Procrastination – Symptom of An Issue

This is part 2 of my 5-part series on how to overcome procrastination. If you haven’t, read Part 1: Why Overcome Procrastination? first.

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 not about procrastinating and putting off things. By fully understanding what causes procrastination, you can then tackle it effectively.

It is important to note that procrastination is often a multi-faceted problem. I run a course called Anti-Procrastination Program to help participants overcome procrastination, and there are often many possible reasons and causes for procrastination — all of which take time to uncover and address. But what I’m going to share in the next 4 parts of this series will help you get started in addressing this problem.

So 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, and lack of self-discipline. Many people are quick to pinpoint these as the root causes of their problems because they are the most accessible answers. The real reason is deeper than that.

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

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

Even if you 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, right? Where are they coming from? If you trace their origins, you may find mosquito breeding spots in the potted plants in your house.

But wait, it doesn’t end here. How did these breeding ground come about to begin with? If you look deeper, you will find that the real problem is 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 house cleaning 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 your problem. Time management and self-discipline are your ointment or antiseptic cream that patches the symptom. They are lower-tier solutions. The same applies for life hack tools or tips from article lists such as XX ways to overcome procrastination, including things like use a timer or use a site blocker. While they do alleviate the problem in a certain manner, they are not holistic solutions. You can use them every day but doing this will never solve your problem of procrastination. I could have easily written a post like “20 ways to deal with procrastination” which would take far less time and thought, but that’s not going to move you forward with your problem.

On the other hand, if you get to the root(s) of the issue — first killing the mosquito, then identifying the breeding ground, and ultimately changing bad habits that led to the mosquito breeding grounds — you are leaps ahead in overcoming procrastination. This is what the rest of this series is about — understanding what causes procrastination, and then resolving these factors at the root level.

One important thing to note is that the size 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 (such as a large breeding ground, multiple breeding grounds, and deadliness of the mosquito species). Similarly, the more severe and chronic your procrastination, the bigger the problem you are dealing with.

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? After working with thousands of clients with different procrastination problems, I have found that all causes of procrastination can always invariably be linked to two factors, which are — Desire and Fear. More specifically, (1) a lack of desire and (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 the fuel that moves you forward. Without desire, you have no driving force for action. Fear is like a fog that surrounds you and paralyzes you from moving forward.

  • When desire is less than fear, procrastination will happen.
  • Consequently, when desire is more than fear, action will take place.

If there is a lack of desire combined with a feeling of fear, procrastination will always take place. Take for example, students in school. Most students study for the sake of studying — they feel empty about what they are studying. In addition, the stiff competition in school and intensity of coursework create a fear toward their studies, because there is an never-ending pressure and pain linked to studying. As a result, you often see students procrastinating on their studies and dreading exams.

In part three, I dive deeper into the driver of desire. Read Part 3: 1st Root Cause of Procrastination: Lack of Desire

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