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5 Reasons Why We Procrastinate and How to Fire Yourself

We’ve all been there – staring down the barrel of a deadline but with no motivation to complete the task and get it out of the way. If you’re a procrastinator, it can be challenging to break the cycle and get into better, more efficient routines, even when you know you should. Although I’m not a major procrastinator, I’m definitely prone to over-thinking, getting overwhelmed, and distractions in general like my phone or social media. There are several reasons why we may procrastinate, and everyone’s will be a little bit different, but beginning to recognize the signs and working to change your habits means you can start to mold yourself into your best version. So, today we will discuss 5 reasons why we procrastinate and how to “FIRE YOURSELF” so that you may “LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE”

1. Perfectionism 

Growing up as a gifted student, I always wanted to be absolutely perfect. However, I think what most people don’t realize is that ‘perfection’ doesn’t really exist in the way we want it to. When I was in grade three, I started becoming a distraction to those around me because I would complete my work so quickly (and perfectly) that I would be extremely bored for most of the day. So, instead of going to school for eight hours when I always completed the work in two hours tops, I decided to tell my mom I was sick. Well, that backfired when I realized I would be expected to mope around all day in my bedroom. I eventually told her the truth, that school was way too easy and such a bore to me, and being an online teacher, she was able to get me working on grade four while I was still in grade three. I remember working very hard and wanting everything to be perfect. I passed my grade four tests with flying colors, but then I was severely mediocre when it came to my grade three provincial tests. This was hard for my perfectionist brain to take – even being in grade three. If I’m being honest, how poorly I did on those tests still bothers me to this day. If I hadn’t been so worried about being perfect and advancing myself to what I wanted as quickly as possible, I could’ve slowed down and realized that perfection is elusive, but hard work pays off. I could’ve put in the work, like I did for my grade four studies, and done way better on my provincial exams that year. Either way, this was a learning opportunity for me to recognize that I needed to focus on doing my best with the task at hand rather than trying to be absolutely perfect. This sentiment is something that we as adults need to take with us in order to fire our old selves and make way for our new, best selves.

2. Fear of Failure or Success 

Another aspect of procrastination that can really hold us back is the fear of failure or success. Personally, I have never really had a fear of success, but I have always feared failure. This goes back to the perfectionist in me, always wanting to be great and succeed and never wanting to fail or be told ‘no.’ As a child who couldn’t understand or articulate these feelings, I often acted out. I wanted to be the best, so I didn’t care if that meant yelling at my mom about math homework or having a breakdown about a science project. Now, as an adult, I can definitely understand more so being afraid of failure or success. When I first became a freelancer, I think terrified would be the word to describe how it felt telling people. (In case you’re wondering, now I feel proud when I tell people). But at first, it was like – what if I fail? What if people judge me? The usual sh*t that people make up when they have anxiety, and they’re setting off on a new adventure. The best tactic I learned to combat these feelings is having absolute confidence in yourself and your capabilities. Now, you shouldn’t become arrogant in your skills and abilities, but rather, knowing that you can execute something properly can help a lot when it comes time to actually do the thing. For example, I was asked to write in a niche that I had never attempted before (only a similar topic). Instead of feeding into my fear of failure, I flipped the dialogue around to be “I am ready to take on this challenge, as I have taken on all other challenges in my life before.” And want to know what? The client LOVED my copy and tasked me with more projects immediately. By having a little faith in yourself and letting go of the fear of failure or success, you can begin to mold yourself into your best version and truly “love the life you live”

3. Lack of Accountability 

I would like to think I’m very accountable in my day-to-day life, especially with things like my work, walking my dogs, and making sure I eat three meals a day even when I’m busy. However, the one area that I completely lack accountability, that we have talked about before and that I’m doing my best to work on, is my workout regimen. When you lack accountability, it’s often because you have unclear priorities or haven’t found the ‘why’ of what you’re doing. To try and combat this lack of accountability, one strategy is to set prioritized goals that align with the ‘why’ you have identified. So, my ‘why’ would be to become the healthiest and happiest version of myself while also finding a balance in my life between work and play. For someone else, it might be that they aren’t being accountable in their work-life or their personal relations – whatever you thought of when I explained where I lack accountability is your area that could use some improvement. My lack of accountability has caused me to gain weight and lose the happy and healthy version of myself that I know to be true. So by setting prioritized goals, I can work to get back on track. For example, I have a prioritized goal to work out three times a week – twice training legs and in between arms (gotta get those guns back!). Once you implement discipline and prioritized goals into your lifestyle you will see positive change and feel more motivated to continue. It’s basically like the snowball technique; as things start rolling in one direction (positive or negative), it becomes more challenging to stop once its set in motion. In other words, at first, you might have to somewhat force yourself to be accountable, but over time your body will become attuned to the new routine and begin to crave it. Being able to flip something around like lack of accountability that results in procrastination, means that you can take back control and ultimately begin to “live your best life”.  

