Procrastination is predictable… of course we’d prefer to do something fun right now and leave everything else until later.
20% of adults claim to be chronic procrastinators, although that number may be as high as 70% among college students!
Current research suggests that we procrastinate in an attempt to replace uncomfortable feelings of anxiety/worry about tough tasks by doing something else to change our mood (“giving in to feel good”). Although we feel better at the time, it leads to even more stress and anxiety when the deadline looms and we haven’t even gotten started.
Do you procrastinate by cleaning? Baking? Checking FaceBook?
In 2001 the term “procrastination super highway” was used to describe the internet!
(Procrastination is one of the many self-regulation problems created by the internet.)
A while ago I heard Tim Pychyl, a researcher/professor at Carleton University, offer these tips (they are in his book Solving the Procrastination Puzzle) :
- Just get started.
“I’ll feel even more uncomfortable later if I don’t do the task.”
Use the Five Minute Rule: you can do anything you don’t like for 5 minutes.
Remind yourself that even a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.
Do easy things first. This momentum makes it easier to begin the hard things next.
- “Situation Intention” – tell yourself: “After my coffee (situation) I will __________.
- “Who says I have to feel like doing it, before I can start” ?
(If we waited until our motivational state matched the job, nothing would get done!)
- Practice mindfulness – recognize/observe the distraction and let it go.
- “Time travel” – project yourself into the future, imagining the good feelings that will come from finishing the project.
- Focus on emotional regulation, rather than time management.
It’s interesting that emotional self-regulation is part of many of these tips.
Procrastination is considered a constellation that includes impulsiveness, rumination and emotional regulation.
Instead of using procrastination to decrease anxiety and worry, how about using a mind/body calming technique instead?
Take a moment to relax your jaw… drop your shoulders… breathe slowly and comfortably for 3 breaths (or 5, or 10…)
Say to yourself “I will handle this.”
Then tackle that tough task for 5 minutes.
For effective, practical stress management skills that enhance health and performance, check out the Stress Management & High Performance Clinic programs at http://www.SelfRegulationSkills.ca.
Kathy Somers, R.Kin, BCB