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  • Writer's pictureSam

My Procrastination Experience

Why do I procrastinate on things I want to do?

Even though I now often work with people to overcome things like procrastination, that doesn't mean that I don’t suffer from procrastination myself.

There is a bit of an unfair idea floating around out there: if you’re procrastinating, you don’t really want ‘the thing’.

Well I’m keen to call this out for the crap that it is:

It’s Dangerous!

Yes, the idea that you don’t really want ‘the thing’ if you’re procrastinating is dangerous.

If you tell someone:“Well, you must not really want ‘the thing’ if you’re not getting up and doing it.”That could really impact their self-esteem. When people's self-esteem is hurt it causes them to feel like they’re incapable, which means they’re unlikely to be curious, try new things, or take leaps of faith. People can end up staying in situations that have long-term negative effects on their mental health.

There are many factors that could be the reason someone isn’t getting on with doing something; and yes sometimes procrastination is your mind and body communicating to you that, actually, you don't really want to be doing ‘the thing’.

And you know what?

If you don’t want to do that thing that’s ok. Quitting something that isn’t right for you is a strong and courageous thing, and should be more encouraged in our society (no, sorry, you do still need to do the dishes and the laundry, you know full well I’m not talking about life maintenance tasks here).

But what about when you do really want ‘the thing’ but for whatever reason you can’t manage to do it?

As usual for me, I’m going to talk about human behaviour from a social evolutionary perspective:

When we were cave people, or lived in villages, and were a lot more on top of each other, we’d notice when someone was stuck on a task or couldn’t get started on a project; we’d probably go and problem-solve it with them as we all knew each other pretty well back then. Now we spend a lot more time alone and we certainly haven’t created a society where asking for help is encouraged (working on it!).

One of the human superpowers is that when we put our minds together we can solve pretty much any problem. Another is being able to notice when another person is struggling and offer help, usually before they realise they’re struggling themselves. These 2 things together mean that our increasing isolation is making things much harder to solve problems or get help when we need it (whether we realise we need help, or not).

I’ve had so much experience in procrastinating over something that I wanted to do. I did want ‘the thing.’ I really really did! So why couldn’t I get off my ass and actually do it?

Well, over 30 years with myself has taught me a little about ‘me’, and I think I can answer the questions as to why I procrastinate:

Reasons I’ve Procrastinated 1: Exhaustion

Modern-day life is exhausting. We have to spend most of our day focusing on a job that isn’t all that inspiring, this takes a lot of energy. We then have a load of housework to do when we get home, plus feeding ourselves (and our families). We have social lives to nurture lest we lose those connections, and we usually feel the need to decompress with something fun like a movie or a video game.

We’ve lived like this for so long that we’ve come to believe that the above is just the basics, and if we struggle with that then it’s a moral failing compared to all the people who apparently can do all this like its a breeze (and then of course still have time for some passion projects).

The above way of living isn’t actually conducive to being a happy, healthy human with energy to spare; it’s really hard actually to keep on top of this way of living which means there often isn’t energy to spare for projects and ideas.

Before I understood all this, I used to sit on the sofa, play a video game or scroll Facebook and feel crap because I wasn’t working on the project that I wanted to be doing. I’d wonder if I would ever amount to anything or complete the ideas I had in my head. Actually, I was just exhausted from a typical working lifestyle that, in fact, doesn’t serve anyone.

If you’re feeling frustrated with procrastinating, check your exhaustion levels, you might just be knackered.

Reasons I’ve Procrastinated 2: The Method is Not Correct

There are so many creative routes to a goal.

And probably 1 or 2 routes that are touted as the ‘correct’ routes to accomplish that goal.

When you first start trying to achieve big things, the likelihood is that you’re going to try it in the way that you’ve seen it done before, the way you’re advised to do it, or the way you’ve researched it. That’s fine, we’ve all got to start somewhere.

The problem is, there are actually lots and lots of ways to achieve something, and often knowing why you’re doing it is the first sticking point.

When I coach people who are struggling with procrastination, I first help the person figure out what exactly it is they’re trying to achieve. If they’re trying to get fitter, why is that? Is it health-related? Body image? Training for something specific, like a marathon? Knowing why will inform your method.

I actually had this exact problem with my own fitness journey.

