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Learn How to Stop Procrastinating

I read two articles on procrastination, along with overwhelm, which I wrote about in my previous blog, a word I dislike and avoid using. Both said more or less the same thing, which I’ve been saying for years. The word procrastination has gotten a bad rap and is not a permanent state of being, though it might be a habituated behavior you’ve come to rely on. If you’re ready to beat it, read on.

“Why your brain loves procrastination” by Susannah Locke (Why Your Brain Loves Procrastination – Vox, https://getpocket.com/explore/item/why-your-brain-loves-procrastination, accessed 3/26/19) tells us that procrastination is nothing more than a coping mechanism to avoid doing something unpleasant and, instead, doing something we enjoy. Hardly a crime or a sin. However, that’s how we treat ourselves when we put off tasks. Instead, hoping to increase motivation, we’re hard on ourselves and the opposite happens: we feel worse. The key, says Lock, is to be more compassionate. Now, where have you heard that before, that self-compassion is a better motivator than self-criticism?

Another interesting concept is the “future self” which we need to be able to picture and focus on to make improvements in our thinking and behavior. If you see your future self as an updated version of your present self, this is good news. It’s a reminder that you can become who and how you want to be by making certain choices now. The article also talks about how involuntary procrastination feels as if it’s a compulsion. It isn’t; it’s simply a choice your present self makes to stay the same.

In “Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control)” by Charlotte Liberman, 3/25/19, NY Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/25/smarter-living/why-you-procrastinate-it-has-nothing-to-do-with-self-control.html, accessed 3/26/19), Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa, says that, “Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem… the primacy of short-term mood repair … over the longer-term pursuit of intended actions. Like ice cream and binge-worthy TV, it’s a way of eliminating down feelings and lifting up your spirits.

The articles goes on to say that sometimes your bummer mood is because you keep telling yourself you hate a certain task, but other times it’s due to deeper inadequacy feelings about yourself and low self-esteem. The task isn’t simply not going to be fun; it’s going to be a sure failure—and then how’re you going to feel? These crummy, beat-yourself-up feelings even have a name: “procrastinatory cognitions.” It turns out that this putting off is another example of what’s called “present bias,” our hard wiring to avoid threats now, not the ones that might occur down the road. The article recommends thinking of procrastination not on a moral level (about productivity) but on an emotional one and find rewards better than avoidance of tasks. The article encourages us to forgive ourselves for being human and heap on the self-compassion. To learn other ways to manage procrastination, take a few minutes to read the rest of the article. By the way, this is something you might want to do right now, rather than put it off.

Best,

Karen

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