Exploring Why We Procrastinate & How to Avoid the “Procrastination Pattern”

Procrastination–it’s a plague we all struggle with sometimes. Why DO we do it, and how can we stop? Hmm…age-old questions!

If you search “Why do we procrastinate?”, you’ll find no shortage of articles and videos proffering an answer or several answers. So here I am, adding my little scream into the vast echo chamber. 😉

Reasons to Procrastinate

Some of the answers, according to these search results, are “temporal proximity” (is it a work assignment due tomorrow vs. one that’s due in two months?), “lying to oneself” (ex: “I’m more creative under pressure”), “absence of structure” (ex: having the freedom to pull out a cell phone and peruse social media at any time at some jobs), “shifting blame” (ex: “I would do X, but I need my coworker to do Y”), etc.

Here’s another common answer I relate to in my own behavioral patterns: we procrastinate because of how our brain weighs risk or labor against reward. If we subconsciously believe the reward isn’t worth the risk or labor, we procrastinate. When I put off cleaning out a junk drawer, my brain has decided the benefit of a clean drawer isn’t worth the work of organizing/disposing of/putting away all the contents of the drawer. On the other hand, I don’t put off brushing my teeth in the morning because my brain determines the reward of having a clean, non-morning-breath mouth is worth the physical effort of completing the task.

Reflecting on the Reasons

Bearing the root cause of procrastination in mind, I’ve begun to reflect on some penetrative questions when I find myself doing so–

  • Why exactly am I procrastinating on this? I.e. do I expect it to take a long time, be super tedious, be intellectually challenging, etc.?
  • Considering the answer to the above question, should I get over it and just do it (i.e. quit being lazy) or can I do something to make the task less intimidating?

If I can find ways to make the task less intimidating, my brain may not fight as hard against completing it. I’ve been applying this logic to cleaning. When I spend 30 mins-1 hr straightening up part of my home each day, I spend more time cleaning throughout the week; if I make grand plans to clean and organize multiple areas in one pass, I procrastinate day after day. I don’t dread tasks when they seem less burdensome.

[Sidenote: it’s crazy how emotions play into the risk & labor vs. reward dynamic in our minds. When I get in those random moods where I have that cleaning/organizing itch (does that happen to y’all, too?) my brain suddenly weighs the reward much higher…then, I want to do all those things I usually put off!]

Avoiding the Procrastination Pattern

Funny enough, I’ve noticed procrastination leads to more procrastination. This is why 90% of people cannot maintain a regular exercise regime throughout their lives [I made up the statistic, but I bet it’s close to accurate]. Maybe you’re in a great routine of going to the gym for a few weeks. But then, you got busy and had to miss a day. Then, something came up a few days later, so you had to miss again. As they say, the rest is history; fast-forward six months, and you haven’t worked out in four.

This can be a dangerous pitfall for writers like myself–and, really, anyone with a hobby/passion. When we start skipping writing time and let it inch down, down, down the priority list, the same thing happens as with the gym scenario. Six months later, you’ve let the writing muscle atrophy, and a blinking cursor haunts your dreams. This is why I need to blog. I never want to unthinkingly go months without “picking up the pen.”

The “procrastination pattern,” though not irreversible, can still be dangerous. It’s “dangerous” because it can scare us away from a task for a long time or even forever, which is unfortunate when it’s a natural talent or something good for you. Here’s what I think happens–

You put off a task because your brain sees the risk/labor as not being worth the reward. The more you put it off and/or the longer it’s been since you’ve done it, your brain will see the risk/labor of that task as even higher. Thus, the longer/more you procrastinate on a task, the more your brain urges you to procrastinate on it.

If I went to the gym last week, I face a much smaller psychological hurdle with going back than the person who hasn’t set foot through the door since Lord-knows-when. If I’m in a semi-regular writing routine, I’m far less intimidated by a blank page than the person who’s let their passion fall through the cracks of life.

Conclusion

The good news is, once we understand these things, we are empowered to do something about them. If we’re procrastinating on tasks, we can reflect on why and try to mitigate the reasons. Knowing about the procrastination pattern, we can be more diligent to NOT fall in that trap. And if we have fallen in that trap, we might just need to *mentally* give ourselves a swift kick in the pants, defy our brains, and climb back on the horse.

Thanks for reading! Since I’m practicing “social distancing” right now, I’ve had more time for cleaning and organizing…making procrastination less justifiable, haha. What do you tend to put off? Let me know in the comments.

Cleaning Out Defunct Blogs & Tips to Blog Successfully/Keep Going

Hi, friends. I’ve been cleaning out blogs from my followed sites, which got me contemplating why people quit blogging. In this post, I’ll muse a bit on those reasons and follow up with tips to help you succeed/keep going with blogging.

I generally keep up with bloggers by lapping my list of followed sites alphabetized A-Z, knocking out 1-2 letters each day. Every couple weeks, I check out bloggers who have followed me lately to see if I want to follow back. I don’t know if I will ever have a cut-off point where I won’t follow any more blogs because I could miss out on some real gems.

