Overcoming Anxiety: Tip #8
"Ehh, I'll do it later."
"I'll start it tomorrow."
"I still have plenty of time."
Procrastination can certainly get the best of us, even though it feels great in the moment to put something off. Who wouldn't want to watch TV, play a game, spend time with family/friends, go out for dinner, spend time on the computer/social media instead of doing chores, school work, and paying bills - all of which don't exactly scream "fun?"
While most of us would agree that procrastination is a bad habit, why do we often engage in it? Some reasons include:
1.) We have a perfectionist side to us: We fear we won't be able to accomplish something exactly right. Rather than begin a task and risk perceived failure, we choose not to begin at all. We may think, "If we don't start, we can't fail, right?"
2.) We aim too high: When accomplishing a task, especially one that is large and daunting, we think about finishing the entire task in one sitting, rather than breaking it down into smaller, more manageable projects. Instead of telling ourselves to just get started, we think, "I don't see myself getting this all done today, so why bother starting at all?" (Think back to Tip #6: Refrain from All or Nothing Thinking).
3.) We simply do not feel motivated, and believe our own excuses: On the surface, paying bills and sorting through mail seems boring, time-consuming, and not a great use of our time after a long day of work. There is no instant gratification from sorting through mail. "Maybe if I watch TV, go shopping, do the daily Crossword, see a movie, and then prepare my meals for the week, I'll feel more motivated later, right?"
While there are numerous reasons for procrastination, it's important to recognize the effect it has on you. Leaving tasks for the last minute can cause anxiety levels to soar, and panic to set in. You may begin to question whether you can accomplish everything in front of you in such a short period of time. With such heightened anxiety and fear, productivity levels often drop, as it can be difficult to focus and work efficiently. This is usually the point when we get angry with ourselves, wish we had't procrastinated, and promise to kick the habit moving forward. However, this cycle can continue for days, weeks, months, and even years.
So, how do you say goodbye to procrastination?
Well, with practice of course!
Make a mental (and I recommend a written note), of what the anxiety feels like when you procrastinate, and why it is important for you to end this habit.
Break down a large task into smaller, more manageable tasks. Remind yourself that the entire task does not need to get done in one sitting (that's what procrastination is for)!
If you would rather watch TV or go on social media instead of completing a portion of your school/work assignment, make a promise that you will reward yourself with those activities once the designated portion is complete - and then actually follow through!
This shows that you don't need to give up enjoyable activities, but simply put them on a temporary hold. Think about how much more enjoyment you would get out of chatting with your friend, going shopping, or having fun on the computer, knowing the task you intended to accomplish is done!
Take a moment to pause and congratulate yourself when you avoid procrastination. Keep a tally or checklist of those moments to visually remind yourself that you are capable of breaking the habit.
And remember, procrastination is intentionally putting something off. Recognize that unpredictable factors do come into play in everyday life, causing us to put off some tasks in favor of more important concerns in the moment. If you're feeling sick, have a family emergency, or your car breaks down, these are legitimate reasons for having to put something off. This is prioritizing your responsibilities, not procrastination.
However, it can be tempting to start using more and more factors as excuses to save a task for later. This is when procrastination kicks back in. When deciding whether to accomplish a task or put it off, ask yourself, "Is there any reason I could not accomplish this task right now if I truly wanted to?"
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