on procrastinating.

What Do We Do When We Lose Direction?

What I do is write about the goal or task and dive deep into why I cannot start. I list the things that I need to take into consideration when going for this goal.

In my gym example, when I analyzed the actual steps in accomplishing the goal, I determined that it was my eldest child who made my goal almost impossible to start. He was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and I need to be present most of the time to take care of him. Two hours, two days a week would be a big change from the norm.

So this allowed me to think about alternatives I could do so that I can still do the goal, but without compromising my responsibilities. I was able to think of a workaround by making our walks my workout.

Since my son loves walking outdoors, I can integrate his needs and my goal to be a win-win solution. Now we walk twice a week and I make sure the walk can be considered a workout by making the distance long enough (more than 5km). Once my son becomes bigger (he’s 5 now), we can probably start runs instead.

In short, we should think about starting systems to accomplish our goals. When you create a system, you break down your goal and create habits that help manage it to become predictable.

Some other examples of goals vs systems are —

  • Goal: Read a book per month; System: Read a chapter before going to bed.
  • Goal: Lose weight; System: Eat less by limiting to 1 cup of rice per meal and eating more colorful food

Wrapping Up

Procrastination isn’t laziness. I found out that we need to think about why we are delaying. It can either be a lack of motivation or a lack of direction.

It would be better to write about it as it allows you to be more deliberate with your thinking and allows you to analyze what you feel and what tasks need doing first.

Also, don’t be too hard on yourself when you spend the weekend “doing nothing”. You did something else. I don’t think you can do nothing at all as we are creatures of habit.

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