Procrastination: Where It Comes From and How To Get Through It

Procrastination: a word that many fear and a word that several identify with. Are you ever so consumed with fear or self-judgment that you struggle to start a task? If so, don’t beat yourself up. That’s about 90% of the population, at least on a college campus.

So where does procrastination come from? And how can we beat it? To answer the first question, we’ll have to dive a little deeper. The reason we procrastinate, on the surface, varies from person to person. But underneath every reason in the book lies one thing: the fear of not being enough. Let’s break this down a bit.

Your professor assigns you a 6 page paper due 3 weeks from now about a certain research topic. If you’re like me, you’ll think to yourself: “Oh 3 weeks? I’ve got plenty of time! I’ve got this! Today’s October 2nd and it’s not due until the 28th? I’ve got this!” And then my pep talk will send me off into the vast valley of self-confidence and bliss. I’m dancing to the rhythm and swirl of my own personal freedom, because like I said: I’ve got plenty of time.

The next two and a half weeks are pretty smooth. Definitely the most relaxed I’ve ever been. And then, all of the sudden, it’s October 27th. And the only reason I know the paper is due the next day is because my professor was kind enough to email us instructions on how to submit it. At this point I’ve nearly pooped myself and my valley of bliss has turned into a scorching hot desert with flaming monsters that rise from its cracks. They shout: “YOU SHOULD’VE STARTED SOONER! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU??” I run away cupping my hands over my ears, but I can’t seem to escape them fast enough. Because the longer I run, the closer the deadline gets.

These monsters are my inner judgings and the real reason I never started… I didn’t feel like it. Why didn’t I feel like it? Because I was afraid I’d really suck and land myself a big fat F for Flipping Failure. And by being so focused on avoiding this fear, the universe smacked me in the face with it, for what we fight only persists.

So whether you don’t feel like it, are actually scared out of your mind, or you don’t even know how to start, underneath it all lies a fear. A fear of not being capable, of being inept, a fear of not being good enough.

So now that we understand where procrastination comes from, how can we work through it? Here are a few ideas that may be able to help you through both your valley of bliss or scorching hot desert.

1. Give yourself a pep talk. 

This may sound cheesy, but no one knows you like you do which means no one can lift you up like you can! Take a good look in the mirror and remind yourself of that one project assignment that you thought you’d never get through. Then remind yourself of how you made it through! And also remind yourself that this experience will be no different because you’re capable of any and absolutely everything. Go on with your bad self. (insert winking gif)

2. Remind yourself that you are enough.

You were enough yesterday, 10 minutes ago, and you are enough IN THIS MOMENT. You, just as you are, with every flaw you think you have and with every skill you’ve acquired. You were created wonderfully and beautifully and you don’t need the validation of any paper or assignment to prove that.

3. Don’t aim for perfection, aim for human.

Sounds crazy right? But sometimes, the idea of having to submit a perfect paper or project scares the living daylights out of us. And this keeps us from starting, because after all who can craft something 1000% perfect? What’s perfect to you might not be perfect to me and vice versa. So rather than aim for perfect, aim for human. As in, just try. Even with all your errors and mistakes you feel may come up. We are human, we’re full of mistakes. I make at least 50 daily, and that’s on a good day. So what if it’s not the next Hamlet or the iPhone 567? Some people don’t even like Shakespeare and there are tons of people out there that are team Android (not me though, shout out to iMessage). Just try your best lovelies, your best is always good enough.

4. Break it down into small chunks.

Rome wasn't built in a day right? It took some time. Sometimes our assignments and papers can feel like they’re the size of Rome or even the size of Europe. Whether you’ve got a city or a continent to build, break it down into small bite size pieces. Spread it out evenly between the day it’s assigned to a few days before it’s due. Knowing you’ve only got small bits to work on is much less intimidating and a lot more approachable.

5. Consider deep breathing before beginning.

Just for about 3-4 minutes, close your eyes and simply inhale and exhale. I like to breathe in for four counts and exhale for four to eight counts. This simple exercise will physically lower your blood pressure, turn the volume down on your procrastination monsters, and help bring you to a place of peace. When you open your eyes you’ll be a lot more centered and able to focus on starting your assignment.

6. Ask for help!

If you have no idea where to begin, that’s okay! It’s called school for a reason right? We’re here to learn, not walk in as a genius. Raise your hand 50 times if you need to. Ask as many questions as you can until you have a thorough understanding of what needs to get done and how it should be done. Email your professors or their teaching assistants. Or if you have some friends/peers in the course that seem to have a better understanding of the task, simply ask: “Hey, how are you approaching the assignment?” And allow their words of wisdom to guide you through your terrain.

7. And lastly my loves, be gentle with yourselves.

10/10 times, if you’re procrastinating, it’s because you’re scared of something deep within. You wouldn’t scream at a six year old or at your best friend for being afraid to sky dive right? Sometimes our assignments can feel this terrifying. So rather than curse at ourselves or create negative self talk, take a moment to console yourself and offer words of kindness instead. What would you tell a 6 year old? Your best friend? Your pet or favorite animal if you could? Share this same love and empathy with yourself because after all, self love is the best love.

I hope these tips and tricks are of great help to you. And for all of you non-procrastinators, share your ideas and tips with us! Let us know what works for you so that we can all thrive at our highest capacity. I’m sending love and blessings to you all, thanks for reading. May your many moments today be bright and glorious.