Tamara F., LCSW, CCATP
Let's Beat Procrastination!
Updated: Jan 22, 2019
I used to say that I worked better under pressure… but if I’m being honest with myself, what this statement really means to me is that when there is no other option, I have to “power through” at the eleventh hour to accomplish the task. Can you relate? Do you ever find yourself postponing certain tasks; and often becoming busy with other “to-do’s” when you know all along that the one task you have been postponing carries the most importance?
We get caught up in this internal conflict where we don’t feel like doing a certain task... so we leave it for later, come up with justifications to avoid it, and simply just do not feel motivated to tackle it; however, feel tormented by the ongoing thought that it has to be done. The reality is that I usually complete the task "successfully" when there is no other option… but at what cost? I notice my level of stress rising; and feel frustrated by the need to stop procrastinating. It’s an unnecessary dynamic of tension flooding my mind and body. Although it gets completed under pressure, it creates mental, emotional, and physical havoc. We tend to be creatures of habit who consciously and unconsciously seek comfort; and although we may desire to be more organized, this dynamic often happens time and time again because we allow ourselves to hold on to the belief that a certain task is "undesirable" or "boring... leading us to avoid it.
I like to refer to this pattern as a “mental trap.” This process of self-sabotaging that often occupies space in our mind. We seek “comfort” by procrastinating and avoiding the undesired task; however, we prolong the existence of this annoying mental reminder (or pebble in our shoe), which creates the opposite effect of pleasure. I am not suggesting that we lie to ourselves and pretend we enjoy the task; however, if we bring attention to this pattern, we become better able to "re-frame" our thoughts and experience different emotions regarding the task.
With the beginning of the year, we tend to experience this new wave of motivation within us. We make plans, set goals, and create resolutions for our new year. We entertain the idea of making changes; and improving ourselves. Unfortunately, motivation doesn’t last long enough; and without the knowledge and skills to re-train the mind we may fail to engage and sustain positive change. Our goals and projects may end up not getting accomplished; and if they do end up being completed at the last minute, our balance and peace of mind are often compromised. Here is one idea that has really helped me in staying organized: Get a blank monthly calendar where you can see every single day on it. Schedule your tasks and events realistically. Do not over-schedule. Identify a block of time when you can dedicate to the “task” you have been procrastinating. Whether you decide to tackle the task partially or entirely, notice that once you complete it, you may feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. Make it a point to give yourself a "tap on the back" for having followed through with it. Engaging these simple feelings actually boost motivation in the brain, becoming a catalyst for more change; and in time, re-training it to seek comfort and pleasure by completing the needed tasks in a timely manner. Now go forth, and conquer! You are more able than you know!