I knew I needed to commence with some spring cleaning when I had followed over 500 blogs. So I scrolled through the list and started unfollowing people.

Why Do People Stop Blogging?

I was amazed to see how many people hadn’t posted in four months, eight months, a year. I asked myself why this was the case and came up with a list of potential reasons–

  1. They no longer have time.
  2. They can’t think of things to write about anymore.
  3. They are discouraged by a poor engagement level.
  4. The work required isn’t worth it/It isn’t fun anymore.

#1-3 are fixable. #4 is broader, and it may or may not be fixable.

Tips to Keep Going/Succeed

Below I am providing some tips that can help with the issues I listed. I wrote “keep going/succeed” in the header because everyone’s definition of success differs; for some, having a few loyal readers equates to success, while others will feel their blog isn’t successful unless their readership continuously grows; some don’t care about their readership as much as enjoying the writing aspect; some measure their blog’s success financially (book sales, affiliate link purchases). So, whatever your metric of success is, I hope these tips (which are numbered according to the above list) help you keep going.

[Obinna at Shards of Bards wrote a similar post called An Open Letter to Bloggers Who Feel Like Giving Up that partially inspired this one. Follow him for quality posts + insightful comments on your posts.]

Prioritize What Matters to You (#1)

Whether the subject is completing some chores or reading the Bible or anything else that requires self-discipline, I’m wary of the “I don’t have time” excuse. Yes, some people genuinely have almost no spare time between work, school, their families, and/or volunteering/extracurriculars. But I happen to follow several SuperMoms who find time to blog once or twice a month…

More often than not, “I don’t have time” translates to “It’s not a priority to me.” It’s fine if that’s how you feel about blogging, but either way, you should take responsibility for your time management and prioritize what matters to you. And if something simply isn’t a priority to you, just own it!

Don’t Put Yourself in a Box (#2)

Life constantly teems with inspiration, and writing ideas should flow abundantly…so why don’t they? I have found that this struggle often arises from bloggers putting arbitrary limitations on themselves (I have to write about these certain subjects, I have to write in this certain way, etc.). Stop doing that and think outside the box! You can do whatever you want in YOUR corner of the interwebs.

Here are a few tips for coming up with content when your brain feels empty

  • Come up with a series; you can fall back on a series post when you have no other ideas. (Some of mine include Classics, Blogging Tips & Tricks, My Disability Experience, Disability Chat, Dueling Poems, Story Behind, etc.)
  • Tell us about yourself; Favorite show, movie, book, band, etc.? Ten random facts about you? Pets? Places you’ve visited? An issue you deal with or experience you went through? What you’ve been up to lately (this kind is always popular when I do it)? When in doubt, remember the saying “Write what you know.
  • Read books, articles, etc. or watch documentaries, videos, etc. about the topics that interest you so you will have more to say about those topics.

Also, if you type a phrase like “blogging ideas” in the WordPress search bar, you will be bombarded with posts that give suggestions.

Provide Worthwhile Content (#3)

Worthwhile content does not have to be intellectual; the “ten random facts about you” post can be worthwhile. But your blog post needs to do something for the reader–make them smile/laugh, teach them something new, help them get to know you, inspire them, etc.

If you haphazardly throw some things together and publish it with little thought, you will probably struggle to build a following because, whether this is true or not, you are sending out the vibe that you don’t take seriously your readers or your own blog. [Sidenote: some people really don’t take their blog or their readership too seriously and just want to have fun, and that’s perfectly fine.]

Engage With the Community (#3)

I sound like a broken record because I bring this up in almost every “Blogging Tips & Tricks” post…so I will keep this one brief. Bottom line: you get what you give.

Reflect on Why You Want to Quit (#4)

In the list I made earlier, #4 was the broadest category. If you feel like blogging isn’t “worth it” anymore, reflect on the specific reasons you feel that way. For many, the root of the issue is one of the first three reasons–poor time management, lack of post ideas, poor engagement level–all of which can be fixed.

However, some things aren’t fixable.

The issue of just not wanting to blog anymore may not have a concrete solution. It might be time to throw in the towel if you–

  • don’t enjoy creating posts and don’t enjoy engaging with the community either
  • still feel “meh” about blogging even if you hypothetically had a large following and lots of post ideas
  • are unhappy with your site yet aren’t willing to exert effort to improve your site (take time to produce better posts, engage more with bloggers and/or promote on social media)

Thanks for reading! What are some reasons you would quit or that you think motivates others to quit? What advice do you have to grow a readership, make blogging fun, or encourage those on the verge of quitting? Let me know in the comments.

P.S. Logo Update

My intelligent, kind, and supportive blogging buddy, Steven at Perfect Chaos, pointed out that logos should err on the side of simplicity so you can shrink them down or enlarge them if need be. Hence, despite its overwhelming popularity, I didn’t pick the flower wreath logo. [I instead chose the purple background mandala.] When I made the flower wreath smaller, it became a blurry mess! Since everyone including me loved the flower wreath, I made a photo with it for my homepage so it could revel in full-sized glory. ♥