Iam a thirty-year-old woman. I own my own business which means I usually have a full to-do list and I like to think I have an all-around full life. Yet I chose to spend a chunk of my time this morning engrossed in the latest news about a Youtuber’s failed lipstick launch.
All of a sudden I felt very strongly about young people spending their hard earned money on overpriced contaminated products that could have come from a bargain bin in the pound shop. I felt passionate enough about it to even go on Instagram and Twitter and check every latest related # and read every morsel of gossip. Did I buy any of these so-called lipsticks? No. Will this affect my life in any way shape or form? No. But if I’m going to procrastinate writing this article, what better way to do it then to go down a rabbit hole of something very far removed from my life, the latest drama of the beauty guru community.
Procrastination and I have a long and intimate relationship. From waiting until the night before my cello lesson to take the first look at my music score, to studying the night before my leaving cert exams and scraping by with a pass having chosen instead to watch Little Britain and order a Chinese and scan my notes on the way to the exam. With or without a deadline, I can and will procrastinate just about everything.
And it turns out…I’m not the only one. According to procrastinator researcher Joseph R Ferrari, a psychology professor at DePaul University in Chicago, one out of five people, regardless of culture, fall into a category called chronic procrastinators or procs. Procs consistently procrastinate in multiple areas of his or her life, work, financial and social which can undermine goals and leave a negative impact on their self-esteem.
So I want to know exactly why we procrastinate and how and if it’s possible to put an end to this habit? So I did what I do best and went down a rabbit hole and here’s what I uncovered….
Ifwe want to know why we procrastinate we need to look at the psychology behind the habit to get a better understanding. As we know there are different layers of our brain which are responsible for different areas of functioning. Our primitive or reptilian brain is responsible for keeping us alive, it controls our most basic functions such as our heart rate and breathing and also reactions such as the fight or flight response. Our prefrontal cortex is the executive function of our brain and is responsible for strategic ideas, long term thinking and discipline.
Our reptilian brain has evolved over billions of years to keep us safe, so when it senses danger it triggers your brain to produce hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to help you survive. However, it does not know the difference between a small or large threat, so each time you’re triggered by any threat at all, natural instincts will kick in to avoid whatever is causing us stress and return to safety.
Procrastination is a form of stress relief.
This means that each time you are triggered or stressed about a particular topic, your natural response is to avoid it, thus making procrastination an obvious option. Our habit of procrastination that we have created for ourselves is just a coping mechanism and the minds way of responding to stress.
So how can we change our response to stress and create a better habit of action rather than procrastination?
Firstly, lose the guilt. Procrastination does not equate with laziness. Studies have shown that people who chose to procrastinate are usually over thinkers and more analytical. One in five maybe chronic procrastinators but everybody procrastinates in some manner or form. So have compassion for yourself, you are not lazy, you are human, forgive yourself.
Secondly, if procrastination is not so much the issue as the stress that causes it, what are you stressed about? What makes you want to run under your covers and hide? If you understand what you are afraid and fearful of, you will see how those fears undermine you and trigger you into avoidance instead of what you really want to be doing, which is putting yourself into action.
And lastly, create a starting ritual. This is a fabulous tool that Mel Robbins teaches. The next time you feel stressed and the habit to procrastinate is about to take over, you can close the gap in 5,4,3,2,1, and make a different choice. Just commit to yourself to working for five minutes. Studies have shown 80% of people will keep going after the five minutes. And if not, at least you’ve been successful in breaking the habit for today.
Sofar in my life, I have gotten by being a chronic procrastinator but I don’t want to just get by any more. I have a lot of goals I want to accomplish and I’m sure you do too, I only want us both to fail from aiming too high, not because we didn’t even try.
I no longer want to feel guilty because productive time is spent procrastinating and free time doesn’t feel earned. Whether you are a chronic procrastinator like me or an occasional one, I’m sure you can attest, it sometimes leaves you feeling like you’re waiting for the right moment to stop being a spectator and take part in your own life. So with all of that being said…I am going to keep writing and upload this article and am most definitely going to resist the urge to watch the cat dancing compilation video my boyfriend just sent me…