Defining procrastination is tricky, especially if you are like me and tend to put things off… It has taken a while, but I am finally committed to sharing my thoughts about what promotes procrastinating. Putting off the tasks that I know would help me achieve my life’s objectives. Procrastination refers to the delaying of tasks that you have committed to achieve a particular objective.
So what is interesting about procrastination for me is the discovery that it is a form of #anxiety. It is often linked to fear of failure or a fear of being evaluated negatively by peers. When I made this connection, I realised that my unhelpful rules of living were effecting my behaviour. Ultimately affecting the successful accomplishment of my life’s ambitions. I was instrumental in putting obstacles in front of myself, making it harder for me to achieve my goals successfully.
How do you procrastinate?
Procrastination may turn up in some areas of your life and not in others; this is not unusual. It can be present anywhere. It could involve any task or problem we need to solve or any goal we might want to achieve. There will be areas that it is easy to follow through on for many people. Equally there will also be those areas that may be a source of procrastination. Examples of this are, studies, financial objectives, health and fitness goals, relationships and decision making. In fact any task we hope to complete, or problem we need to solve can be a procrastination source.
Procrastination is a form of avoidance or distraction from the goal-directed task you need to focus on completing. Procrastination activities are powerful diversions and can substitute very well for the necessary task. This is what makes procrastination cycles so hard to break. Procrastination often has its hidden gains, perpetuating the avoidance cycle and making it easy to continue avoiding the necessary task. Procrastination can involve more pleasurable activities as well, such as socialising with family or friends. Eating or sleeping can also be procrastination choices at times. At other times procrastination may involve lower priority activities such as cleaning or sorting or even checking or deleting emails.
Rationalisation and justifications are how we avoid the guilt associated with putting things off with procrastination choices. We usually tell ourselves a story, that we are better off because we put a particular task off. Typically the result is an immediate reduction in anxiety and an increased feeling of well being, however, short-lived. So it is easy to see how such a state of affairs could be difficult to challenge…
How do we fix our bad habits?
How can we confront this bad habit when it is so attractive on some levels? Firstly, we need to adjust our unhelpful beliefs and rules whereby many of us live our lives. These rules are the foundations upon which we build our sense of our selves and self-confidence. Our bottom line beliefs about ourselves may be anywhere between grounded and secure, to chaotic and insecure within ourselves. And this goes for various aspects of our lives as well. We may be high in self-esteem in our public work life, and the opposite on our private and personal relationships.
Ways we can challenge deferring or avoidant behaviours
- Addressing our underlying beliefs and assumptions we may hold onto about ourselves. Which result in obstacles being placed in our own way, making our lives more difficult than they need to be.
- Secondly, learning to be ones own best friend, and increasing our tolerance of discomfort is important. By sitting with a certain amount of discomfort, we soon realise that we are stronger than we think. We can and will survive the current challenge.
- Challenging ourselves when we catch ourselves, making excuses is another way to address procrastination. However, being compassionate towards oneself in the face of setbacks is essential. Becoming our own “inner coach”, instead of to the “internal” bully, is also vital to changing our ingrained behavior.
- Be practical and practice being kind to yourself. Recognise that there are more gains in doing than in deferring and the gains are long-lasting in their rewards!
It is worth noting that procrastination is a pattern of responding to the discomfort that WE CAN change. It is important to understand why we procrastinate and attend to the need highlighted by our avoidance. Ask yourself, what am I avoiding by procrastinating? Perhaps it is the pain of being evaluated or a feeling of not being good enough? If this is the case attending to this insecurity is essential. Learning to tolerate feedback instead of viewing it as an insult is really helpful. Try integrating it into a growth mindset. In this way, we build resilience. We learn to surf the wave instead of being dumped on the shore. We may even start to enjoy the surfing and seek out more challenging waves to catch in the future. This way, we will slowly build our confidence and move from strength to strength in our journey of self-discovery.
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Written by Catriona Brennan CEO TopClinic Ireland