By Linda Morgan, Productivity Expert & Organizational Coach, from MotivationNook.
You may have thought that procrastination stems from laziness, but you couldn’t be more wrong. When you push off doing one thing, you make yourself busy with something else? True or false? If you said true then you’re in good company with most procrastinators. How can it be called lazy when you decide to clean your room or fold laundry instead of writing a paper? It’s not laziness. It’s procrastination. When we procrastinate, we’re not only pushing things off but we are also doing something that’s bad for us. We are harming ourselves but employing avoidant behaviors.
We know that by procrastinating we are only hurting ourselves but we still do it anyway. So really, procrastination is irrational. It doesn’t make any logical sense to do something that you know will only have consequences. You can say it’s similar to eating poorly when you’re supposed to be eating healthy. You completely ignore the harm you are causing yourself and are only focusing on what will make you feel good right now.
Removing The Negativity
Similar to what food we put into our mouths, procrastination is also regulated by our emotions. Yes, you thought you only had time management problems, but you procrastinating is a way of dealing with your challenging emotions, just like eating a whole pie of pizza by yourself in one sitting. We procrastinate because we are focusing on tackling the negative moods rather than just doing the task. To put it bluntly: many of us procrastinate because we’re in a bad mood.
Procrastinating is a vicious cycle. When we procrastinate we feel instant relief because when you tell yourself you don’t need to do something you don’t want to do right now, you’re naturally happy about it. You technically get rewarded for procrastinating and when we get rewarded for something we will most likely do it again. It’s positive reinforcement 101. This is also the reason that procrastination becomes such a bad habit.
It’s hard to think about our future needs. Humans weren’t designed to plan ahead. We needed to survive now and do whatever we needed at the moment. We prioritize short-term needs over long-term ones. When we push things off, we truly believe that the problems are no longer ours but our future selves, which we perceive as being someone else completely different. The situation escalates in times of stress. Our brains see these tasks that stress us out as threats to our self-esteem or well being. You may be completely aware that you’re only hurting yourself in the future, but you still only care about the current threat. It’s called the present bias!
The only way to break this cycle is to give your brain a better offer that it can’t refuse. It has to be something to get them to decide to do the task. It has to be something internal as well. The easiest way to illustrate this is through those who procrastinate starting a diet. You say you’re going to work out and eat healthily, but you keep pushing it off. The motivation has to come from within you or you’ll never be able to keep it up. Procrastination apps and hacks won’t work because you need to get your emotions in check so you can better handle the stressful moments and tasks.
Rewiring Your Emotional Coping Tools
Taking everything that we’ve said into consideration, it’s clear that one of the best ways to overcome procrastination is by reassessing your coping mechanisms. Procrastination is essentially an emotional issue, but the good news is that there are plenty of healthy tools available instead of procrastinating. What is a better reward than avoidance? Allow yourself a timeout to truly feel the emotions that you’re feeling. This not only improves your productivity in the long run, but is a much healthier way of coping with your emotions. I’m not claiming to be a mental health expert, but I do know a thing about health and wellness, and one of those things is that bottling up and avoiding your emotions is never the answer. When you catch yourself procrastinating, take a minute to try and understand what emotion it is that you’re trying to avoid. It’s actually pretty easy once you create a safe space for yourself to do so.
We all procrastinate from time to time. This avoidant behavior doesn’t need to be our go-to for bottling up emotions. The bad news is that procrastination cannot be resolved overnight, but the good news is that there are ways to overcome it. It takes a great deal of self-awareness and self compassion, but it’s all in the name of productivity!