Why Limiting Beliefs might be at the Root of your Procrastination
And what to believe instead.
Procrastination can be a bitch.
Our rational mind wants us to get stuff done and be productive. But then the instant gratification monkey comes along and messes everything up. Instead of working on the things we planned out to do, we get lost in internet rabbit holes and YouTube binges.
This is tragic because when we are in procrastination mode we are neither productive nor enjoying guilt-free time off. Instead, we are plagued by guilt, self-hate and anxiety — all while not getting anything done.
To beat our procrastination, we try hacks and productivity techniques, shut off our notifications and use apps to limit our social media use. But we end up only scratching the surface of the problem.
Because when something keeps us stuck repeatedly, we need to go deeper into our subconscious mind to fix the real problem. More specifically, we need to have a look at the beliefs that might be holding us back from being productive and cause us to procrastinate.
Beliefs are views we have about ourselves, others and the world.
They are created over the course of our life — through our upbringing, the things we saw, heard, felt and experienced. The sum of our beliefs make up our mindset and thus our idea of reality. Everything in life, from how we think and feel about things to how we react to them is determined by our subconscious belief system.
But beliefs are not always universal truths.
They are only YOUR truth. YOUR perspective. They might be based on biased, incomplete or straight out wrong information.
Here are a few limiting beliefs that are common among procrastinators:
I only work well under pressure.
It’s already 4pm, it’s too late to start now.
I need to prepare better before I can start.
It is the weekend, I shouldn’t work.
Now, I am not saying these beliefs are wrong. In some cases, they might be accurate. But they are definetely not facts. Because if they were a facts, most people would agree with them. And I am pretty sure you can think of at least 5 people that don’t believe pressure is required to do great work, that the work day ends at 4 pm, that you need to be perfectly prepared to start something and that weekends should be work-free.
The point is, your deeply rooted beliefs about work and yourself might be at the root of your procrastination, because your beliefs kick off a chain reaction in your brain that determines what you think, how you feel and ultimately how you act.
Two simplified examples:
Limiting Belief “I can only work under pressure!” → Thought “I still have more than enough time, no point working on this.” → Feeling “Demotivation” → Action “Watching TV”
Limiting Belief “I need to do things perfect” → Thought “I need more preparation before I can start” → Feeling “Overwhelmed, fearful” → Action “Over-researching, planning”
The problem with most procrastination tactics is that they don’t attack the root cause.
They are merely tips on how to change your behaviour — which is the last element in the chain reaction. This might work in the short-term but won’t fix the issue in the long-run. Only if you can replace your deeply rooted self-limiting beliefs and upgrade them to a new set of empowering beliefs, you can beat procrastination for good.
What to Believe Instead:
Better done than perfect.
Perfectionism is one of the leading causes for procrastination. The urge to do things perfectly often comes from strict parents that punished even little mistakes and had high expectations. But in the real adult world, those who execute will always be ahead. Focus on getting 80% right and shipping it — whether it’s releasing an MVP of your product or releasing your first YouTube video. You can always improve later. You will learn by doing it.
Motivation is what gets you going, habit is what gets you there.
Feeling motivated and inspired is great, but it’s not the long-term fix for your procrastination issues. Building a habit around it is. Whether it is working out every day, publishing a blog post every week or cleaning your apartment on Sundays — once you have done something consistently for 3 weeks, a habit starts to form in your brain and it will become a lot easier for you to do it. At some point, the habit is so deeply ingrained into your brain that it will feel natural and you will do it almost effortlessly. So when you shift your mindset from motivating yourself to building powerful habits around your priorities, you will create a powerful weapon against procrastination.
The most dangerous place in your safety zone. The magic happens outside your comfort zone.
Fear can be a strong trigger for procrastination. You might be postponing getting started on your goals because deep down you are afraid to fail or embarrass yourself, scared of the unknown or even afraid of success. But once you believe that everything you want is on the other side of fear and it is actually MORE dangerous to stay in your comfort zone, you can finally beat your procrastination and get closer to your dreams.
A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
Dream big. Set goals that scare you. 10x your targets. But don’t let your goals overwhelm you to the point that you become paralysed and are unable to take any action. Start where you are and use what you have. Break down your goals and focus on first things first. One day at a time.
What the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve.
Don’t be surprised about your procrastination if you keep telling yourself things like “this won’t work” or “I am not good enough to do this”. The first step to doing something is to believe you can do it.
Taking good care of yourself is a necessity not a luxury.
Being productive starts with taking care of yourself. If you are sleep deprived, eat bad food and don’t take time off, your focus and motivation will suffer — and you will be more likely to procrastinate. Making self-care a priority is a mindset! Eat well, sleep enough, move your body, take time off and calm your mind.