Anyone who regularly procrastinates will tell you that they want to do the thing but they just keep putting it off. Often when we procrastinate we justify it to ourselves by prioriting things with low urgency that still give us that good feeling of that comes from getting things done.
We tell ourselves we’ll start later or tomorrow and we convince ourselves that that we still have enough time to get it done.
But what tends to happen is we just continue to put things off more and more. We do this until our stress levels start to increase and we reach the point where if we don’t start now we’ll miss the deadline.
And so you finally begin.
I had a recent experience with procrastination and once the work was complete I ended up reflecting on my behaviour.
When you get into the habit of choosing to procrastinate until the last possible moment, you train yourself to rely on stress to get things done. And so the next time you have a deadline you’re unable to find the motivation because you’re waiting for the adrenaline to kick in.
I think there are 2 main ways to stop procrastinating.
The first way is to experience things going wrong as a result of your procrastination. When our habits have negative implications this encourages a change in behaviour. It might start with you giving yourself 5 days for something instead of two and slowly build up until you become someone who always makes sure they have enough time.
The second is to just start straight away next time. We tell ourselves it’s difficult to start and just decide that it’s true when it’s not at all. Starting takes a little effort and commitment but it’s not as challenging as you tell yourself.
It’ll probably help to remind yourself of the benefits of starting straight away like being able to work at a steady pace instead of having to cram everything into a short period of time.
If you’re someone with a habit of procrastinating, it might not seem easy to change but it’s definitely possible.
The internet and social media in particular can get very overwhelming. There’s always something new to see.
Trying to keep up with it all can be stressful. Instead of just knowing about the lives and thoughts of your close friends and family, you now have an insight into the lives of millions of other people.
Sometimes you might find yourself picking up your phone every few moments with no real purpose except to check for something new and of course there is and so you keep doing it over and over again.
When you find yourself excessively checking, what you probably need is to take a break and disconnect.
Put your phone down and maybe even just turn it off for a few hours or a few days. See how you feel.
You’re likely to find that the less you check your phone, the less you feel the need to check.
In the right environment pressure can be a really good thing. For example when you’re focused and working hard a couple days (or hours) before a deadline.
But that feeling isn’t something we should rely on to get things done or have in our life on a daily basis.
Although it can be helpful in the short-term, the long-term effects are best avoided.
Things like low energy, insomnia, chest pain, headaches and tense muscles can all come as a result of pressure.
But a little pressure here and there isn’t so bad if you know how to make use of it.
If you go through a period of stress or anxiety, something that can work wonders is taking a break.
It might seem counter productive and you might feel like the better thing to do is pull yourself deeper into what ever has gotten you off balance.
But further exposing yourself to thing that isn’t making you feel good is probably not going to make you feel any better.
What you might need is to take a break.
In this day and age, in our go, go, go society it can be challenging to really take a break from your day to day life.
And so I think it’s important to figure out what helps you rest, reset and refresh your mind.
It could be a walk in nature where you’re away from buildings and cars but surrounded by greenery and wild flowers.
It could be a massage, something that forces you have to stay still and you have to put your phone away.
And once you’re done you’ll know that it worked when you can go back to thing that had you feeling stressed but you now feel calm and at peace.
There’s a popular saying that goes ‘Slow progress is better than no progress’. I totally agree.
What we often do is rush because we want progress to be quick.
Perhaps this is because slow progress doesn’t feel like moving forward in the moment. It’s only, in a few weeks or months time that you’re able to see how far you’ve come.
This idea of choosing to rush instead of embracing slow progress can be applied to many scenarios, one of which is procrastination.
Dedicating a few days to get something done is often much more appealing than spending a few weeks doing something bit by bit.
But often we don’t have a few days spare, just a few moments each week.
And the great thing about slow progress is that it helps build a habit of long term commitment.
On the other hand when you rush you’re relying on adrenaline and cortisol, what your body releases as a response to stress which is great in the short-tun but not something you want to make a habit out of.
Just a little reminder for whenever you get overwhelmed with everything that is going on. It can be easy to forget how far you’ve come or all the helpful things that you’ve learnt.
Going for a walk – I think this must be one of the most popular things that people do to clear their head plus it gets the body moving.
Sitting in silence – We rarely sit in silence there’s always something whether you’re listening by choice or it’s background noise like music, TV or a conversation.
Talking to a friend – Choose someone that will listen but be mindful and ask before offloading. You don’t have to even talk about the issue at hand maybe just have a random chat about life.
Talking to a stranger – Not literally but some that is unbiased and not part of your everyday life like a therapist or a helpline set up to support people with different issues they’re facing.
Meditation – Maybe your mediation is sitting in silence but maybe it’s a guided mediation to ease stress or anxiety. It helps to be still sometimes and we often underestimate the impact it can have because we feel like it won’t help to just stop or at least slow down.
EFT – Also known as tapping. This is probably one of the most unexpectedly helpful things I’ve ever come across. I love that it doesn’t require any materials and is easy to do.
Laughter – They call laughter the medicine of life and I believe it. Something funny can totally shift your mood on days when you feel down.
Dancing – Dancing brings me so much joy and it’s another way to get the body moving. When your feeling down and remain still it enables the emotions to become heavy and weigh you down. Plus if dancing is something you associate with fun or celebrations it’ll actually help you feel better.
Uplifting words – Whether it’s podcasts, talks, songs or books, find words that uplift you. I even find it helpful to read back my own words because much of what I write is timeless and based around overcoming challenges.
Sometimes you just need to against the easy option.
Panic is really easy to do. A moment of stress or overwhelm often ends in panic when you don’t know how to handle the situation.
If you find yourself panicking in these situations often, it’ll eventually become a habit. Even when you can handle the situation if you give yourself patience, once you get used to going into panic mode it’ll end up happening at any opportunity.
So, you have to teach yourself not to panic.
It mainly takes patience but you also have to be able to catch yourself in the moment before you start to freak out.
You have to remind yourself that the situation isn’t too much for you and that you’re capable of coming up with a solution.
Now might be the perfect time.
If you find yourself stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, you might also feel a little helpless.
But the chances are you actually have a pretty good idea of what you can do to help yourself.
Rest, put your phone down, turn off your tv or computer, phone a friend, stretch…
However, despite knowing what to do and knowing what will help, we refuse to tend to our own needs.
People will often say things like I don’t have time to rest or I’m too busy to take a break.
But the truth is that mindset comes from not valuing taking care of your well being.
It might feel strange at first but it’s much better for you to regularly rest from life than to be forced to rest every time you work yourself into the ground.
How do you decide what’s worth doing now?
Putting something off because it has no urgency or immediate impact if you don’t do it now is reasonable.
Putting something off that you know you should be doing now is silly.
The more time you let slip away, the more the urgency increases. Suddenly the thing that would have been manageable over a 6 week span has to be done within a few days with no assurance that it’ll be done well.
When you find yourself in those situations you’ll realise that some things aren’t worth putting off.
There must be some explanation for why we do it.
When you don’t want to do something or you know it won’t be easy, putting it off feels good. There’s pleasure in indulging in the freedom of future deadlines, future work or future responsibilities.
But that doesn’t mean that you can avoid them forever. That pleasurable feeling of freedom and not doing what you “posed to do” can’t last. You see the thing is whether you do it now or later you still have to get it done.
Instead of indulging in procrastination pleasure followed by an intense stressful period, choose to indulge in productivity pleasure and give yourself as much time as you can in order to do things well.
Sure pressure creates diamonds but constantly putting yourself through stress when you don’t need to could result in insomnia, chest pain and diarrhoea.
You might be used to doing things one way but that’s no reason not to try something new.