Your issues with procrastination are primarily caused by how and what you are thinking. Traditionally, issues with motivation are an unwillingness to engage in action. This is true, but not the complete story. An issue to engage in action comes from your thoughts, regarding if taking said action is worth your time.
To understand how your thinking influences your willingness to engage in action or otherwise, first you must understand that people engage in two types of thinking. The first type of thinking is thinking that you are conscious about. For example, you are conscious about what you are currently reading. Then, the second type of thinking is thinking that people are not conscious about. Procrastination is primarily influenced by non-conscious thoughts. So, your non-conscious thinking influences your feelings of being unmotivated to start something and your feelings influence your choice to delay or not take timely action.
Identifying Your Non-Conscious Thoughts
The first step towards changing your thoughts that cause procrastination is to identify them. Given that these are hidden thoughts, your best bet to identify them will be through observation of your behavior. First you identify the previous ten episodes where you procrastinated on a task or project. It could be as simple as making your bed, to complex as preparing a presentation for work.
On paper you write down the incidents as you can recall them and prepare them in a three-table column. In the first column, you will write the incident. In the second column you will write if the task was either delayed in getting started or, started but not complete, or never started. Then, in the third column, you will write what you were thinking. This third part might seem difficult at first, but you will be surprised how easy the answers come to you in exercises like this.
The third column is going to be the most tasking part of this exercise but doing this properly will reveal a lot to you about how you think. It would also serve as springboard for developing healthier replacement thoughts.
Confronting Self Deception
For example, let’s say you have a job you are currently not happy with. Further, let’s say that you have better prospects for new employment. However, you have not started looking for new employment. So, in column one, you write, “I dislike my job.” In column two, you write in, “not started.” In column three, you ask yourself, what am I thinking? You immediately write the first thing that comes to mind. In this case we will put down, “I will find one soon”
Now this statement is an obvious lie. You then ask yourself, “How soon?” Listen to the answer you tell yourself, as it will be most likely vague. Reject any vague response you tell yourself and force yourself to commit to a specific time of date. Most likely you will give yourself a date in a distant future. This is where you confront yourself some more and ask, “why not sooner?” You will then follow this question will another question, like, “why not today?”
This is where the truth starts to come out. The thoughts that flow out, will be plentiful. They will look and sound something like, “I’m scared, I am not qualified, I am not good enough,” and so on. You will then pick the top three thoughts for you to work on.
Practicing Healthier Thinking
For this post we will focus on just one thought. That thought will be, “ I am scared” For this example you will respond with a question, “why am I scared” Let’s say you answer, “I am scared that I may not be as qualified as I think I am.” Then you follow up with “why don’t I think I am as qualified as I think I am?”
You will then follow up this question for request of proof that you are not qualified as you think you are. There are two ways to go about getting this proof. You can write down on paper the specific dream job you are looking for. Then look online for a similar job and the corresponding qualifications. You will then compare the qualifications to your current qualifications.
Regardless, of whether your fears are accurate or otherwise, by performing this exercise, you have engaged in a revelation. A big part of procrastination comes from anxiety, and anxiety is fueled by fear of the unknown. By asking yourself the difficult questions and following up with research for the answer, you know where you stand.
Most of the time when I perform this exercise with clients, it is often revealed that they stand to be very successful if they follow-through. Subsequently what is revealed is that their fears are unfounded. The cause of these fears which lead to procrastination, are often rooted in childhood beliefs. Beliefs that have lingered through the years, for a situation that no longer exists.
Ugo Uche is a psychotherapist and expert in anxiety and related disorders. If you would like to learn more, you are welcome to call and book your first appointment or fill out my contact form and click Send.
Ugo also provides Online therapy for those who cannot travel to his office.