(Photo by De An Sun on Unsplash)
Recently I’ve been looking at the particular issue of procrastination.
This is not something I’m unfamiliar with. And it’s particularly interesting because I’ve also been seeing clients who have issues around procrastination as well.
Procrastination vs Laziness
Procrastination and Laziness are two terms that are frequently conflated together. The two following statements are particularly familiar:
“I’m procrastinating because I’m lazy.”
“I’m always procrastinating, I must be lazy”.
Procrastination, in this sense, is very commonly approached as a problem that needs to be solved: “How can I stop procrastinating?” “How can I procrastinate less?”
I would like to bring in a new lens around this:
- We like to think of Procrastination as the problem, but it’s actually a kind of result.
- If procrastination is a result, then there is something which contributes and leads to that result.
Procrastination as Results
I’d like to think about procrastination as results instead of a problem.
When we see something as a problem, we tend to move towards problem-solving, negating and elimination, i.e. if procrastination is a problem, stop procrastinating. That hasn’t always been particularly helpful.
Seeing procrastination as results, on the other hand, would mean that something leads to it. I like to use the Action-Result model to look at this:
You take an action, you produce a result. You don’t take an action, you also produce a result (sometimes, a null result). Because procrastination is essentially an act of delaying an action, what happens when you procrastinate is that you take no action, which then results in the postponement of its completion. Hence: Because you take no action, procrastination is the result.
Because procrastination is a result of a non-action, the solution of a non-action seems simple- just do it! If all it takes to not procrastinate is to just take the action, then why are you not taking any action, you lazy bum? This is often the point when laziness and procrastination get lumped together. Not helpful, because people tend to spiral into self-blame at this point and the self-blame doesn’t quite produce the results that they want later.
Bringing the whole of the person into the equation
Here is when the magic of ontological coaching begins.
If procrastination comes from someone taking a non-action, then the question we have to ask is: what’s really going on for the person that leads him or her to take a non-action?
Of course, at this point, we may go back to the ‘laziness’ argument (i.e. The laziness of the person leads him or her to take a non-action.) But I find that to be strange, simply because it is the really important and meaningful tasks that people procrastinate. These are the tasks that can also potentially make someone feel good about themselves upon completion. Laziness doesn’t make sense simply because the payoff of laziness in the face of something important and meaningful doesn’t make sense.
So on one hand, we have: The task being important enough for us to want to choose to do it. Yet, on the other hand, we have the result of procrastination. Which means, at some level, also choosing not to do it.
So what’s going on here?
Before I go any further, I’d like to point out that the motivation for doing a task is clear- It’s important and I’d feel good after doing it. However, the motivation for not doing is not clear.
What could possibly motivate someone to procrastinate? What do they get out of choosing procrastination?
Procrastination: A response to stress
Mel Robbins, a motivational speaker, explains procrastination as a response to stress; as a way to avoid stress. In that sense, procrastination is not a ‘non-action’ at all. Rather, the action here is the act of ‘avoidance’. If we allow ourselves to debunk the myth of the ‘lazy procrastinators’, then perhaps we can start to see and accept that they are not procrastinating to avoid the task itself, but the stress of the task.
Before I go on any further, I’d like to acknowledge and share that procrastination viewed from the lens of stress avoidance, is all-pervasive. It need not be as straightforward as procrastinating over an exam. It can be as complex as making that phone call to confess your love to someone, confronting a difficult and unhappy situation at home, or making that important but expensive purchase. As long as there is avoidance, there is procrastination.
And because there is a myriad of things to procrastinate about, we can also realise that not everything is equally stressful to everyone. Here’s to illustrate with a simple example:
There is an algebra exam coming up next week. Tom, a student who excels at Math, had no qualms about studying for the exam and putting in consistent work to work on it and practice daily. Roger, on the other hand, frequently fails his Math tests and assesses the algebra exam as a stressful event. Unsurprisingly, Roger procrastinates and only worked on it the day before.
If the same event can be assessed by two people differently, which then results in one being more prone to procrastination than another, then how did they arrive there? How did they come to develop these separate assessments about the same event?
For that, I’d like to bring in what I do best- some astrological insights.
Some Astrological Insights
Before I introduce the Astrological insights around procrastination, I’d like to remind everyone that this isn’t about blaming Astrology or the natal chart that you have. Your natal chart merely points to certain tendencies. I use it as a way to understand a person, not a way to determine them.
Based on my studies and my work with my Astrological clients, the following Astrological placement and combinations and combinations tend to result in procrastination:
- Saturn aspects
- Neptune aspects
- Saturn-Neptune archetypes
Procrastination as a result of strong Saturn placements in Natal Charts
Any Astrologers worth their salt would know that Saturn influences in natal charts can be particularly difficult. Where one finds Saturn is where one assesses as not good enough, is where they find rejection, standards, rules and structure. Because of that, people with strong Saturn placements in their natal charts can be quite pessimistic and stressed out individuals, with lots of boxes to check and to tick. Sometimes, this can feel rather oppressive, to a point in which they feel so stressed out that they procrastinate to avoid stress, or as a way to avoid being rejected, being wrong, not being good enough. Once again, this can happen in any domain.
Because these people have such a strong not-good-enough assessment about themselves, these are also the ones that tend to move into blame, sometimes self-blame. People with strong Saturn placements need to realise that they are procrastinating not because a task is difficult but because they have such high standards for themselves. And they procrastinate because they assess that they either cannot meet those standards or that meeting those standards would require them to go through what is potentially unpleasant.
