Why You Procrastinate

Do you frequently say, “I’ll do it later; I’ll get to it tomorrow”?  Do you frequently put things off or wait until the last minute, then stress and panic when things still aren’t done?  If so, it’s likely you’ve got a problem with procrastination.  But have you ever wondered why you procrastinate?  Have you thought about why you repeatedly push things off until the last minute, even though it’s stressful?  Or have you told yourself you’ll change, that you’ll stop putting things off, only to do it again the next time?

Procrastination can be maddening.  You know you do it.  You know it causes you stress and anxiety.  But you keep doing it.  And you can’t figure out why!  Well today, I’m answering that question.  I’m breaking down the real reason why you procrastinate, why you wait until the last minute, and why you keep putting things off.  So don’t procrastinate a second longer.  Click play on the video below, and find out the real reason behind your procrastination!

It’s often said that awareness is the first step toward change.  And while it might sound cliché, it’s true.  Knowing you do something and noticing it’s a pattern is necessary if you want to make a change.  So raise your hand if you procrastinate.  Raise your hand if you frequently push things off, save them for later, or say you’ll do it them tomorrow. 

Now, raise your hand high if this procrastination, this pattern of pushing things off, has ever gotten you into trouble.  Has this pattern of doing things later has ever caused you unnecessary stress, anxiety, or lost sleep? Procrastination can be so confusing.  Part of your brain knows what to do.  It knows you’d feel better if you just got that task done.  It knows you’d feel better if you just made that phone call.  And it knows you’d feel better if you started that chore.  And yet you don’t.  You put it off.  You wait.  And because you keep putting things off, it seems like there’s all this complex, emotional stuff going on.  You can’t understand why you procrastinate.  But when you boil it down, procrastination isn’t that complicated.  In fact, it’s quite simple.  And when you understand it, it becomes much easier to change.

Procrastination can be maddening.  You know you do it.  You know it causes you stress and anxiety.  But you keep doing it. 

So here’s the secret, the simple reason why you procrastinate.  Procrastination is simply an avoidance of distress.  Let’s say that again, slower this time.  Procrastination is simply an avoidance of distress.  Distress isn’t a word you hear often, but it’s a frequently used word among therapists.  Distress is that feeling that rises up in your body when you think about doing something unpleasant.  Distress is the reaction when you’re faced with something difficult.  And distress is that response when you think about doing something scary or uncomfortable.

You think about sitting down to pay your bills, and an anxious feeling rises up in your chest.  That’s distress.  You think about making a difficult phone call or having a difficult conversation, and a feeling of dread comes up.  That’s distress.  You think about starting a big work or school project, and you feel overwhelmed and unsure where to start.  That’s distress.  The minute you think about doing that difficult, uncomfortable, or scary thing, distress comes up.  And procrastination is simply an avoidance of that.  Procrastination is simply you trying to avoid something that’s unpleasant.

Humans are wired to avoid discomfort.  When discomfort comes up, the natural human tendency is to find the fastest way to make it go away.  So when distress pops us, your brain looks for the fastest way to make that feeling go away.  And what’s the fastest way to make distress go away?  Avoid the thing that brought it on. 

So that’s why you procrastinate.  That’s the reason you keep putting things off, again and again.  You’re avoiding distress.  When you think about doing something you don’t want to do, and you feel distressed, you look for the fastest way to make it go away.  “I’ll do it later.  Tomorrow.  I’ll get around to it.  Later.  After this, I’ll get to it.”  And the minute you say that, the distress goes down.  The minute you decide to avoid distress, your brain feels safer.

Procrastination is simply an avoidance of distress. 

Think about something you’re procrastinating on in your life.  What’s something that you keep putting off?  Prepping for a big presentation or studying for an exam.  Having tough conversation.  Doing your laundry.  Paying your bills.  Going to the dentist.  Name something you’re procrastinating, and I just about guarantee you, it’s an avoidance of distress.  It’s you, unconsciously finding the fastest way to not have to feel uncomfortable.

Now at this point, you might be thinking that avoiding distress is good.  And well, in the short term, it is.  But in the long run, avoidance of distress has major consequences.  Because you need to do things that make you uncomfortable.  You need to have difficult conversations.  You need to meet new people.  And you need to take exams.  You need to pay your student loans.  You need to make that phone call.  And you need to try that new class.

Facing distress is how you grow and change.  It’s how you evolve and learn.  Doing uncomfortable things is necessary.  It’s how you grow stronger, more resilient, and more capable.  Facing distress is essential if you want to live a healthy and meaningful life.  If you haven’t watched my previous video on the sneaky relationship between anxiety and avoidance, then head over and watch it ASAP.  It explains why avoidance is so problematic and how it just makes you more anxious in the end.  The video will also give you a sneak peek into what you can do to stop procrastinating.

Once you know why you procrastinate, you can start to do something about it.  And to help you change your pattern of procrastination, I’ve got a follow-up video coming out soon, where I talk about the simple hack to help you beat procrastination for good.  So keep an eye out for that! Remember, awareness is the first step toward change.  So this week, notice how your procrastination is avoidance of distress.  Pay attention to this pattern.  Because it will make challenging your procrastination and getting things done on time so much easier!

PS: In the mood for another awesome life hack? Check out this video where I share the best advice I’ve ever gotten!

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