Assistance with that sneaky arsehole, procrastination.

While creating this online magazine it has bought to the forefront my own levels of, what I can only refer to as, ‘extreme procrastination’. And I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. The whole, ‘self-destruct, self-sabotage’ thing has never rung truer than in these last few years.

Ironically, I find myself procrastinating even whilst writing an article about procrastination. I thought if do a bit of research on behalf of all of us, we can better understand our own procrastination and what’s behind it. So, Let me introduce you to, A Procrastinator’s Guide.

What is the definition of procrastination?

The act of delaying or postponing something.

Okay, think we knew that. But why do we procrastinate?

Procrastination is never just procrastination. It’s there for a reason. It can be from a past trauma or experience that we continue to drag around with us and apply throughout our lives.

Here are some of the top ones:

  • Fear of failure
  • Avoidance of uncomfortable feelings and emotions
  • Lack of knowledge or not understanding how/what you are meant to do.
  • Not asking for help.
  • Self-sabotage
  • Perfectionism
  • Lack of self-belief that you can, in fact, do whatever you are attempting to do.
  • Previous uncomfortable experiences

Maybe it’s a combination of these mixed together to make a rather potent cocktail that packs a punch, knocks you on your arse and leaves you unsure as to how to move forward.

What can procrastinating look like?

Procrastination can look hella productive. It’s a sneaky little arsehole that can disguise itself and to the untrained eye, make it look like you are actually accomplishing everything you need to and are very much on top of the situation.  It can be spending hours staring at your laptop doing ‘research’ but mainly you are just scrolling through Asos and You Tube while silently panicking.

It can look like you are incredibly productive and grown up. The, ‘I’m just going to put these clothes away…’ turns into, ‘ Well, I may as well just clean the whole house… oo.. and the oven… and maybe my car and the neighbour’s car. After I’ve done all that, then ( if I have time) I will make that phone call/do my work/ go for a run ( insert task you are wildly avoiding here)’.

It can also look like chilling out. It can be a woman curled up in a ball relentlessly scrolling through tiktok, YouTube, IG ( fill in your choice of poison here) until her eyes are burning and she feels motion sick from the videos she’s watching so close to her face. The same goes for binge watching Netflix, having a bath etc. basically any activity that you can convince yourself is self-care but is actually just you, avoiding the thing you need to be doing.

We also need to mention the classic ‘avoidance nap’. It can look harmless to the functioning un-procrastinators of the world. But! When used by a seasoned procrastinating veteran, it is a tool to avoid the world, their feelings, other people’s feelings, and that pesky task they need to get done. It can be an hour of relief followed by a torrent of a shitstorm when you wake up and realise that nothing has got better, it is still there and now you have bad breath and the nagging guilt of the time wasted instead of doing the task.

Photo by Sinitta Leunen on Unsplash

There are many other forms it can take, but I feel like you get the gist by now.

Okay, so we know the why and the what but…

How do we not do it and actually get on with our lives?

Living by our values. This one may be a bit alien depending on how much you’ve delved into the  world of therapy and mental fitness.  This is when you live your whole life by your values rather than your fleeting thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

 For instance, one of your values may be to look after your brain and your body so you are better able to support your friends and family and live your own life as fully as possible. Running is the action you take based off of this value as for you personally, running is great for your mental health and happiness plus it keeps your cardio fitness up, win, win! You plan for a run that evening and when the time comes to leave, it’s raining and cold out, you feel unmotivated after a long day at work, and all you really want to do is watch The Office on Netflix.  But you go anyway. This is because you are living by what your values dictate and not what your thoughts, feelings and emotions dictate. It might be uncomfortable, and you may feel a lot of feelings, but you do it anyway.

The more you live by your values, the more you are able to live a full life.

Therapy. Although, it can be pricy, this can be a great way to understand why you do the things you do.

Working on yourself. You may already have a good idea what’s causing your troubles with procrastination and avoidance. What actions can you take that would help to build up skills in those areas? If it’s a lack of self-belief, what tasks can you do what will help to build your confidence up? If you don’t know what you are doing (does anyone??!! ) can you get some help? Can you read something, watch something, talk to someone?

Accountability partner. You and a friend could be each other’s accountability partner. Someone you can tell what you intend to do, and they can do the same. You can then make sure you do it and be held accountable by someone. It also offers support and allows you to feel part of something rather than on your own in all the feelings. 

Journaling. Now, I know sometimes we think we aren’t a ‘person who journals’. We may see pictures on social media of our favourite influencer journaling every morning, latte strategically placed to one side who’s foam art could be displayed in a gallery. All whilst wearing a coordinating leggings and sports bra set in a room that looks like a Pinterest board. However, its doesn’t matter how it’s presented, journaling is for everyone. It can be a great (and free) way of writing down thoughts and feelings and getting whatever is in your brain out of it so you can better understand yourself and what’s going on in there.

Now, I know that I am not yet a perfectly recovered procrastinator, but I am working on it. And here are some things I have found have helped me as an elite, level 10, procrastinator.

  • Setting a time limit in which to do as much work as possible. For instance, setting an alarm for 45 mins and having a concentrated effort for that amount of time. It breaks it down into a manageable time chuck.

  • Lying to myself! I have found great success in saying to myself that I only have to do 5 mins work and then I’ll stop. The maybe another anther 5 mins, and another, and before you know it, you’re well underway and in the zone.

  • Breaking down a big overwhelming task down into little steps. Yes, that means making a list! (To the stationary aisle! Cue montage of going stationary shopping in paperchase. Spending too much money and returning with too many notebooks and pens that are fruit scented). I have found it really helpful to be able tick off the tasks as I go as it reminds me of the progress I am making.

  • Taking breaks when needed. You do have to be careful with this one as it’s easy to convince yourself to have a break when really, it’s that sneaky, elite level, procrastinator coming out play again. A quick tea break and walk around the garden can turn into a 2-hour hike, 1 hours of running errands and a 3 hour nap in the blink of an eye if you are not careful.  I have found it useful to set an alarm so I have an annoying sound prompt alerting me to get back to the task at hand.

All in all, one of the greatest acts of self-care we can do, is to get on with those tasks that are uncomfortable but important. It’s harder in the long run to deal with the fall out of procrastination and life is just too short not to be living how you want to. Let’s get to it.

Want to know more?

Here is a whole website dedicated to procrastination and how we can better understand it. Just in case you fancy taking a deeper dive into it.

Start here – Solving Procrastination

If you have a task you are putting off, let me know! Has this article helped? What level procrastinator are you? You can leave a comment below.

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