How to stop procrastination.

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Before writing this article, I stopped, went for a walk, cleaned the bathroom, updated my website and then realised that I still needed to write about Procrastination. I know I’m not the only one who wonders “how to stop procrastination”, and “do introverts procrastinate more”, so let’s get on with it!

What is procrastination?

Procrastination is putting off doing what we set out to do. It’s a choice, we choose to do other things instead or allow ourselves (that’s also a choice) to drift off into doing other things.

The word “procrastination” is said to come from the Latin procrastinare, “to put off until tomorrow”. But I’ve also read it’s also derived from the ancient Greek akrasia (weakness of will). Some sources say it comes from both (which seems odd to me). So, rather than doing the introvert perfection thing, I’ll leave that one to you to decide!

Why do we procrastinate?

Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa says

“It’s all about our feelings”

“Procrastination is the misregulation of emotion. We think that by putting things off, we’re going to feel better.”

That seems odd as whenever I realise I’m procrastinating I feel bad, sometimes putting things off leads to stress (for me at least). When stressed it’s a lot harder to think about, or decide about, the future. So, the more stressed I become about my procrastination, the harder it gets to consider the future reward and the more I’m likely to put things off. Key to that is “when I realise I’m procrastinating”, as before I realise I was feeling better not doing the hard stuff.

If the perceived pain of doing something is higher than the reward (at least in the short term), I’ll do other things which are less painful and generate some short term feel good (perhaps even reading stuff on Facebook).

Which makes procrastination a way of avoiding challenging emotions (which could include fear of not doing), rather than doing the things we ought to.

“Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem,” (Pychyl)

Do introverts procrastinate more?

Introverts tend to think things through more before getting started but that, in itself, is not procrastinating.

Procrastination might be worse if you’re suffering negative feelings like self-doubt, low self-esteem, anxiety or insecurity. Sure, introverts have feelings like that, but they’re not exclusive to introverts.

But introverts can be “guilty” of descending into internal reflection. When I started writing this article, I was thinking “am I good enough write this”, “what will people think of it”, “will people criticise it”. That can be a negative trait of introversion and one which we need to manage. So if you’re prone to negative reflection, you might be more likely to procrastinate.

In each case the thoughts (feelings) were painful and  procrastination relieved the pain (at least for a while), despite me knowing the pain hadn’t gone away. It’s a short-term bias over longer term needs.

 

Descending into internal debate?

 

 

Descending into self reflection?

 

 

Can be an introvert tendency.

 

 

That can make procrastination worse.

Do introverts procrastinate more?

Introverts tend to think things through more before getting started but that, in itself, is not procrastinating.

Procrastination might be worse if you’re suffering negative feelings like self-doubt, low self-esteem, anxiety or insecurity. Sure, introverts have feelings like that, but they’re not exclusive to introverts.

But introverts can be “guilty” of descending into internal reflection. When I started writing this article, I was thinking “am I good enough write this”, “what will people think of it”, “will people criticise it”. That can be a negative trait of introversion and one which we need to manage. So if you’re prone to negative reflection, you might be more likely to procrastinate.

In each case the thoughts (feelings) were painful and  procrastination relieved the pain (at least for a while), despite me knowing the pain hadn’t gone away. It’s a short-term bias over longer term needs.

Is procrastination just laziness?

Procrastination is not about laziness. Whenever I’m guilty of procrastination I’m always doing something else; something which at that moment gives me a better emotional reward: pain ratio.

Should I make six prospecting phones calls or, write this blog? The phone calls might be more important, but instead I write a blog. That’s not laziness but making a wrong choice. If phone calls are your nemesis, you’ll enjoy my discussion with “the telephone assassin” (published on 21/5/20) 

6 ideas on how to stop procrastination

Key to this “fixing” this is one’s short term/ long term reward and pain. That’s a personal balance, so the answer needs to be personal too!

  1. Be aware: The sooner I’m aware I am procrastinating, the sooner I can challenge myself to stop, before the guilt grows too high. As the guilt gets higher, it’s easier to put things off as it’s harder to think about the future.
  2. Self-compassion and forgiveness. Start by being kinder to yourself when you realise you’re procrastinating. This can relieve stress and enhance positive emotions, thus reducing part of the short-term cause of procrastination. It also reduces stress, making it easier to consider the longer term.
  3. What’s the reward? If it’s all about emotions and rewards, focus on the positive long term reward will help. What will people say, how will you feel about yourself?
  4. Minimise the pain: If I’m avoiding the pain of doing something, break it into smaller chunks. Make the pain smaller, then it’s easier to do. Just thinking of it as the next step can help.
  5. Monitor the feelings: When learning to meditate I learnt to observe feelings in my body. When I’m aware of procrastinating, observing the feelings can help, understanding the sensations in my body.
  6. Make the alternatives harder: If, when procrastinating, I go onto Facebook then turn the internet off. Put things in place to make the short-term reward more painful to achieve.

Things like “tell your study buddy” don’t work for me, as that’s more of an extroverted answer. What works for you?

 

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