Dear Procrastinator, I feel you - a.k.a. 3 steps to break the procrastination cycle -Carrie Roark
I’m writing to you to let you know that I feel you. I too am a procrastinator. And it makes me feel terrible about myself. I feel guilty, lazy, and like I have no self-control. It does a real number on my self-esteem. It just reinforces that old, powerful message my enemy would love for me to believe - “I suck!”
Mel Robbins just flipped the script for me on procrastination in her book The 5 Second Rule. First of all, she pointed out that I am not a procrastinator; I am a person who procrastinates. When I can separate the behavior from my identity, I finally have a fighting chance to change it. The real truth is that I have a HABIT of procrastinating, and habits can be changed.
Ok cool, that helps. But here’s what else she said that was new to me. In her research on procrastination, she learned that procrastination is not about being lazy or about avoiding work. In fact, procrastination is about avoiding stress. And most likely, the stress is not even about the task being put off. Perhaps you stall at work because you are stressed about your marriage, your kids, or your finances. It is a coping mechanism for stress.
Here’s why. When you procrastinate by scrolling Facebook, checking the scores, or browsing the sales at you favorite shoe store, etc., you get a temporary relief and a brief feeling of control. You get a little ease in the moment from the stress that weighs you down. Yeah, and that can be very addicting.
Mel gives us 3 steps to break that cycle:
Forgive yourself. You have to start by forgiving yourself for procrastinating. You are only human, after all. Beating yourself up only perpetuates the problem. And remember, it is not who you are. It is a habit you can break.
Ask what the future you would do. Picture who you want to be in the future and imagine what that better you would do in the current situation. Visualizing the future you makes you realize the stress you feel now is temporary. For instance, we tell our teenagers that the stress they feel over their GPA will be only a faint memory once they become an adult. It provides hope, but it also provides perspective.
Just get started. Don’t worry about finishing. Just get started. Do something, anything. Experts say that the most powerful way to break an old habit is by creating a new starting ritual. Her 5 Second Rule is a fantastic starting ritual, by the way. Count down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and go. Procrastination makes you feel as though you have no control; getting started taps into your locus of control giving you the feeling of empowerment. This also gives you the benefit of the Progress Principle that says that forward progress of any kind boosts your mood and increases your happiness. It can replace the relief we are chasing by procrastinating to begin with.
I would add to this to adopt healthy ways of dealing with the stress in your life such as exercise, journaling, seeing a counselor or coach, and praying. I hope this gives you something to think about, and maybe it even lets you off the hook. You aren’t lazy after all! You are just stressed. Now you can tackle the real culprit and get moving!