The Truth About Procrastination and 8 Simple
Ways To Help You Tackle It
“Confusion is fear in disguise. Decisions are easy if you’re willing to be brave.” – Sam Brown
“Damn, I don’t think I have the energy to do this today! Let me just rest for a bit and do it tomorrow. I’m sure it won’t make a huge difference!” We have all said this to ourselves or someone else at some point in our lives, and I am no exception. We all love to rationalize with ourselves and others because it comes as easy as breathing to most of us- a defense mechanism we build over time to protect ourselves from any potential emotional strain or hurt.
So, what exactly is procrastination? Procrastination is an active choice one makes to put things off, avoid or delay, so much that some of the famous philosophers like Socrates and Aristotle coined a Greek term to describe this kind of behavior- Akrasia. The dictionary Akrasia defines as the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgement through weakness of will. In simpler words- a lack of self control.
This brings us to the next question, why do we procrastinate, even though most of us know it is not right and could be detrimental to our growth and progress? Hundreds of books and articles have been written on this if not thousands. According to certain Behavioral Psychologists and researchers, it has been found that one of the reasons people procrastinate is because the human mind has a tendency to value immediate rewards more than futuristic ones, even though they could be larger or better.
Lets look at procrastination a little more scientifically- i.e physiologically. The prefrontal cortex is that part of the brain that takes in information, and makes decisions. This is also that part of the brain that separates humans from animals who are otherwise controlled by external stimuli. The decision making process is voluntary, and if we are not focused on the task at hand, the limbic system in the brain begins to take over. Thus, we end up giving in to what feels better in that moment such as not wanting to complete a project, talk to clarify an issue with someone we had an argument with, which is usually that kick of dopamine that comes along with procrastination. Even though we all know that the end result of procrastination is nothing but sheer panic and more mental and emotional stress, we still indulge in it only because of the short-term boost it gives us, that of a small dose of dopamine coursing through the brain, a feel-good chemical reward, which often ends up becoming detrimental to our lifestyle and emotional health.
On a psychological level, procrastination often stems from our emotional association attached to a particular task such as fear of failure if there is a history of failing at multiple aspects in one’s life, which leads to a lack of passion, lack and fear of commitment, and eventually an ‘I don’t care’ attitude. These preconceived fears could be rather intimidating, which forces one to let go of their efforts mid-way, making them lose their focus and eventually getting stuck in a loop of not getting anything done. We use avoidance and resistance to deal with negative emotions coming up with a 100 reasons why we should not do something instead of 3 strong reasons that we should. We just cannot stop ourselves from giving in to feel good, right in the moment.
How many hours ago did you needlessly put off something you knew you needed to get done? Did thoughts such as “I don’t feel like it,” “I don’t want to,” “Why should I, its not even my fault,”or “I think I will let it go for now and start doing this again tomorrow” run through your head? Many a times there is a genuine circumstantial or a mental/physical reason, but it is safe to say that on most occasions, it nothing but resistance that is frothing up from a refusal to accept and experience your present-self’s emotions, or completely not feel any emotions at all.
Procrastination is not a time-management problem like most people like to believe.We typically tend to procrastinate on things that tend to cause us temporary anxiety, discomfort, annoyance, boredom, difficulties, etc. In addition to the pressure because we usually end up running out of time to complete a task, it also ends up creating a chronic cycle of guilt and a diminished sense of self-worth, because we just put ourselves down repeatedly for purposely delaying a necessary action.
So, what do we do about it and not make it as difficult as searching for where Timbuktu exists on the world map? As I always say we LOVE to complicate things by expecting and wanting ridiculously difficult solutions to our problems. It doesn’t have to be that way every time. Below are a few ways to handle procrastination head on, and helping you overcome the habit as smoothly as possible.
Stop making every task you set out to do a life and death situation. Yes, deadlines and priorities are important, but by you magnifying every situation a 1000 times, will consciously make your mind to stay away from it. You have associated immense fear of loss and failure to an action that you must take in order for you to grow and make change. As every human being that either fights or runs away from danger, you will do the same and unfortunately stay in that same loop for a very long time.
Make writing down short goals that you want to accomplish for the day a habit. Physically writing down what you want to accomplish, and making it believable by breaking it down in small workable goals will not only put less pressure on yourself, but your mind will get into the process of doing more and fearing less
Learn how to regulate your emotions, one step at a time. If you feel you are completely crippled by procrastination for years, seek professional help. Until then, start with bringing into conscious aware what kind of emotional reactions spurt up in every situation. Do you respond or do you react? Are you happy with the way you have responded or reacted? If not, are you willing to change it? If this is not what or how you want to respond or react, how else do you want it to be? WRITE IT DOWN! Writing is essential in order to train our minds for helping us because biologically speaking, the emotional center of our brain probes us to feel first.
Once you have managed to regulate your emotions and bring to awareness all that you feel, and have managed to get a small task or a part of a large task done, ask your self what next. Doing this will not just keep you accountable and encourage you to take your responsibility while not feeling guilty about yourself, but it will also help you focus on your work or what you need to get done in the moment rather than worrying about reaching the finishing line or ultimate goal that you have set out for yourself.
Don’t over commit in order to prove yourself right and the best in every situation. This is what lands many people up in a soup that they cannot seem to get out of, only ruining their self-image in the bargain.
Give yourself the room to fail, emote and be OKAY with it. Will all this guarantee that you will be 100% all the time? No! But letting go of the need to be perfect will help you do things better, faster, and build a lot more self-confidence instead of making you feel you are not good enough because you couldn’t do what you set out to do. You may fall down in the process, that is not important. You bouncing back up is what matters, this time more stronger than before.
Stop fearing what other people will say, how they will judge you, and what will happen to you if they day. No matter how hard you try, people will say and do something, even if you have known them for years. Either you will be too good for them, or not good enough for them. The question you need to ask yourself here is, are you doing what you are doing so that they benefit, or are you doing it so that you somewhere get the credit that you did something for them? In both cases, you have set your self up for failure, that will put you off from trying again. If you really want to bring a lasting change for yourself and want to over come the habit of procrastination, do it for yourself or don’t do it at all. Let go of the need to please every body and see your life and confidence change.
Lastly, stop fearing change. This is again something that is beyond human control, and something that is naturally meant to happen. Ask yourself what resisting change or not being open enough to new ideas, things and people has brought you apart from a temporary ego boost. Remember, change brings in life; stagation brings in death.
“You do not have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”- Martin Luther King Jr.