If you are constantly asking yourself,
Why can’t I just do this?
What’s wrong with me?
You’re most likely trapped in a cycle of procrastination.
Let me reassure you, there’s nothing wrong with you.
The reason you and I and the rest of the world put things off is because of stress.
Stress triggers our procrastination.
Phew, Right? What a relief!
You aren’t lazy or incapable.
Instead of asking yourself those self-deprecating questions, ask yourself the questions that based on research are the questions you should be asking yourself when you’re procrastinating.
How am I feeling right now?
What is truly stressing me out?
There is a deeper issue that triggers you to procrastinate. It’s deeper than you don’t feel like doing it.
Here are 4 key take aways that will help you understand what procrastination really is about.
Take Away 1: Stop labeling yourself a procrastinator.
You have the habit of procrastinating. It’s not your identity. It’s not a personality trait. It’s a broken pattern of behavior that you need to understand and then replace it with something better. If procrastination is chronic in your life, that’s a sign that the stress in your life is also chronic.
Take Away 2: There are 2 kinds of procrastination.
Productive procrastination is when you take a break, go outside, take a walk, journal, to help relieve stress.
Destructive procrastination is an entirely different animal. It’s when we avoid the work we need to get done and know there will be negative consequences. This habit really comes back to bite you in the end.
Every one of us has a pile of stuff we can’t seem to get to: updating photo albums, analyzing a spreadsheet, finishing a proposal, cleaning out Dad’s house, or plowing through a to-do list that would grow your business. It’s anything that we find ourselves deliberately avoiding that really needs to get done.
Destruction procrastination are those micro behaviors like scrolling on social media, watching Netflix, playing games on your phone. All those tiny micro delays add up to more hours in a week than you can imagine. If you knew you’re scrolling was costing you 30 hours a week, you’d want to change that.
There is a reason you do these things.
These micro behaviors make you feel better. They relieve your stress, temporarily, but don’t get you back on track.
Take Away 3: You CAN learn to stop procrastinating.
You’re stuck in a procrastination cycle. You can call the doctor, you can apply for that program, you can write that dissertation. You are capable.
Take Away 4: Procrastination is triggered by stress.
Procrastination has nothing to do with what you need to do. Procrastination is not about if you’re capable or not. It’s about fear and stress.
The definition of procrastination; Avoiding or putting something off. Delaying it.
You are avoiding stress, not the thing. You blow off things that take brain power. You are trying to avoid stress. Procrastination is the attempt to feel better at this moment.
Timothy Pychyl, a psychology professor at Carleton University, has been studying procrastination for more than 2 decades. Dr. Pychyl has found that the main thing driving procrastination is not avoiding work. It’s avoiding stress.
We procrastinate because we feel stressed out. Here’s the catch…you aren’t stressed about the work. You are stressed about the bigger stuff: money, relationship problems, or life in general.
When you blow off work or studying for 15 minutes of online shopping or watching the highlights of last night’s game, you are taking a mini stress-break from the bigger stress you feel overall.
It’s like emotional eating for the mind. When you avoid something that feels hard, you get a sense of relief.
Plus, when you do something you enjoy, like watching YouTube Videos, you get a short-term boost of dopamine.
The more often you procrastinate, the more likely you’ll repeat the behavior.
Here’s the problem: While you get a small boost of relief when you watch dog videos, over time, the work that you are avoiding builds and that creates more stress in your life.
Stress triggers your brain into survival mode, creating a fight, flight, or freeze response in your body. Procrastination is freezing.
You’ve got to get in front of this procrastination habit or it will very quickly spiral out of control. Even though you don’t want to procrastinate, it starts to feel comfortable. Comfortable doesn’t mean you like it, it means you’re used to it, it’s familiar.
Ready for the Simple 3 Step Process (based on research) to break the vicious cycle of procrastination and take back your time and your life? Here we go!
Step 1: When you catch yourself procrastinating, forgive yourself.
Forgive yourself for upsetting people, falling behind, and not working to your full potential.
According to research from Timothy Pychyl, people who forgive themselves are less likely to procrastinate again.
Step 2: You must identify what you’re stressed about.
It’s beyond the thing you’re procrastinating about. It might be that you’re stressed about test results for your Dad, or how the heck four years of college have gone by and now you have to figure out what to do next in your life. When you identify the deeper thing, the thing you’re actually stressed about, it loosens its grip on you.
Step 3: What does the future you want you to do right now?
Our “future self” is the person that we want to become. Interestingly, research proves that when you can picture the “Future You,” it gives you the objectivity to push yourself in the present moment.
It is never too late to wake up and be the person you want to be. You have to act like you believe in yourself before you believe in yourself. Act before you feel ready.
Start for 1 minute. This is doing time. Start writing for 1 minute. Start playing for 1 minute.
Wrapping it Up
Whenever you’re stressed in life, your brain will do what it can to, in the words of researchers, “feel good right now.”
Remember, the problem isn’t your ability to do what you need to do. The problem is you’ve been trapped in this stress cycle. Procrastination is a habit.
Procrastination is not about laziness or lack of discipline. It’s not something you do because you’re dumb. It’s a coping mechanism, to feel better, to lessen the stress in your life. And you deserve to lessen the stress in your life.