Why did I want to get fitter? I wanted to get back into parkour and I knew from when I did it in London that I needed a base level of fitness.

Perfect, there’s my reasoning for being fitter.

The problem? Gym is boring.

Well, the gym isn’t the only way to get fit. I clearly needed something more interesting to get my fitness levels up. So I joined a climbing centre instead.

The climbing centre both served my reasoning for getting fit, and dealt with the fact that the gym was too boring. If I wanted to train for a marathon, the climbing centre wouldn’t have been my best choice, and if the problem was that I didn’t want to train in public at the gym, then the climbing centre also wouldn’t have been my best choice either.

If you’re procrastinating over something, then have a look at the methods that you’re choosing to achieve your goal. It might just be that it’s not the right method for you.

Reasons I’ve procrastinated 3: Overwhelm. Where to start?

Usually, I have big dreams for a project I want to do. Maybe it’s an entire book series, and that series becomes popular enough that it gets turned into a set of blockbuster movies, oh and I could star as the main character and win an Oscar for my performance!

Wow, what a great dream! What a great idea! The only problem is, that goal is HUGE! Where the hell do I start with that?

Now, I’m a trained coach, so I know how to break a big goal down into small pieces. Basically, you get someone to lay out their dream to you: How does it look? How does it sound? How does it smell? And when you’ve got a clear picture, you then ask: what small steps they can take in the following week to just get one step closer to that goal? Conversations ensue, ideas come out, the person goes away from that session with some steps to take, and they come back in a week or so and figure out the next steps.

Easy when you’ve got someone to do that with. Not so easy when you don’t.

To this day I still get stuck in the loop of just fantasising about the end goal of my projects. I love to imagine what it will be like when I take that TED stage to a huge applause. But without outside help, I struggle to actually put in the little bits of work that will eventually get me to that goal.

Next time you procrastinate, are you just too overwhelmed by your dream to know how or where to put those first steps in to make it work?

Reasons I’ve procrastinated 4: Feeling Like What I do Is Just Too Small to Make a Difference

And finally, this is one that I’m dealing with a lot right now actually:

That above dream example I mentioned? Writing a whole book series, it becoming a best seller, having a load of awesome movies coming out from it, starring as the main character, and winning the Oscar for it?

Well, sometimes your dream might be so huge, that it’s hard to take those first few steps. The small things simply feel so infinitesimal compared to what you really want to be achieving. Logically, you know that these small steps are essential to reach your end goal, but it’s still painful to acknowledge that you’re only at the foot of the mountain.

If you’ve felt this, don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong with it. You’re not ungrateful or want something for nothing. You just really want that success. I totally get it. This, like all the others, is completely manageable.

Looking back on it, I now realise that this was something that kept me in the procrastination zone for way too long.At one point I considered becoming a professional artist. I’d have my own art studio that I’d go to every day, have my stuff in galleries, and attend classes at the most prestigious art colleges. But when I came to just actually putting in the little steps that would eventually get me there, my end dream felt so far away.It was despairing to just put in those ‘little steps’ because that just hammered home how incredibly far away from my goal I really was.

On your next procrastination spiral, ask yourself: is the problem that, right now, you’re just so far away from that goal that it feels like you’ll never get there?

There you have it, 4 solid reasons I’ve procrastinated in the past.



the culprits of why I shall do so in the future.

There’s no ‘curing’ procrastination; it’s not a disease. It’s usually a sign of something else.



Understanding what your procrastination is trying to tell you is huge in being able to actually take the steps needed to achieve ‘the thing’.


Look at how to manage your energy levels.

Food, water, sleep, exercise.

When are the times of day you feel most energised?

What activities give you energy?

Wrong Methods

Think about why you want to achieve ‘the thing’. What exactly is holding you back from doing ‘the thing’?

Boring method?

Inauthentic method?

There’ll be other ways.


Put stepping-stone goals in.

What's one thing you can do today that serves the end goal in a small way?

Despair over how far away that end goal is

Also use stepping-stone goals, but in this case have a clear idea of where you want to be in a month, and focus on that instead of the big picture.


If there are any other reasons that you can think of that have been the cause of your procrastination, let me know! We can all share and find comfort in each other's experiences.

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