Overcoming Fears that Cause Procrastination
Doubt, fear, procrastination—what do you call it? Over the last couple weeks, I found myself avoiding some tasks that were high up on my priority list and replacing them with smaller tasks or time wasted on the Internet.
If you’ve had a similar experience, I’m sure you can imagine the internal dialogue I was having and the frustration that followed when hours passed and I still hadn’t done the one thing I planned to do.
After spending some time trying to figure out why I was putting off work that I desperately wanted to get done, I realized fear was at the root of my procrastination. (Is that always the case?)
Fear is challenging because it often influences us without us even knowing—lurking in the recesses of our minds and yanking us around at the same damn time.
So I spent some time sitting with my fear. I gave my fear some attention instead of filling my time with that next podcast, NBA summer league videos, the glorious Instagram, and whatever else I found myself doing.
I realized I was getting stuck because I was fearful about the final product being “good enough”. I had projects that I was unfamiliar with, so I was unsure about where to start and the quality of the work.
Fortunately we have Google for all of our where to start questions, but that still doesn’t abate the fear related to the quality of our work.
Here are some realizations that I came to over the last couple weeks that helped me work through my fear and procrastinate less.
1. Fear is usually at the root of procrastination.
2. You need to give your fear some attention to figure out what you’re scared of. Take some time to pause and shine light on your fears.
- Are you afraid you’ll fail or do a poor job?
- Are you scared of the unknown because the task is new?
- Does the task make you uncomfortable?
- Are you scared of starting off wrong?
3. You might not be good at identifying what you’re fearful of—which is totally OK—but the fear probably has something to do with being afraid to fail or producing something subpar.
4. The fear might be baseless because you usually do a great job at whatever you’re scared of.
5. The fear might be rational because you actually don’t know what you’re doing or have never done the task before. However, the only way to get better at something is by getting information and practicing.
6. Starting small and collecting some information about the task is often effective at mitigating the fear. Do a little of the task or practice the most basic part of the process and see what happens.
- Give yourself the goal of just writing the first paragraph, making the first slide of the presentation, putting down one drum loop for your beat etc.
7. Once you’ve collected some information about your experience with the task, use rational thinking to work with your fear.
- Was the experience as bad as you expected it to be?
- What did you learn/get better at in the process?
- Are you capable of completing more of your task?
With practice we get better at noticing our fears. I’ve noticed that shining light on them, starting with small tasks, and then using my experience to gauge the rationality of my fears has helped me procrastinate less and lean more into the things I’m fearful of. Noticing the fear and leaning into it is often the momentum we need to put things in motion.
Kyle Somersall is the founder of my innerglow. He’s a former elementary school teacher and current meditation teacher. He’s interested in bringing a focus on mental health into education and building community around mindfulness and human connection.