- The way I see it:
We all procrastinate. And we do it especially with the important tasks, or the most difficult and demanding ones. But it’s not because we are lazy or we aren’t motivated enough. If you procrastinate, first, it might be that that particular task, really matters to you. But it’s hard, difficult, requires effort and it can put your performance (and yourself?) into question. Reason why we postpone the pain of a potential failure, “not being good enough”, by the immediate reward of delaying it. Not really a smart move as we end up feeling worse about ourselves
A potential solution: take a deep breath, embrace what and how you feel, don’t judge yourself, and divide it into small tasks. One step at a time my dear.
What Procrastination is (and isn't).
“Procrastination is a voluntary delay of an intended act despite the knowledge that this delay may harm us,” Pychyl explains in his book Solving the Procrastination Puzzle. That is, procrastination is by definition an irrational behavior because it runs counter to our own idea of what will make us happy.
Specifically, procrastination is an “emotion-focused coping strategy to deal with negative emotions,” Pychyl explains. It goes something like this:
- We sit down to do a task.
- We project into the future about what the task will feel like.
- We predict that the task will not feel good (e.g., will stress us out, make us feel bad, etc.).
- Our emotional coping strategy kicks in to keep us away from this bad feeling.
- We avoid the task.
The fear of procrastination: Your Inner Critic.
Let’s start with the relationship between self-compassion and procrastination because it’s both counterintuitive and revealing. What’s the first thing you do when you catch yourself indulging in a particularly egregious spell of procrastination? Do you tell yourself, “What’s wrong with you? Pull yourself together and get your work done!” That lack of self-compassion might be exactly what’s causing your procrastination in the first place, according to the research.
Or maybe you don’t beat yourself up. Maybe you just hang your head and feel guilty for the work you’ve put off. But feeling guilty is no better. Guilt can be one type of “ruminative thinking,” which also exacerbates procrastination. That is, we get caught up in our own narrative about how bad we feel for putting off our work, which feeds on itself and drains our ability to get the work done.
The first, which comes from Buddhist psychology, is the idea of the “monkey mind” that we all share. “The monkey mind never stops and you can’t make it stop,” Pychyl says. “Instead, you’ve got to give the monkey something to do.”
The second idea, which comes from more traditional psychology, is that our emotions can’t be pushed aside or ignored. So when we have a strong aversion to getting our work done, we can’t ignore this feeling.
The third part comes from David Allen, the founder of the Getting Things Done™ method, which is the idea that we don’t do projects when we work; we do actions. In other words, the mountain of work that we picture ourselves wading through is really just a set of smaller, discrete actions that have to be taken one at a time. We put our pants on one leg at a time and write our articles one word at a time.
Next time you’re faced with a project that’s causing so much stress it feels like your amygdala is stabbing icicles into your eyeballs, try taking a deep breath. Let go of whatever self-judgment you’re adding to the mix, and ask yourself, “What’s the next task?”
Not only might you get more work done–you might even enjoy it.
- FastCompany.com, by Sam Kemmis,