Procrastination as a result of strong Neptune placements in Natal Charts
Neptune is an energy of fogginess, blurriness, and dissolution. Where it is in the natal chart is also where one finds themselves being unable to lay a finger on, can’t quite grasp, not quite able to clarify or name. In some way, there is a strange naivete, an idealism, and uncertainty around matters which Neptune touches. Because its energy is generally impalpable, there is often a tendency to escape, run away or avoid having to deal with it.
Based on my experience, people with strong Neptune placements have very strong avoidance tendencies. Because it is uncertain and unclear and hence cannot be grasped, people with strong Neptune placements are more likely to avoid, hence procrastinating on things that actually matter to them. In many cases, their past and history have taught them that they can’t quite control their surroundings or those things which they care about but find themselves having little influence over. No matter what they do, things just do not go in the way that they expect them to go.
Procrastination, then, becomes a way to avoid having to deal with those things. In procrastinating, they avoid having to deal with intangibility, uncertainty, their own expectations, resignation, and disappointment.
In some way, they need to realise that they procrastinate because they are already disappointed.
Combining the affliction of Saturn and Neptune in the Saturn-Neptune archetype
Because Saturn deals with standards and Neptune deals with idealism, when these two archetypes come together, it can result in perfectionism. The following set of dates are years in which Saturn and Neptune come together to form hard aspect with one another. People born within these years are more prone to procrastination than others.
1962 to 1964; 1970 to 1973; 1978 to 1980; 1988 to 1990; 1998 to 2000; 2005 to 2008; 2015 to 2016
The conversation of a Saturn-Neptune affliction is often an issue around the lack of clarity and fuzziness around standards. Often, the fear of failure and rejection is strong because expectations of what it means to meet those standards are overly idealistic and grandiose, to a point of feeling resigned around those standards.
Sometimes, even when standards have been met, it still doesn’t feel like a ‘win’- the nature of Neptune is transcendental, and the story changes from
“I cannot achieve the standards”
“So what if I achieve that? It’s not going to last. There would always be something else much bigger, better or important.”
In some way, the conversation here shifts from ‘not being able to meet those standards’ to feeling disillusioned by those standards. Then when they finally decide to commit to the standards, it then feels too big and too huge for them to achieve. And the cycle of procrastination begins again.
Strategies to deal with Procrastination
Here are some strategies to deal with procrastination:
- Stop confusing procrastination with laziness:
Procrastination is related to stress, while laziness, sometimes, can stem from a need for rest. When you’re lazing around doing nothing (like on a Sunday morning), perhaps what your body needs is to rest and disengage. On the contrary, if you find yourself having a deadline and you are doing everything else except what is due, you are probably procrastinating.
Of course, it’s possible that laziness and procrastination overlap. In that case, I would look at what someone is avoiding and whether they are using laziness as an excuse for avoidance, rather than attributing the blame to their ‘laziness’.
- Disrupt patterns around dealing with stress
If procrastination is a way to avoid stress, the important thing to look at here is the stress itself. Some good questions to ask would be: how can we learn to be with stress or even embrace it?
When someone declares a particular task to be ‘stressful’, they tend to position themselves against the stress which then closes off any possibilities to embrace or be with the stress.
On an Ontological level, our actions are always informed by our emotions, even if they are seemingly rational. Hence, our actions around stress are emotional as well. If anxiety is our primary emotion around stress (which, it often is), we are likely to take care of that anxiety by doing what we can to eliminate the stressor. What better way to eliminate the stressor than by avoiding it?
Can we shift our emotions around stress? Can we learn to shift ourselves emotionally into acceptance with regard to stress? Can we emotionally shift ourselves into ambition around stress and be a go-getter to overcome and fight against the stress?
- Declaring Satisfaction
This is particularly true for people who have strong Saturn in their natal charts. If you belong to the Saturnian types- the ‘never good enough ones’, your personal standards are likely to be your primary stressor. If your standards are so obscenely high, you are likely to avoid the stress of failure by avoiding and procrastinating.
The strategy, for you, perhaps then, is to declare what is enough. Declare for yourself what you’d be satisfied with given the amount of time that you have and you’d find yourself being more able to work with the stress and less likely to move into avoidance. You are more likely to believe that you can achieve the goal that you set out for yourself.
- Get clear on your boundaries
This is for those who have strong Neptune in their natal charts and is also related to the point above. Another reason why people get stressed over a task is the unclear boundaries they have around a particular task. Say there is a big project (eg. writing a novel), it’s very likely for someone to feel stress over its enormity and procrastinate.
Another way to deal with procrastination is to get clear on the boundaries: break down the big project into smaller tasks and sections with deadlines, rather than dealing with it in its entirety and feeling anxious about it. That way, we are less likely to procrastinate.
Recognising the complexity of Procrastination
I’m aware, of course, that procrastination is a lot more complex than what has been laid out and discussed above. I’m sure that another thought leader or Astrologer would give a different take on what it is, why it happens and how to approach it.
I hope that, in any case, this post has served its function of provoking and reshaping the way you think and approach procrastination.
Let me know what you think. In the meantime, if you’d like to gain greater insights in working around the topic of procrastination, partner with me for some Astrological Coaching.