Scrolling, watching cat videos over and over and de-tangling my hair brush are all things I love to do, and they are especially satisfying when there's a deadline looming! So, this weeks blog is all about the love and comfort procrastination brings to our lives.
Why do we love to procrastinate? Why do we revert to putting things off, especially when they need doing? My answer is simple, procrastination is a comfort blanket that keeps us from discomfort. I believe we have become so accustomed to comfort in our modern lives that we do everything to avoid the uncomfortable.
"But Sarah", I hear you reason, "looking at your phone keeps you in touch with what's going on in the world, and the cat videos make life a bit more fun, and, well, cleaning your hairbrush - that's just hygienic, right?" Yes, yes and yes again. BUT, when these things become avoidance tactics for not dealing with real life, making life lighter or actually getting stuff done, that's the problem. You see procrastination presents itself as a friend, but at it's heart it is, in fact, a foe.
There are many types of procrastinators and according to futurelearn.com there's a list of 'types'. Hand-up if you recognise any of these...
Worrier. Those who put things off because they worry about the challenge or about leaving their comfort zone.
Overdoer. Those who take on too much and then struggle to find the time to complete everything.
Perfectionist. Those who avoid tasks because they doubt their ability to complete them perfectly.
Dreamer. Those who put off tasks because they’re not good at focusing on the details.
Defier. Those who dislike someone dictating their schedule.
Crisis-maker. Those who put off tasks because they prefer working under the pressure of tight deadlines.
Right now, both my hands are up! I can identify with all of the above and turn to procrastination to make me feel better. And this is where procrastination presents itself as your BFF. It's sneaky and seems to smooth things over and make you feel good in the moment. But the moment does not last and the challenge, time frame, deadline or schedule still remains. This is where procrastination can become a habit and at worst a never ending cycle. We become afraid/stressed/uncomfortable and then put off 'the thing we really need to do', this brings a feeling relief - ahhh - and a hit of dopamine! But then we realise we still haven't done 'the thing', feel a rush of fear/stress/discomfort and so reach for our phone or watch another episode or clean the bathroom to experience that relief again. And so on and so forth.
So, what can we do? Habits and cycles need to be replaced to be broken. The wiring in our brain that is used to avoiding discomfort has to be re-routed. We need to establish a better relationship with fear and stress and allow ourselves to become uncomfortable. Let me be really clear here, procrastination is a choice. It is not something that happens to us, we choose to put off what is important.
Here are 5 ways to move from the habit of avoiding into the productivity of embracing; from cat videos to getting stuff done!
Know Your WHY and HOW
Knowing why you need to do something and how it will benefit you will get you started and help you to move forward. Ask yourself this important question, "What would future me thank me for doing today/right now?" Knowing your answer to this may change everything.
For example, you may not want to go to the gym and put it off by getting up late, scrolling on your phone or using the excuse "I'm too busy" - been there and bought many t-shirts! But, if you ask yourself, why you are going to the gym, how it will make you feel and why future you will thank you for it - you've got a solid foundation to build on. Tap into the feeling of how good you will feel, think about how it will make you healthier and ultimately benefit your wellbeing.
Short Term AND Long Term
Like I've said, procrastination is a comfort blanket - it feels really good in the moment. So a way of releasing its grip and the habit of hiding behind it is to remember this saying: Short Term Discomfort Leads to Long Term Comfort. It may be uncomfortable in the present, but the reward of feeling great that you've done the thing you've been putting off for ages, far outweighs that short term discomfort.
Using the previous example, getting out of bed early when it is cold and dark to get to the gym before work isn't a nice feeling. But as soon as you are there, inside, moving your body the discomfort disappears and is replaced by lots of feel good chemicals that stay around for hours after your workout is finished.
Don't Wait for Motivation!
Waiting to be motivated, inspired or find traction is a trap. The only way to gain these is to take action. Until you start your task you will not be motivated to complete it - the very act of doing creates the momentum to keep going.
Use the phrase 'Tomorrow starts today'. Think about your future self and know that once you start taking action, you are weakening the old habit, rewiring positive connections in your brain and as a result, each time will become easier than the last.
Ask yourself where and when do you procrastinate the most? Are there certain times of the day where this habit gets the better of you? Are there tasks that really haunt you, but you still avoid them like the plague until the very last minute. Identify them, call them out, throw a spotlight on them and say "I see you!". Then apply the first three points, especially imagining what you will be thankful for when you have completed them.
Our imagination is powerful and even the simple act of feeling how good it will feel to move forward on what you've been holding back on will make a difference to you actually doing it.
Small Wins All the Way!
And celebrate! All the way through doing the activity, speak kindly to yourself and tell yourself how well you are doing. You can say things like "I didn't want to do this, but I know when it is done it will make a difference." "I'm proud of myself for getting up and doing this!" "I'm so happy I am working on this, I feel so much better." Words are so important, and how we speak to ourselves can make or break us, so be kind and generous with your self talk.
And then reward yourself when the task is complete. You can watch all the cat videos WHEN this is done. You can treat yourself to a nice cuppa WHEN this is complete. You can take a nap WHEN you've finished. Remember the long term comfort of completing the task - allow your brain to recognise that it is more positive to do something than put it off.
Procrastination and lack of focus is something I help my clients with, and so if you'd like to have someone to hold your hand and lead the way in finding your balance and moving past habits that hold you back, please get in touch with me and we can chat about what you need. All my coaching is personal and unique to you and your needs and desires. It is so much easier when someone can walk with you through change and challenge, so reach out and ask for the help you need.
This month I have decided to offer a 20% discount on all my online programmes and coaching. If this is something you would like to take advantage of, email me for more details. Also, throughout October the profits from the sale of my book Upward: The Power of Looking Up will be donated to Signposted Cymru, the UK's fastest growing mental health charity.
There is also a live series on Instagram to compliment these posts and I will be live at 6.30pm BST on Monday 24th Oct for the final live. I will be giving more info and ideas on finding you balance and answering questions in person during these and it'd be great if you could join me and others who are all seeking balance. You'll find me @iamsarahalexcarter Share this blog with those that may need to read it and let's find our balance together.