4. Feeling Overwhelmed 

Now, this is another aspect of procrastination that I resonate deeply with. If I have too much on my plate and feel overwhelmed, I can literally feel my body starting to shut down. This is when I have to pull out my journal and prioritize my tasks or even call my mom for a fresh perspective on my situation. For example, the other day, I was dealing with a challenging client, and I was talking with my mom about it as well as the overwhelming aspects of being an entrepreneur in general. To be specific, that morning, I felt overloaded because every one of my retainer clients randomly wanted a check-in or something from me at the same time. After I got my piece out, my mom was like, “Isn’t that a good problem to have?” And after thinking about it for a moment, I was like, “Yes, that’s a fantastic problem to have, actually.” It’s all about perspective, especially when you’re dealing with feelings of overwhelm. If you’re faced with a mountain-like task in your life and have no idea where to begin, you should start by breaking it down into more manageable chunks that you feel confident in accomplishing. For example, suppose a client wants an entire overhaul of their website copy. Instead of looking at the task as a whole and thinking, “Holy sh*t, how am I going to do all this?” begin by prioritizing the tasks and tackling them one at a time. Breaking things down like this and prioritizing what needs to happen right away and what can wait will allow you to combat procrastination due to feeling overwhelmed and help you accomplish your goals. Ultimately, by working on switching your mindset, finding new perspectives, and prioritizing tasks when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, you can begin to fire your old self to create your new, best self and live your best life.  

5. Distractions

Distractions are probably the number one thing I struggle with in terms of procrastinating when I’m trying to get work done. Anytime I have a moment in my work or need to take a two-second break to think about where I’m going with an idea, I will inevitably pick up my phone and begin scrolling social media or replying to messages. Now, in my opinion, that’s not a big deal until the two-second break turns into ten minutes, and now your head isn’t even in the work you’re supposed to be doing. Something I do to combat this is literally put my phone across the room. I don’t want it completely gone or shut off in case someone from work is trying to contact me, but for the most part, I just need it to be removed from my general vicinity, so I don’t feel inclined to pick it up and dive into it. Another thing that is majorly distracting for me is if I’m in an unproductive work environment. For example, if I haven’t cleaned my kitchen and I need to sweep or vacuum, then my brain tells me, “How are you supposed to work with all this mess around??” Even if I’m in my tidy, orderly office upstairs and the mess is all downstairs. This has to do with formulating an environment that is conducive to your productivity. Now, I always try to have my kitchen cleaned while I’m making breakfast before I start work, and I try to vacuum once a week to stay on top of it so I can focus on other, more important things. Getting rid of distractions like an unproductive work environment or your phone can really help you re-align with your true goals and grow as a person. In the end, that’s what we’re all here to do; achieve growth and happiness and begin to live our best lives.  

Final Thoughts 

Procrastination will look different for everyone, but there are some general strategies, as we have discussed here, to combat it and take your control back. Being able to let go of perfectionism and the fear of failure or success will eliminate the hurdles that are currently in your way. Furthermore, implementing discipline into your routine to tackle your lack of accountability means you can work towards becoming your best self. Although it’s challenging, reaching out to others when you’re feeling overwhelmed can help provide you with a fresh perspective, and if this isn’t possible in your situation, your journal is your best friend to help you prioritize and reach your goals. Lastly, we face so many distractions each day that it’s imperative to recognize who or what is distracting you and work to change that. So whether that means working in a coffee shop for a change of scenery or having to put your phone across the room and keep your house clean (like me) to get work done, sometimes you just have to do what you have to do as they say. Ultimately, understanding the reasons we procrastinate and implementing strategies to combat procrastination is critical so that we may “Fire” our “Old Self” to create “Our NEW SELF” while remembering Life’s Short, Love the Life You Live!  

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Dani VanDusen

Dani VanDusen is a freelance writer and editor located in St. Albert, Alberta, Canada. She holds a BA in English from the University of Alberta where she graduated with distinction, and has been freelancing since the middle of the pandemic. An avid mental health enthusiast, rollerblade extraordinaire, dog mama, and pizza lover, she is a self-proclaimed ‘weirdo’ and says that this helps her be relatable and open in her writing. Dani has been a writer for the Fire Yourself movement since August 2021 and is an integral part of our content team.
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