Are you stuck in a procrastination spiral?
Procrastination is something we all experience from time to time, or maybe we experience it alot.
Whatever the case, when life becomes more challenging than usual it can be easy to find yourself in a kind of “procrastination-on-repeat” cycle.
I spent a few years battling this exhausting cycle before finally understanding what was really going on…and how to break myself out of it.
And If I can do it – so can you!
So, why do we procrastinate and how can you overcome it?
Believe it or not, a little procrastination is actually quite good for you as it’s our natural human reaction to stress!
As Timothy Psychyl from Carleton University found after studying procrastination for more than 19 years…the main thing driving procrastination is NOT so much avoiding work or other things we think we should be doing, as it is about AVOIDING STRESS.
Hence we tend to procrastinate when we intuitively feel the need to slow things down and create a greater sense of space – or relief.
And that can be as a result of experiencing anything from a major loss such as a relationship break-up or losing a loved one, to some of the more routine stressors such as an upcoming work project or study assignment, or a particular task you’d rather avoid.
Most of us tend to think of procrastination as being something that’s ‘bad’, or that we should feel guilty about.
After all, surely it means we have failed to do something we believe we should be doing.
But procrastination has NOTHING to do with being unmotivated and is 100% related to STRESS.
This is also the reason that people often feel they have no control over it, because it’s not so much a deliberate choice as it is related to your intrinsic need for RELIEF from whatever it is that feels overwhelming.
Makes sense right?
That we would have a natural coping mechanism for dealing with stress that allows us to hit the brakes while we take a breath, gather ourselves and re-calibrate.
But here’s the watch-out…if you’re not careful, it’s easy to make a habit of taking a ‘time-out’ and then, before you know it – you’re stuck!!!
And the longer you’re stuck, the more stuck you get – and so on…
So what can you do about it?
Well, it’s actually far simpler than you may think and can be solved in 2 easy steps:
- Step 1 – Taking yourself off the hook
This is an important first step because, as I mentioned, it’s REALLY easy to feel guilty and start beating yourself up for ‘wasting time’, or avoiding something important.
But research shows that people who let themselves off the hook i.e. understand this is a natural reaction to stress, have a much higher chance of kicking their procrastination habit to the curb.
So, go on – don’t worry about how long you’ve been dodging ‘whatever’ – start from where you are TODAY…and give yourself a break!
- Step 2 – Apply a little “activation energy”
This is a bit like lighting a match…and is about creating some momentum so you can get going again.
The trick here is to override the FEELING that you ‘don’t feel like doing something’ and as Nike so eloquently put it…’just do it’!
In her best-selling book, “The 5-Second Rule’, Mel Robbins talks at length about how to how to trick the brain to bypass of whatever it is you’re avoiding, so you can give yourself a jump start to get moving again.
She suggests counting to 5,4,3,2,1…and go!
This really works as by it bypasses the time it takes for your brain to start talking you out of whatever it is i.e. getting to the gym, writing that paper, talking to my boss – so you can get going – even if you don’t feel like it.
So a little ‘fake it till you make it’ energy can go a long way to revving up your engine again.
And guess what, the more you act on that impulse…the more you will – and so on!
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