Well it is fitting that this week is World Procrastination Week and I have been procrastination at least a week about writing this blog!
In the mean time I have cleaned my house, de-cluttered my wardrobe, shopped online, checked social media and managed to find all manner of jobs that have suddenly become VERY important. What is going on?
The definition of procrastination is “the voluntary irrational delay of something in spite of a negative outcome”. It is estimated that 20% of us (yes I am including myself in this!) are chronic procrastinators and it robs us of success because we are not doing what we need to to get ahead. I have decided I am going to get on top of this,(…perhaps tomorrow…haha only joking) once and for all.
So this is what I’ve learned. Most, if not all, of us have put off doing something because we just didn’t feel like it or for some other reason. We tell ourselves we’ll feel more like doing it tomorrow/next week, or we will avoid doing the important task by doing a multitude of useful, but less important tasks instead. Sometimes the action of doing the smaller tasks acts as primer to get us in the mood to tackle a bigger issue and that works for us. However, if we never get round to that bigger issue then, that task we are avoiding can play on our minds day in and day out, causing a huge amount of stress. Along with the stress there can be insomnia, gastric problems, alcohol problems, colds and flu due to immune system failure, and guilt and regret from knowing you are procrastinating. If you work as a team and you are not doing what you should, then this can also lead to resentment in other team members as they are forced to pick up your work.
But what do we get out of this behaviour that keeps us repeating this stressful action?
Instant gratification! In the short term we are rewarding ourselves by not doing the task. That relief we feel when we don’t do the important task makes us feel better initially and then every time we procrastinate we form a habit with a little reward built in. Highly analytical people with a lot on their plate use this as stress relief in the short term and then run into problems as the habit is formed. Hmmm…
So the 3 main types of procrastinators are:
Adrenalin seekers – Some people put off things until the last minute, believing they perform better under pressure but this is not usually true. They are actually addicted to the adrenaline rush they get when they really HAVE to do it.
Avoiders – These people put off doing the task for fear of failure ( or fear of success)
Decisional – They are unable to make a decision because they don’t want to take any responsibility for the outcome, good or bad.
Which one are you? Perhaps you have a bit of all of them in you or perhaps you recognise a couple of these traits. As long as its not a problem to you and causing you all manner of stress then that’s okay. For the rest of us there are a few tips and tricks to make life easier and potentially break those habits.
What to do..
~ Self criticism doesn’t work so be compassionate with yourself.
~ Relieve any immediate anxiety by switching off your primitive brain (fight or flight response) using 7-11 breathing techniques and allowing your frontal brain to become active. When your primitive brain is engaged your frontal brain switches off and you are reacting quickly to get immediate gratification and avoid pain.
~ Limit social media and email checking by switching off your phone or silencing it and putting it in another room. This is another instrument giving us instant gratification and can distract for hours and days! Be aware of what you are doing.
~ Develop routines and habits as this prevents the primitive brain from kicking in and enables our more creative minds to come into play, or out to play 🙂
~ Plan your day. I don’t mean write a to-do list but write down 3 things that will move you forward towards your task. If you leave it to chance, your primitive brain will kick in quickly.
~ Just start. Just making a start, no matter how small, can result in you getting on with the task as the brain doesn’t want to let go once it has started. So you may have decided to spend 10 minutes but then before you know it an hour has passed.
~ Implemantation intention. This is WHAT action we plan and WHEN or WHERE we plan to take it. Studies have shown that this is very effective at getting us to do a task and overcome delayed gratification. An example of this strategy is ” IF….. THEN…..” so e.g. “IF its after lunch on a Monday THEN I will write my blog”. When we set a goal we have an intention to do something but we don’t specify when we are going to do it. This is our usual to-do list. However, when we link an action with a cue then we are setting up a habit. As a habit becomes an unconscious action then we do not have to think about it because it is triggered automatically. This sounds like a useful little trick to put into action!
So there you have it. A few useful tips and tricks to get you started so you can alleviate the chronic stress of procrastination and feel and do better. If there are deeper reasons underlying your actions, such as self esteem issues, perfectionism, unrealistic expectations of yourself, fear of not being good enough, to name but a few, then you would be well advised to seek help. A hypnotherapist like myself can get to the root cause of your actions and aid you in updating your belief systems which may have been formed in childhood and preventing you from moving forward. It is never too late to make changes that matter to you and allow you to live a better life free from pain.
Love to hear your thoughts…