Why You Are Really Procrastinating And How To Stop It For Good
Is that urgent project still lingering on your to-do list? Do you think ‘maybe next year’ for that big life change you’ve been wanting? Whether it’s a work or home project or perhaps a bigger life change or resolution, procrastination can really hold us back. As well as the stress that procrastinating can cause, it can also lead to serious health conditions such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Without procrastination, we feel like we can take on the world and be so much more productive. Our goals seem so much easier to achieve. However, procrastination isn’t merely about lowering productivity or being lazy; it’s a powerful tool for self-protection. As soon as you figure out exactly why you’re procrastinating and what you are protecting yourself from, you can start to put in place the measures that can pull you out of the pit of procrastination and get you back on track again.
What is procrastination?
Procrastination is more than just putting off a task with mindless busywork and reducing our productive output. In fact, procrastination has little to do with productivity at all.
Procrastination is actually the way the brain copes with some of the challenging emotions that come with a task. If you’re putting off an important project or life goal, it is not your lack of productivity to blame. Instead, it is the emotions and issues that you associate with the activity which make you not want, or feel unable, to do it.
For example, if you’re putting off preparing for the presentation at work, it is unlikely that laziness is the reason. Moreover, you likely feel self-doubt about delivering the presentation. Perhaps presenting makes you feel anxious. It could be that you don’t feel like you know enough to be the voice of authority on the matter, or maybe talking to a crowd of people scares you.
Why are you procrastinating?
We all procrastinate for different reasons, and each task that we procrastinate on will come with its own set of negative emotions. However, popular reasons why we procrastinate include;
- Low self-esteem – Not feeling good enough to complete the task.
- Boredom – This isn’t what I truly want to be doing or how I want my life to be.
- Self-doubt/Imposter Syndrome – Am I really the right person for the job? I will never reach my goals.
- Unpleasant task – This activity that doesn’t sit comfortably with me. It makes me unhappy.
- Insecurity – ‘They’ want me to fail.
- Anxiety – The thought of the task and its aftermath is too scary to contemplate; it makes my heart race and makes me sick with nerves.
- Stress – If I do this task, then I’ve got a million more things to tick off the list afterwards.
Procrastination and the brain
You may not have even thought about the negative emotions that you associate with a task. However, deep down, your mind is struggling to cope with the feelings you experience when you think about your objective.
Because of the negativity you experience, the brain prioritises managing the negative moods over completing the activity. The mind wants to get rid of the bad thoughts and negative emotions. It sees this as a more urgent task, so it tells you to put off the task which gives you instant relief.
However, sadly, procrastination is a never-ending cycle. Every time you think about the task again, it causes more stress and anxiety alongside all of the other negative emotions you are feeling. This will usually make you procrastinate again and again until you have no other option of giving in and getting the job done (often without your usual high standards) or avoiding the task altogether.
Procrastination = Rewards
The relief from the negative emotions when we procrastinate feels like a reward to the brain. We naturally have reward-driven behaviour which makes us want to do something over again to continue receiving the rewards. Unfortunately, however stressful and annoying procrastinating is, it is very difficult to escape the procrastinating-rewards trap.
At one level, we want to banish procrastination completely. After all, it generally makes us angry and disappointed in ourselves. However, at another level, our brain knows that procrastination = rewards, making it harder to break the cycle.
So, is it actually possible to break the cycle of procrastination?
Only if you change your mindset.
How to beat procrastination for good
Realise and Recognise
So, reading every article on the internet is more critical than that assignment? Deep cleaning the kitchen really can’t wait? As soon as you see your typical signs of procrastination, recognise it and realise it. Call yourself out on what you are doing. The next step is to work out why you are procrastinating.
Take a break
The rewards centre of the brain will love the fact that you are taking a break from the negative emotions of the task. However, this break is a chance to remove yourself from the immediate situation and work out what negative emotions are hindering your progress.
Find somewhere quiet to sit, go for a walk or doing something mindless so you have the mental space to think about what negative emotions you are feeling and why this could be leading you to procrastinate.
Don’t be angry
We don’t just procrastinate so we can be unproductive. There is more to it than that. So, don’t get mad or give yourself a hard time. You are procrastinating for a reason, so be open to the possibilities of why that may be. It may be something that you have been trying to bury for a long time. Show yourself kindness and welcome any thoughts that come to mind that can shed some light on the situation.
In a positive and kind state, realise that your procrastination is setting you up for more stress or a bigger issue in the long run. Think about your procrastination and what the consequences may be. Weigh up the current negative feeling and the feelings you will have if you procrastinate for much longer. It may help to rate your negative emotions on a scale of one to ten to see the difference.
Create a plan of action that not only minimises the negative emotions you are experiencing but also meets the needs of the reward centre in the brain. This plan should be realistic. Start small by breaking down to activity into more achievable chunks. Make sure you make it as easy as possible to start and provide lots of rewarding milestones along the way to keep you motivating on achieving positive results.
Visualise the positive results of starting and completing the tasks. See yourself taking the first steps and imagine what it will feel like. Make your visualisation as big and as bright as possible until you feel like you are really there.
Take that first step
Now, you should be ready to take the first step in your plan of action. If you are unable to do it alone, then there is no shame in seeking help from your colleagues, friends, partner or someone else entirely.
Are negative emotions hindering your success?
If you’re struggling to move past the negative emotions that are getting in your way, then hypnotherapy can really help to tap into these emotions and truly understand the reason behind them. Together we can work out where you are being held back and what you need to move forward with positivity. Based on your personal story, I will create a bespoke and blended therapy package designed to keep you motivated and get the results you want to see.
Find out more with a free consultation. Book your free session today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s get rid of procrastination for good!