Procrastination can become a vicious cycle sometimes. You feel overwhelmed with what must be done & the lack of time left to do it. This, undoubtedly, makes you increasingly stressed, stuck, and unable to move forward.
Saving something important, something huge until the very end… can be extremely demotivating. And needless to say, lack of motivation is part of procrastination.
When you are in avoidance mode, rather than drive mode, that’s when you get demotivated!
The majority of people seeking motivation would wait for something or someone to pop up and motivate them before they can get up and start doing the little things they ought to do!
And this is a very wrong approach.
So, where does motivation come from? How to cope with procrastination and get things done?
Common Misconceptions About Motivation
One of the most unexpected things about motivation is that it usually comes after starting a new behavior, not before.
For years, I was trying to start going to the gym and working out. Somehow, I never found the right time.
I was thinking that I should be motivated to go there, but the motivation never came. And I never hit the gym!
Then, I was told by my gym beast cousin that he never loved going to the gym! I saw his face and was like “…???”.
He went on to explain that it is through working out and during working out that he gets motivated to finish this next circuit or series. Not before! He’s far less motivated when he’s packing his bag to go than when he’s in the middle of running that extra mile or carrying that heavy dumbbell.
It was then, and only then when I thought I should try that shit!
So, I went there for a free-of-charge gym session. The first time was a real struggle. I hated it. I came back tired and annoyed.
After two days, I got back. I won’t lie, I did not enjoy that day either. Yet, I felt better afterward.
I felt like I have accomplished something. The same happened the next week. Since then, I go to the gym regularly.
Maybe the biggest motivational thing about the gym right now, for me at least, is that I sleep like a dumb baby every single night! And maybe that’s your call to go there too! Hit it up, buddy!
Where’s that misconception about Procrastination though?
We have this common misconception that motivation derives from passively consuming a motivational video or reading an inspirational book. Indeed that might be helpful. Yet, active inspiration can be a far more powerful motivator.
Most people approach motivation as if it’s the prime mover! Motivation comes first, and second, follows taking an action. Finally, more motivation to get more things done… But that’s not how it works, luckily!
Here is how motivation really works: first comes action, which leads to motivation. Then with progress, the level of motivation increases.
You need to stop saying: “I need the motivation to get started!”
Instead, start saying: “I need to start acting in order to get motivated!”
Getting started, even in very small steps, is a type of active inspiration that naturally produces momentum.
Nearly all of the difficulties in a task are at the beginning. After you start, progress takes place more naturally.
Motivation VS Procrastination: Understanding Procrastination & Lack of Motivation
As we have discussed earlier, procrastination is literally an opportunity’s assassin.
But what is procrastination in a little more scientific sense?
Well, Science explains that procrastination is a struggle sparked between two sections of the brain. The first is the limbic system (the unconscious and emotional part), and the prefrontal cortex (the conscious and rational part).
Procrastination comes as a human defense mechanism. It’s one of the ways to push away any stress or anxiety arising actions. Thus, procrastination is actually a habit!
And behaviourists know that habits have three components that make them a habit.
- The first component is a trigger. I.e, for procrastination, the trigger is most of the time stress.
- Then there comes a repetitive pattern. And in our case, the pattern might (must) be doing something important, something that you are afraid and unable to do….
- Finally, you have a reward component, which means that you get a little stress relief for some time by avoiding unpleasant tasks.
But, guess what? This type of stress relief is ephemeral. It quickly goes away and leaves you with more doubts, stress, anxiety, and severe lack of motivation!
No matter what you’re expecting to achieve, if you’re demotivated to do it, it’s because you’re not taking action! And if you’re not taking action, it’s probably because you’re anxious about the size of the task you’ve got in front of you.
As I have already said earlier, it is a vicious cycle. And the only way to break it is to start acting.
Procrastination comes from waiting for motivation.
But how can one overcome procrastination and lack of motivation? What Causes Procrastination?
To overcome procrastination, first, we need to understand what causes it.
- Not facing your fears is the prime cause of procrastination. You may fear defeat, rejection, or not doing your best. Or, you may fear that you don’t have the talents and wisdom to complete the task. You may preoccupy yourself with something amiable to avoid thinking about your fear and working towards a solution.
