How does one overcome the bad habit of procrastination?

I start 10 projects for every 1 that I finish. It's like I get more joy from starting than finishing. This is backwards and unproductive. It also leads to a house full of unfinished projects.
Asked by RenaissanceHawk
Answered
12/05/2021

Hello there, I'm so glad you reached out with this question. Let me assure you that you are not alone in this pattern of starting multiple projects without completing many of them. After all, who doesn't enjoy the thought of a painting a cupboard a new color or making a latchhook rug for one of your friends. Unfortunately, sometimes that initial passion and creativity becomes sidetracked by disappointment and boredom. The problem, of course, is that when multiple projects become abandoned, what started with the best of intentions becomes clutter. You have acknowledged this pattern in your life and made a conscious goal to change it. That alone is insightful and a significant first step!

It sounds like you begin with a vision and truly enjoy the excitement and possibility of a new project, but as time goes on, become either frustrated, bored, or distracted by the possibility of yet another project that might seem more exciting than the one you are working on. This pattern could be related to a number of things, such as procrastination related to perfectionism, or unrealistic goals related to the amount of time and effort that will be required to complete any given project. 

A great place to start in changing this behavior is to take a step back and reflect upon what is happening. It could even be useful to keep a journal where you document the projects you have started and why, what your thoughts were at the time, and what came in the way of completing it. Look back on your notes and see if you are able to identify any patterns to your behavior. Are there any common elements? That information can be very useful and often becomes more identifiable when put in writing.

Another intervention that can be very helpful is to think more deeply and purposefully about each project that you start. This can help you to avoid unexpected obstacles. Who is it for? What is my motivation for taking on this project? Is it something that I have the skills to do? How much time, realistically, will be required to complete the project? What expenses will be involved? If, after considering all of these questions, you decide you would like to proceed, that is a good indication that the project is something that truly holds your interest and is attainable. 

Although it is tempting to just dive right in when you feel that initial enthusiasm and excitement about a new project, it is important to develop a plan for completion. What materials are needed to complete the project? Do I have them on hand or are there items that I will need to purchase? Another consideration is your targeted completion date. How long will it likely take to complete the project? Breaking it down into small steps, with a projected timeline for each, will allow you to feel a sense of progress. Mark off each task after it is finished. This will increase your commitment as the project develops. 

Also, remember that it is completely okay to decide that a project is not for you and choose not to finish it. But again, the key is to do so with purposefulness and reflection. Choosing not to complete a project does not make you lazy or a failure. By following the recommendations identified above, you are likely to discover that this happens less and less. If, after practicing the tips we have discussed, you discover this pattern of starting and stopping remains a challenge, it likely indicates that there is something more deepseated at the root of the pattern, such as perfectionism or anxiety related to others' judgments of your work. If that is the case, it will be helpful to talk to a trained counselor to help you break free of this pattern and achieve your goals. 

 

(PhD, MSW, LISW)