It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 5 years since I last wrote a post for my blog. Since my last post I’ve changed jobs, had a baby, lost touch with my yoga practice / reconnected with my practice and written 27 draft posts.
For one reason or another I just haven’t been able to bring myself to complete a post and publish it. So I thought for my first post in a very long time it would be fitting to explore why we put things off.
Sure all of us can put things off from time to time and sometimes prioritising things to make the best use of your time is the best thing to do. But chronic procrastination is a different beast! In my life right now I feel like I’m the queen of unnecessarily postponing things, even thought I know I’ll be worse off for not doing them . But I’m not alone – it’s a very common habit with recent studies finding that 20 per cent of adults are chronic procrastinators.
Despite what you might think, procrastination isn’t a sign of laziness. In fact it’s more about emotion regulation than time management.
So why do we do it? It relates to emotional self-regulation, that is it’s a way of coping with challenging emotions and negatives mood brought on by certain tasks. So in short we procrastinate to avoid feelings like boredom, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, resentment and self-doubt. The nature of the aversion depends on the task, here are some examples:
- Hating the task – it’s really tedious, difficult, boring or stressful
- A lack of confidence or self esteem – the fear of failure or being a perfectionist
- Being easily distracted – just can’t stay focused on the task
- Feeling overwhelmed – the job feels too big or unachievable
- Hitting a creatively blocked – can’t solve the problem or feeling uninspired
It’s important to take some time to try understand why you are putting something off so that you can take actions that will best support you to get the important things done.
Here are some things you can consider to help things along
- Attach a reward to getting the task done. This is essentially the Premack principle – a less desired behaviour can be reinforced by the opportunity to engage in a more desired behaviour.
- Focus on just the next action. At the start of a task can you consider what the next action would be. Ask yourself, what’s the next action I would take if I were going to do it. Maybe it’s writing the heading at the top of a document or it’s the separating of washing or opening an email. Don’t wait to be in the mood to do a task, let your motivation be built on your action.
- Set yourself up in a distraction free environment. This might mean just putting your phone in another room or turning off notifications while you are trying to focus.
- Enlist Help. Find someone to keep you accountable. Tell someone that you won’t do X until you’ve done Y or that you want to do X by a certain date.
- Build your skill set. If you’re lacking confidence in a particular area are there any courses you can take, people that you can learn from, opportunities to practice and get feedback. No one is an expert at anything straight away, so try to support yourself to crawl before you walk. And if you find yourself stalling out of fear try and tell yourself the mantra “progress not perfection”.
- Look after yourself. It’s really hard to get anything done if you’re feeling exhausted or your anxiety is through the roof. Take a look at how you are living – are you getting enough sleep? are you eating well? do you get regular exercise or send time outdoors? do you meditate or find time to decompress without technology? If you read this list and its overwhelming thinking about all the things that aren’t what they should be then try starting with sleep. That is unless of course you have a tiny human that’s in control of your sleep right now, then maybe it’s getting out for a walk with bub once a day.
- Practice self compassion. There’s so much to be gained from being compassionate with yourself, particularly when mistakes are made or things don’t turn out the way you had hoped. Finding kindness and understanding for yourself can do a lot to help improve motivation and personal growth. Things that can help build self compassion include guided meditations on self compassion, practising daily gratitude where a least one thing you are grateful for each day relates to yourself and if you catch yourself being critical try flipping that thinking on its head by replacing it with something kind and positive. Of course it’s not easy to just change the way you speak to yourself but like any new habit if you start small and gradually build it up, that small change could build into a lift changing new perspective.
Before writing this post I’d assumed that procrastination was all about motivation and time management. I’d never considered that it would be more about trying to avoid unwanted emotions. But once I knew what it was all about it made a lot more sense to me; I’ve never been very good at sitting with unpleasant emotions and am a big seeker of ways to avoid.
So in light of what I’ve learnt writing this post I’m going to put it out there that I will write at least 1 post a month. Here’s to getting things done!
With love and kindness
p.s if there’s any particular topics you’d like to me explore and write about please do reach out and let me know
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is now.Chinese Proverb