Most of us have experienced some form of procrastination as an adult. Whether it is waiting until the last minute to do a work task, finishing a project around the house, or even taking time to connect with others in our lives, procrastination comes in many forms. As a result, we say things like, “I am just lazy” or “I will get to that later,” as a way of coping with the reality that we simply do not really want to tend to the task at hand. It may come as a shock to hear (read) that the issue with procrastination is far from laziness or even time management, but rather an issue of emotional regulation.
That's right! Procrastination is an emotional regulation problem not a time management or laziness problem.
Procrastination happens because of our inability to manage negative feelings toward a task. It can be accompanied by feelings of anxiety, displeasure, doubt and low self esteem. Procrastination actually becomes a form of self sabotage.
Let's talk about a few common examples
1: You have a work project with a due date in a few days. You know that it will likely only take a few hours to wrap up and complete, and you have had the time before to do it, but you doubted your ability to complete it to the standard at which you believe your client will approve of. Your doubt is the obstacle in taking even the first steps on your project a little sooner, and thus the quality of work you provide may be a bit compromised.
2: You received an invitation to hang out with a friend at a crowded car show over the weekend. You enjoy being with your friend but are experiencing anxiety in large crowds of people. You avoid making the commitment in hopes you can opt out last minute without offending your friend. Your anxiety with overwhelming situations like crowds is the obstacle to your procrastination in connecting with a close friend.
3: You have to finish painting a room that you started in your house months ago because you made the promise that you would to your spouse. You absolutely disdain spending time that you could be doing something you actually enjoy doing this home project. You have told yourself that you will get to it next week...then a week passes and then it is another week. Your belief of displeasure with the task is the obstacle to your completion of the task, and thus potentially how your spouse trusts that you will get things done.
The point of these examples, outside of relatability, is to help begin the process of troubleshooting how to overcome procrastination through emotional regulation.
Here are 5 simple steps to take next time you catch yourself being “lazy” or putting things off for the tomorrow that never comes.
1. Name the feeling/emotion attached to the task, project, commitment, etc.
I feel anxious...doubtful...annoyed…
2. Seperate the feeling from the person (you) and identify where it is stemming from.
I feel _____. I am doubtful because the work project is not something I know alot about.
3. Address the belief behind the feeling.
I feel _____. I am _____ because _____. I believe that I am not smart enough to complete this task well.
4. Choose to redirect your focus.
I feel _____. I am _____ because _____. I believe____. I choose to take action with what I know and research the topics I need to know more about.
5. Pivot your actions to generate more positive feelings .
I feel _____. I am _____ because _____. I believe____. I choose _____. I will complete the powerpoint presentation today which will make me feel proud and better prepared.
So try this!
I feel _____. I am _____ because _____. I believe____. I choose ______. I will _____which will make me feel _____.
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