Overcoming Procrastination as a Freelancer
For freelancers, procrastination can have a significant impact on their business and livelihood. When deadlines are missed, clients may become unhappy and may not want to work with them again. That’s why entrepreneurs should take a special interest in finding a workaround for their procrastination.
The act of delaying or postponing tasks, even when they are important or urgent, is frustrating—even for the person procrastinating. Procrastination is a common problem that affects many people.
When you’re in charge of managing your own time as a freelancer and you tend to procrastinate, things can spiral out of control fast. That can lead to a loss of income, as freelancers may not be able to take on as many projects if they’re not completing tasks in a timely manner. Additionally, it can lead to a loss of clients and worse - negative reviews and word-of-mouth.
Surprising Reasons Behind Procrastination
There’s a long list of reasons why people procrastinate. Some we hear all the time, but others are unexpected revelations about what’s actually behind all of the stalling. And they may vary from one situation to the next. But when you can identify what’s behind your chronic avoidance of the tasks you should be tackling, you’re one step closer to finding a useful solution. See if any of these sound familiar:
1. Fear of success or fear of failure: You might fear the responsibility that comes with success, and therefore procrastinate to avoid having to deal with those expectations. On the other hand, you may be worried about not being able to complete a task to the best of your ability.
2. Perfectionism and fear of criticism: Perfectionists may procrastinate because they’re afraid their work won’t be good enough and they’ll receive negative feedback or be judged harshly.
3. Low self-confidence: If you suffer from low self-confidence, you may put off tasks because you feel you aren’t capable of completing them.
4. Overwhelm: Many people procrastinate to avoid facing a task that seems too difficult or complex.
5. Poor time management skills: People who lack the ability to manage their time effectively may procrastinate simply because they don’t have an accurate perception of how long something will take. This is common in neurodivergent individuals.
6. Boredom: Some may procrastinate when they find the avoided task tedious or uninteresting.
7. Poor impulse control: People with poor impulse control may procrastinate because they are unable to resist temptation or prioritize tasks. Also common in neurodivergent people.
8. Anxiety: You may be so anxious about making mistakes or failing that you procrastinate to avoid facing the task.
9. Lack of motivation: When you lack the motivation to get started on a task or put off tasks, it may be that you don’t see the immediate benefit. This issue may be something you can work through or it could point to a lack of dopamine.
10. Distractions: People often procrastinate because they are easily distracted by other activities.
11. Negative self-talk: Some are chronic procrastinators because of their own negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves, such as “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not capable of doing this.”
12. Poor task prioritization and organizational skills: You may not realize it, but you could be procrastinating because you don’t know how to organize and prioritize the steps involved in completing your task. Neurodivergent individuals often struggle with this one as well.
14. Procrastination itself: Some put off tasks because they are used to procrastinating and it has become a habit.
15. Avoiding an unpleasant feeling or emotion: Many of the reasons in this list come with a heavy emotion or two and they’re usually feelings we don’t want. So sometimes avoiding a task is avoiding a negative feeling.
16. Low energy or feeling unwell: When you don’t feel good, it’s tough to be productive, but sometimes people don’t connect the dots between feeling bad and avoiding work. This one may be best addressed by a doctor.
Ideas for Stealthily Beating Your Procrastination Tendency
To overcome procrastination, see if you can figure out why you’re avoiding certain actions. You may find ideas from blogs, books, podcasts or social media. You may even need to see a doctor or therapist who can work with you to find a solution.
In general, there are a few things that work for many people. You can start by breaking your to-do list tasks down into smaller, manageable steps, even micro steps (i.e. get out whatever you need to do the task and pause before taking the next step). It can also be helpful to use a timer to stay on track, or to plan to work for a certain amount of time, like 20-30 minutes so the task is not so overwhelming. Remove distractions from your workspace and try to focus on the benefits of completing a task, rather than the challenges.
It’s super important to put effort into overcoming this niggling nuisance of a habit, and it will take some experimentation. Find what works for you and stick to it.
The Bottom Line
Procrastination is a big problem that can have a significant impact on freelancers and can hinder their business. But by understanding your own personal reasons behind procrastination and using strategies to overcome it, you can knock out some of the roadblocks between you and your ultimate success.