Do you still have that lingering New Year’s intention or goal that has become a permanent item on your to-do list? If so, you are not alone. Klingsieck (2013) reported results from Ferrari, et al., who found that 20-25% of the population was impacted by the procrastination phenomenon. Procrastination is an aversion to participate in goal completion activities (Krause and Freund, 2013). It can occur at different phases of goal achievement.
What is your barrier to achieving that goal? Here are five questions for meditating on the root of your procrastination. Should you dream about your goal or let it go?
1. Why am I trying to achieve this goal?
Sometimes you have to drill deep down to the core and check in with yourself about the purpose of the goal and how it fits into your life. Is the goal intrinsically valued, for your own growth and satisfaction or extrinsically valued, for money and recognition? Intrinsic and extrinsic are not dichotomous constructs. Research indicated that extrinsically valued goals were associated with gaining intrinsic benefits such as perceived feelings of competence, intelligence, and life control (Sheldon, Gunz, Nichols, & Ferguson 2010). The goal must be your goal and not one that belongs to someone else.
2. Am I making enough time for this?
Time is a very precious commodity; it neither stops, nor do we get it back. We have to strategically budget and make time for what we want to do, since extra hours typically do not find us. If we are procrastinating, we tend to carve out a chunk of time at the end to do something. If we are not intrinsically motivated, we just can’t seem to find time to do it. Regardless if it is an intrinsically or extrinsically valued goal, it will most likely be time consuming. Is it worth it your pursuit? If not now, is it worth considering in the future?
3. What am I willing to compromise in order to achieve this goal?
Some goals require a great deal of work, with little or delayed gratification. Set boundaries around how much you can realistically devote towards the goal. Regardless of the motivation type, the goal might take energy from other aspects of your life, such as family, relationships, career, and hobbies. You need to be comfortable with the shift in priorities. There is a down side of feeling intrinsically motivated to achieve a goal, since it is easy to get sucked into the process and lose sight of everything else. Once the goal is eventually achieved (halleluiah), it will be a good success story on how you juggled it with life.
4. How much am I appreciating the process?
It seems like we obsess on the goal’s result, with little attention to the process. Krause and Freund (2013) suggest that focusing on the process or journey of goal achievement, rather than the just the goal outcome itself, might increase self-efficacy as well as decrease fear of failure and aversion to the task-at-hand, which work against procrastination. Like enjoying the wonderful scent when you take time to smell the roses, there are many little life lessons to be learned when you notice how you are achieving the goal. Observe what is working and what is not. Think of these nuggets of treasured self-awareness as unintended subgoals!
5. What am I using as a scapegoat?
Complete this sentence: I would accomplish this goal if only ___________________. Identify what is really the big pink elephant getting in the way of your goal and evaluate how you can get around or through it. Do you control that pink elephant or does it control you? If it seems like that pink elephant is an effective distraction from your goal, it might be time to revisit Question 1 to check in with where this goal fits in with your life plan.
If you learn that the goal is not right for you, let it go, move on, and find YOUR goal. If this goal makes sense for you, then start your action plan today! If you are procrastinating with your dissertation or thesis study, check out my book, Finish Your Dissertation, Don’t Let it Finish You! for tips and motivators on what do when you feel stuck. You know you can do it!
Klingsieck, K.B., (2013). Procrastination: When Good Things Don’t Come to Those Who
Wait. European Psychologist, 13(1), 57-74.
Krause, K. & Freund, A.M., (2013). How to Beat Procrastination: The Role of Goal Focus.
European Psychologist. Doi: 10.1027/1016-9040/a000153.
Sheldon, K.M., Gunz, A., Nichols, C.P., & Ferguson, Y., (2010). Extrinsic Value Orientation
and Affective Forcasting: Overestimating the Rewards, Underestimating the Costs.
Journal of Personality, 78(1), 149-178.