Procrastination Always Has a Cause and It Isn’t You

People who procrastinate or are otherwise underproductive tend to think that they’re the problem. “I procrastinate because I’m lazy, etc.”

But laziness, lack of discipline, etc., are symptoms of a deeper problem: disempowerment. Locate and remedy the sources of disempowerment in your life and work and you can reclaim your joyful productivity.

It’s perfectionism that tricks us into thinking we’re the problem—and also that punishments like shame, guilt, and name-calling are solutions. Instead of succumbing to that inhumane and unhelpful narrative, focus on problem-solving. Ask yourself “why am I having trouble focusing on my work?” and then list the reasons. Omit nothing, because even the “small” reasons aren’t small, and they add up. Then start solving the problems. (Remember to approach this exercise as a dispassionate, analytical observer, skipping all the blame, shame, and punishments. Always be your own best coach.)

Even if you can’t resolve all your barriers quickly—and you probably can’t—this process will reempower you so that you can return to your work asap.

Generally speaking your barriers and obstacles will fall into a few categories, including:

  • Problems with project (too difficult or confusing; under-resourced; instructions not clear, etc.)
  • Problems with class or teacher (badly designed; not enough support). Or, in the workplace: problems with work systems or boss.
  • Personal issues / barriers, including anxiety, depression, ADHD, and neurodivergence. (This technique is a great adjunct for the specialist support I hope you’re receiving. If not, please prioritize that.)
  • Family issues / worries. (We’ve all got ’em.)
  • Societal/Institutional issues / worries. (Including bias, discrimination, and harassment.)
  • Global issues / worries.

Doing this obstacle-analysis work is a legit use of your work time, and extra points for doing it pre-emptively when you get an especially hard project or are facing more-difficult-than-usual barriers.

I hope this analysis is affirming and helpful. If you’ve got questions or comments, I welcome them in the comments or send me an email.

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