We often equate procrastination with laziness. It’s the “I’ll-do-it-tomorrow” syndrome, which often turns into next week, next month, next year, or never. It’s how I react to spring cleaning. I’ll look at the windows, knowing that they need to be washed, and then think, “It’s still too damn cold outside. I don’t have the cleaning products I’ll need. And it’s going to rain tomorrow. Rain is water, water will clean the windows.” It’s not like I actually believe the drivel that I say to myself, but if it gets me out of doing the windows, or any other chore I don’t feel like doing, then wooooo! Bring on the blissful deception.
But laziness is not the only factor that can trigger the temptation to procrastinate. What may surprise people is that fear also plays a major role. It’s why I avoid doctor appointments sometimes. My doctor once wrote me a referral to see a specialist and I put it off for a year. The thought “What if he finds something serious?” kept floating around in my head. I realized soon enough, however, that the wondering was more anxiety provoking than actually going to the doctor. Once I was there in my crisp hospital gown and lying down on the crinkly paper, it was almost as if my instincts took over and my cognitive mind took a walk down the hallway to check out the vending machine. Turns out, there was nothing seriously wrong with me.
Here’s what data from our Procrastination Test reveals:
- 45% of procrastinators indicated that they would rather lead a calm and predictable life than do anything exciting.
- 59% admit that they often back away from challenges because they feel “paralyzed with fear.”
- 68% confessed that fear often prevents them from doing many things in their life.
- 73% worry that if they fail others will think less of them. So they don’t take on difficult projects or do anything outside their comfort zone.
- Like me, 73% are afraid of going to the doctor for fear of hearing bad news.
- 77% back out of social events at the last minute.
- 82% are chronic worriers.
- 86% will avoid bringing up grievances with their boss or with loved ones for fear of causing conflict.
- 100% (that’s right – ALL of the procrastinators) said that self-doubt has affected many of the decisions they have made, including educational pursuits, career choices, and relationship decisions.
Here are some tips to overcoming fear-related procrastination:
- If possible, add an element of fun to tasks you’re worried about. Every time I need to psyche myself up for a doctor’s appointment, for example, I promise myself a reward – something that I know I’ll look forward to once it’s done, like a favorite meal I don’t have very often. Try to find a way to make your experience more enjoyable. Listen to music, plan out all the things you’re going to do on your vacation, read an engrossing book, watch a comedy – anything that can take the pain out of having to do some particularly unpleasant tasks.
- Bring someone along for social support. When I finally screwed up the courage to go to that specialist, I took my best friend along with me. Turns out she had done the procedure so many times it was a total cakewalk for her. She prepped me ahead of time, letting me know that I would feel pain, but reassured me that it would be over quickly. I ended up spending more time in the waiting room than doing the actual procedure.
- Fight the fear. If you’re the type of person who puts off getting a check-up because you’re afraid that you’ll hear bad news, think of it this way: Even if your doctor does find a problem, chances are that the diagnosis would have been a lot worse if you had waited. In fact, by promptly visiting your doctor, you may turn a potentially serious problem into a minor one.
- If at first you don’t succeed…If you’re afraid that you’re not up to a task, tell yourself that you can only do your best – and that’s usually more than adequate. If you fail, learn from your mistakes and then let it go. Putting off a task because you don’t think you’ll be able to complete it successfully is the real failure. Besides, even if you do mess up, the fact that you tried is in and of itself an accomplishment.