Procrastination is a big problem for anyone who would like to achieve anything. Although from the outside it looks like it is not a problem to do nothing at all, it is not a state of doing nothing from the inside. Inside, there is a fear that right now, doing nothing seems better than anything we can think of doing.
Procrastination and anxiety are twins
It is important not to confuse a state of bliss and contentment with procrastination. Bliss is doing nothing and enjoying it. Procrastination is doing nothing from fear of the outcome of anything we do.
Procrastination and anxiety are twins and anxiety is the elder. Anxiety is a fear of some imaginary bad future and procrastination is our coping mechanism with anxiety (not a very effective strategy, but a very common one).
When we use it too often, we reach the “whatever” stage, when we “pretend” we do not care what the outcome will be. We always care! Unless you are a Buddhist in your heart and soul (which is a good aspiration), you care about the outcome. You can say you do not care, but you cannot cheat your own subconscious mind into believing you are the Dalai Lama and will be happy with whatever happens.
When our mind thinks we are in danger (because of something someone said or because of what someone might say), it has three choices: fight, flight or freeze. Procrastination is equivalent to the “flight” response – running away at the sight of danger.
The problem with running away is that if you run away every time there is a lion or a snake, you cannot reach any destination. This is especially true when you run away from shadows of lions and snakes. That is why procrastinators are not achievers. They are too busy running away to be moving towards their goals.
I think it is important to remember that “lazy” is not another word for “procrastinator”. In our subconscious mind, there is no laziness (or any other judgmental labels), only motivation. When we are under threat, there is not time to think, analyze, be creative, negotiate or consider relationships. When we are under threat, all those higher thinking functions are luxuries. The brain needs to focus on right now for survival and this becomes its strongest motivation.
The problem with procrastination is that the more we do it, the better we are at it. The more we do it, the more we do it, if it makes sense. We get better and better at procrastination and our mental “action muscle” gets weaker and weaker.
Stop the procrastination cycle!
If you think you are a procrastinator and you want to change it, here is a simple way of doing it.
First, you want to recognize the thought patterns that lead to procrastination. Here is a list of thoughts that procrastinators have. Every one of those thoughts can turn off “action mode”, which is what gives us the feeling we have control over our life. When “action mode” is off, we feel that life just happens to us and we have no control over it. This is a cycle that never ends.
This is when we develop helplessness. We feel helpless and powerless and we have thoughts that promote procrastination, which makes us feel even more helpless and powerless.
Read this list and tick the procrastinating thoughts you have:
- I will do it tomorrow
- It’s a waste of time
- I do not have the time for this
- It can wait
- One more drink
- I am not in the mood for this
- It is not that important
- This is too hard
- It’ll take longer than I think
- One more computer game
- I am not good at this anyway
- I am hopeless with technology
- I know it is going to be hard
- I am too young
- No rush
- I’ll never finish on time
- I’ll just play a computer game and clear my mind
- It is too hard for me
- I am too old
- It is too much for me to handle
- I just need a cup of coffee to wake up
- It’ll take forever
- I can’t handle this
- I am sick and tired of this
- It is too late to do it now
- It is impossible
- I could never do that
- It is better to be careful than sorry
- I would think about it 10 times before doing it
- I can’t cope with so many changes
- I’ll show it when it is completely done
- This is not something to take lightly
- I need to watch TV to relax
Now, change each one of the thoughts you have selected to an empowering thought.
- “I can’t cope with so many changes” – change to “I cope with many changes. I changed teachers every year of my schooling and I survived”
- “I am too young” – change to “Many young kids did amazing things in their lives and I can be like them if I put my mind to it”
- “I don’t have time for this” – change to “I have the same amount of time as everyone else in the world, 24 hours every day, and I can choose how to use it”
Once this list is changed, put it on display and go over it from time to time until your brain adopts the new thoughts. This is an easy way to shift from procrastination to action.
Happiness is a choice!