From the desk of Mr Bobby Warriner
Well here I finally sit, at the eleventh hour, typing this blog. It certainly is not because I didn’t have time as we have just had a long weekend. It is not because I forgot - my phone has been sending me constant reminders over the past couple of days. In the time I could have typed this, I have successfully washed my bike and re-organized my storeroom.
Why do so many of us put off the inevitable, why do we bring additional stress on ourselves? We are aware of our actions and their consequences, yet we do it anyway. According to Dr Sirious of Sheffield University, “People engage in a cycle of procrastination because of an inability to manage negative moods around a task.” I do not enjoy writing … so I avoid it. We, procrastinators, develop a way of avoiding emotions (self-doubt, anxiety, frustration, et al) around certain tasks.
Talking to many of the students that I teach, my behaviour is certainly not unique. It seems many of them display almost the exact same behaviour. Picture a teen cleaning his/her bedroom to avoid writing an essay or doing the laundry to avoid studying. The feel-good emotions of completing these tasks are momentarily rewarding, a feeling far nicer than facing the task they are avoiding. This avoidance becomes a cycle, a habit. To rewire any habit, we need to give our brain a better offer; we need to find a better reward than avoidance. A solution to procrastination needs to be internal and it must depend on ourselves.
We need to reframe tasks by considering the positive aspects of those tasks. We also need to manage the feelings that trigger procrastination.
- Cultivate self awareness - become aware of the sensations in your body shifting as you consider procrastinating, learn to recognise this tendency as it begins.
- Consider only the next action - by doing this we limit negative emotions linked to the other steps of the task we are avoiding. Often, just getting started is sufficient for motivation to follow.
- Make your temptations more inconvenient - place obstacles between you and these temptations. For example, remove social media apps from your device if you feel compelled to constantly check these. You thus need to sign into your accounts via a browser, far more difficult to do, making the short-term reward of the temptation less immediate.
- On the flip side of the coin, remove all roadblocks - make the tasks and activities at hand as easy as possible to achieve.
Procrastination is certainly existential. How do we want to spend our time vs how we actually do? It reminds us of a commonality. We want to be happy with the choices we make.