- Avoiding discomfort is yet another reason behind procrastination. You may avoid feeling the despair of a difficult task, thinking that others don’t feel this way so you must be lacking in some way.
- A certain emotional state often results in procrastination. You may feel tired, hungry, stressed, or need some sleep, and use these as reasons to not get started.
Where Does Motivation Come From?
According to modern psychology, Motivation is either intrinsic or extrinsic.
But what does that mean?
Intrinsic motivation is an internal drive for personal satisfaction, enjoyment, and benefit. Undertaking tasks that are in line with your values often provides intrinsic motivation. It means that sometimes, motivation comes from doing something that feels right (or fun) for you.
Extrinsic motivation is an external drive, to provide benefit to others, gain a material possession or gain an aspiration such as a job promotion. Undertaking tasks that are in line with your goals often give extrinsic motivation.
Simply put, intrinsic motivation derives from within, and extrinsic motivation flows from outside. However, if you notice both types of motivation involve taking actions.
If you lack the motivation to make an important change in your career or personal life, do something — anything, really — and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.
The “just do something” approach not only encourages us to overcome procrastination, but it’s also the process by which we adopt new values, experiences, and courage.
Motivation comes from movement… It is often the result of an action, not the cause of it.
Motivation VS Procrastination: Getting Started!
So, we have agreed that getting started is the most important part of any task, no matter if it is work-related or not. But how should you get started?
Think Big, But Start Small
I have noticed that when I feel hesitant or anxious about taking action towards my goal, I start thinking about the big picture.
Naturally, it is very difficult to imagine a grand scheme of things when you are just starting. However, I still feel intimidated.
Thinking big is good. However, it can be scary sometimes. That’s because the brain often magnifies things it sees big. And confuses big with stress and danger!
I’ve come to realize that the best way to start any job or project is to break it down into small, tangible and achievable steps.
For instance, I set myself a very specific deadline for this blog post. But before I get started, I think about smaller sub-tasks of this writing task. Like working on an outline and then writing the first paragraph, for instance!
This way, I can clearly see what steps I need to take in order to complete the overall task. I found that this approach reduces anxiety a zillion time!
Acknowledge Unhelpful Thoughts and Feelings
Luck is an attitude, they say. Your approach and mood largely determine the outcome of any endeavor. Not because of cosmic powers or law, but because our feelings and thoughts affect how we act.
Some thoughts and feelings you have only contribute to your fear and discomfort. Don’t struggle with them or try to stop them.
Such thoughts are a natural response of your mind to stress and challenges!
However, when you experience those types of thoughts, be aware that they are exaggerated and pre-magnified. Shift your focus off the oughts and feelings and into your tasks & goals. Take action in line instead!
In my personal opinion, managing expectations is a widely underrated skill. We often feel demotivated when we aim for unachievable things and consequently do not get what we anticipated.
When our expectations do not come true, we develop an anxiety against trying again! If this pattern becomes too frequent, we hesitate to take new opportunities because of the fear of failure. It becomes a habit, remember?!
Schedule Your Motivation
If you are procrastinating, it means that you try to avoid any big tasks on your to-do list. In the best-case scenario, you start with the easiest ones & when you are done with them, you simply do not have time or energy to complete important ones.
Just remember how many times you came to the office and spent a whole day on meaningless, small things. I bet you have done this many times. So have I!
Setting a schedule for yourself might seem like a simple solution for this problem, but it puts your decision-making on autopilot by giving a timeline for your actions.
Don’t wait. The time will never be just right. If you have a habit of procrastination, you will always find excuses for not doing something. Start with important things. Get them done as soon as you can.
I have a question for you: Which comes first — motivation or action?
If you answer in action, then I would consider that this article was helpful!
We have all procrastinated at some point. You may tell yourself things like “There are so many other things I’d rather be doing!” and “There’s plenty of time, I’ll get to that later”, or “I work better under pressure, so I don’t need to do it right away!”
However, procrastination can become chronic and habitual. If you are noticing that, be aware that acting and actually doing something is the only way out.