In order to move away from procrastination and move into being more of what we really want to be, we have to understand our emotions. Because, if we can turn our aversions (that trigger procrastination) into a source of motivation, we may be able to actually reach our stars.
Procrastination has been defined as the voluntary delay of any action that we realize we ought to pursue now. It can manifest it in any number of ways: work, exercise, cleaning the toilet or sending a birthday card. Even though it can be something folks joke about, to those who live with it, the reality is anything but funny.
Procrastinators, it’s been discovered, tend to harbor self-limiting beliefs, negative self-talk, and may often deal with depression and anxiety; yielding to impulses more readily than other people.
There’s A Link Between Procrastination, Impulsivity and Mood!
Thank goodness for research! Dr. Fuschia Sirois, Researcher and Author, observes: “It’s not just about being driven purely by pleasure-seeking but about avoiding negative emotions.”
Often procrastinators have a negative inner dialogue that is demeaning to themselves. Internal comments like, “I’m stupid” or “If I don’t do this right everything else I do is pointless.” Psychologist Roy F. Baumeister of Florida State University and his collaborators have demonstrated that negative emotions diminish self-control. Anxiety undermines diets as well as a smokers’ efforts to quit. All of our “survival techniques”, like eating a quart of ice cream after a breakup, are attempts at deflecting negative feelings. It turns out distraction is a great way to circumvent these feelings.
Although you might think you procrastinate for no reason at all, your dawdling may be a subconscious move to self-affirm: to check in with those things that shape your identity – your values and passions.
I have found it very heartening to learn that procrastination is much deeper than a bad habit that slows me down. I now understand there is a definite psychological thrust to it and that enables me to heal and move forward.
Some Tips That Might Help
Here are some tips I picked up from a lovely guide I found to help people like me (and maybe like you, too). While the bulk of the work is from the inside out, these little tips can help to keep you focused and provide a way to get more done instead of “wandering away from your task”.
1. If you’re a techie type and love apps for your phone, check out some of these that help you stay focused on what you have to do:
- Rescue Time
- Noisli (for those bothered by outside noises)
- Remember the Milk (if you keep reminders running around in your head)
- Time Warp (to get you back on track when your fingers do the walking to games)
There are myriad others, just don’t get distracted by the shopping page. 🙂
2. Create a checklist: This is one of my faves and something I’ve done for ages. It helps me get stuff done.
3. Pomodoro Method: Use a timer and set it for 25 minutes (or whatever is needed) to accomplish a specific task. When the timer goes off, take a break. Then reset and go again.
4. Hide your phone. This one really bugs some of the people in my world, but it works for me because I distract easily and every time the thing dings I stop what I’m doing to see what’s happening. It doesn’t make for a productive workday. I leave my phone in another room and, if I have important stuff to do, I put it on airplane mode. The trick is to take it off airplane mode when I’m finished … I’m still working on that.
5. Eat the Frog. There’s a book by that name. Anyway, eating the frog is doing the tough stuff first to get it out of the way. Now, you may not like to eat frogs and prefer to do the little things first. Okay. Whatever, just do something.
6. Write in a diary. Sure, it’s old fashioned, but it really works if you use it to write down your tasks list and your reason for doing the task. When you feel like checking out, take a few minutes to review your diary – it can give you the inspiration to keep going.
7. Here’s the most important one in my opinion: Forgive Yourself. Take yourself off the guilt hook by acknowledging you’re a procrastinator and then forgive yourself for it. Studies actually show that actively forgiving yourself for procrastination leads to less frequent procrastination behaviors in the future. So be kind to yourself and let go of the past. After all, you can’t change the past, but you can impact your future.