How to Overcome Procrastination – Part 2

This is part 2 of my 5-part series on How to Overcome Procrastination.

Is it Possible To Overcome Procrastination?

My answer is: Yes. While some may think that procrastination is part and parcel of everyday living and it will be experienced in everything we do, this belief comes from not truly understanding what causes procrastination. Life is certainly not about procrastinating and putting off doing things. By fully understanding what causes procrastination and dealing with the problem at the root, it is the first step to overcoming it.

So if that’s the case, how can you address procrastination?

Procrastination: Symptom of the Issue

To overcome procrastination, you must first realize that procrastination isn’t the real issue.

Procrastination is just the symptom of the issue. The same goes for laziness, poor time management, or lack of self-discipline. Most people are quick to pinpoint these as the root causes of problems because these are the most accessible answers. The real reason is something underneath that.

A useful analogy to reference this to is mosquito bites. What happens when you get a mosquito bite? Most people will scratch at it. Some will take special care to put ointment or apply antiseptic cream. The itch from the bite gets alleviated, and soon it heals.

However, is the problem really resolved? It’s not – the mosquito bite came from the mosquito. Until the mosquito is out of the picture, you will continue to get new mosquito bites. Repeatedly putting ointment or cream is just a temporary fix. Putting a mosquito net might be a more effective solution, but it still doesn’t deal with the issue at a root.

And even if you are to get rid of the mosquito, it’s still not addressing the real problem. Getting rid of one mosquito doesn’t mean more mosquitoes won’t be coming your way. After all, the mosquitoes must be coming from somewhere, aren’t they? Where are they coming from? If you trace their origins, you might find mosquito breeding grounds around the potted plants in your house.

But wait, it doesn’t end here. How did these breeding ground even come about to begin with? If you look deeper, you will find the real problem is really negligence and poor house maintenance. Trying to tackle the issue through any of the intermediate steps (ointment, killing the mosquito, removing the breeding ground) will only lead to a temporary relief but not long-term resolution. Only by practicing due diligence in upkeeping the house will this problem be permanently resolved.

So coming back to procrastination. Think of laziness, lack of discipline and procrastination as mosquito bites – the symptom of the problems. Time management and self-discipline are your ointment or cream that patches the symptoms. They are the lower-tier solutions. The same applies for life hack tools or tips from article lists such as XX ways to overcome procrastination. While they do alleviate the problem in a certain manner, they are not holistic solutions. You can keep integrating them every day but it never solves your problem of procrastination. I could have easily written a post on “20 ways to deal with procrastination” which would take less time and thinking, but that’s not going to move anyone forward with their problem of procrastination.

On the other hand, if you get to the root of the issue – drilling down to the mosquito, and even to the breeding ground, you are a quantum step toward overcoming procrastination. This is what the remaining part of the series will be about – uncovering exactly what causes procrastination, then resolving them at the fundamental level.

One important thing you want to note is the magnitude of one’s issue can be gauged by how chronic one’s procrastination is. Using the mosquito example again, the more bites you have and the more severe each bite is, the bigger the root problem (e.g. large breeding ground, multiple breeding grounds, deadliness of mosquito). Similarly, the more severe your procrastination, the bigger the underlying issue.

What Causes Procrastination Then?

What’s the definition of procrastination again? It means to put off doing something; to avoid. So, what leads people to avoid something? It can be drilled down to two things – Desire and Fear. More specifically, (1) a lack of desire or (2) a fear of something.

Two Drivers: Desire and Fear

Desire and fear are the two main forces involved when it comes to action or inaction. Desire is like the fuel to move forward. Without desire, you have no driving force for action. Fear is like the fog that surrounds you which paralyzes you from moving forward. Where desire < fear, procrastination will take over. Consequently, where desire > fear, action will take place.

If there is a lack of desire combined with fear(s), procrastination is almost definite. The most common example is students and academia. Most are studying for the sake of studying – they feel empty for what they are studying for. In addition, the high competition and intensity of the coursework leads to an inner fear toward studies. In the end, you get widespread cases of procrastination of students and studies.

In part three, I’ll elaborate on the driver of desire.

This is part 2 of my 5-part series on how to overcome procrastination.