Procrastination feels so good, for a while…
Trust me, as a card-carrying procrastinator, I know!
Giving in to procrastination is like finally making it to the safety of a welcoming bed after a big night out, away from the noise and clamour.
I’m not completely stupid (!) so I also understand that I would reduce my pain levels by doing the job now rather than worry later. After all, being self-employed I’m the one who creates the timetable. But I dawdle and distract myself, while a little gremlin sits on my shoulder whispering, ” It’s too hard. You’re behind now. No way you will get this done to perfection. You’re going to fail…”.
I’m a Gold medallist in the Anxiety Olympics
I’m pretty sure as a baby I worried whether I was breastfeeding the right way.
And it went on from there, a procrastinating student, an anxious worker, a worried mother.
Procrastination frustrates me because it affects my personal life on a daily basis. From work projects to paying bills and housey stuff. Please do not come over uninvited, you won’t be able to find the sofa under the pile of laundry, and let’s not mention the kitchen sink!
I have let go of opportunities because of procrastination, missed out on jobs, not gone to events, stayed up all night to finish a project.
In the short term, procrastination feels a lot more comfortable than getting on with the task. But thinking like this takes a great deal of wasted energy, energy I could spend on getting the job done instead.
After much procrastination, I decided to investigate. This is what I’ve come up with.
The three simple reasons I choose to procrastinate
In essence, for me at least, procrastination creates a loop that starts with self-doubt.
- Initially, self-doubt relies in part on the impostor syndrome, which leads me to feel inadequate. This feeds the anticipation of failure. I then look for a way to escape this feeling.
- Once I expect failure in one form or another I start believing that whatever I do will be in vain. I then turn to procrastination for relief, Netflix here I come… I’ve used it before, as a way of avoiding discomfort, and it feels wonderful!
- However, next, after the familiar habit of procrastination takes a hold, I am still faced with the inevitable, i.e. get the job done. AND I find that what is left of my self-esteem combusts.
Procrastination feels good in the short-term
It takes the pressure off, but then the process starts all over again in a vicious circle.
Of course, I grew up with a certain amount of self-doubt. It’s a healthy feeling, up to a point, it ensures I don’t act like a clueless numpty that everyone avoids.
But when the feeling becomes a thought that stops me from doing things I want to do, it’s time to change course.
Eventually, my life started to look like an episode of Tom and Jerry, including running around, with the constant fear of a large hammer!
One day it hit me that I chose to procrastinate, that it has now become a reflex, a habit I turn to whenever I feel anxious. We all create habits in childhood, some good ones, some not so good. In this case, this habit was no longer serving me.
The dictionary defines a habit as “an acquired behaviour pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.”
If procrastination is an acquired behaviour, is it a matter of choice?
Can I choose to no longer rely on that habit?
It’s not that simple. It takes a lot of work, A LOT. For me at least. I have to keep reminding myself why, what, when I should reflect on what the hell I am doing when I’m on Facebook instead of doing something that will feel more rewarding in the long run.
The 5 procrastination busters that work for me
It’s still a work in progress but so far the following plan is helping me move forward most of the time. Hey, I’m not perfect, yet!
- First I break down any task or large project into small steps and write this down. I also think why I’m doing it.
- I think about how long it will take me to complete these steps.
- I also write down how it will feel to keep deferring.
- And finally, I focus on how I will feel when it’s all done.
- When it’s time to jump into action, I use Mel Robbins’ 5 Second Rule. I count back 5-4-3-2-1, take a very big breath, and get started.
Get up and shower, walk out the door, sit at my desk, pick up the phone. All simple decisions that only take a few seconds to START
Whatever is on my list, I only aim to just get started for a few minutes. I tend to first do something easy, so I get a quick win.
But I find that once I have started, the anxiety recedes and I start to feel better, which means I keep going. If I find the ‘thing’ really challenging, then like a toddler, I will set myself a reward for getting it done. And yes, this includes exercise, I certainly was not born with a thirst for athletics!
As a next step, I’m looking at the triggers that kickstart my procrastination in different situations.
I am also researching how I can develop better habits at work. After all, I’m the boss!
A Final Note
This content is exclusively based on my lived experience. I have no qualifications in psychology or coaching.
I have experienced anxiety and depression for several decades but was eventually diagnosed with bipolar in 2017.
Get it done when you’re depressed, Julie A. Fast & John D. Preston | ISBN: 978-1592577064
The 5-second rule, Mel Robbins | ISBN: 978-1682612385
Rewire your anxious brain, Catherine M. Pittman & Elizabeth M. Karle | ISBN: 978-1626251137
Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert | ISBN: 978-1594634727