I’m procrastinating lately. There’s a long to-do list staring me in the face, but I’m just not feeling motivated.


For weeks, I’ve been working through an important online course. Unfortunately, it’s slow going and tedious. So here I am this afternoon, pre-empting my course time by snacking, checking emails, and even washing dishes in an attempt to delay my course yet again.


I decide to try a technique from my days as a technical Project Manager called the 5 Whys.


It’s a simple tool that’s effectively used for troubleshooting issues. When faced with a problem, the Project Manager gathers the smartest people from the team and starts brainstorming about the root cause by continually asking “why” at least five times.


I figure that 5 Whys is worth a shot to try and get myself back on track. After a few days, my procrastination is beginning to take a toll on my productivity. With a career change underway, I’m adjusting to new schedules, priorities, and work habits. I can’t afford a day or two of lost time.


To make this even easier, I dictate my 5 Whys self-conversation into my phone so I can email myself later:


#1 – Why am I procrastinating?

I don’t feel like working on my online course because I’m low on energy.


#2 – Why am I low on energy?

Because I’m not eating healthy and working out lately.


#3 – Why am I making poor choices?

Honestly…(long pause)…because I’m feeling down about my career change. Recently, I’m putting a ton of work into my new website and writing, but I’m anxious that my hard work won’t be good enough.


#4 – Why am I feeling down?

I feel like I’m failing at this career change thing and I guess that’s the real issue.


Aha! My fear of failure is the root cause. As I go through the 5 Whys, I realize that I’m the one putting pressure on myself and I need to work on addressing that. But for now, procrastinating isn’t helping matters. The faster I can focus on getting through my online course, the more I can concentrate on improving and learning new skills.


By asking why five times, I understand the real reason behind my procrastination. The 5 Whys can be useful for all sorts of work and home situations to pinpoint underlying issues when problems surface. Try this technique next time you find yourself stuck procrastinating on important tasks.