Few tweets are as universal as this one by writer Kimberly King Parson: “Took Me Eleven Minutes to do That Thing I’ve Been Avoiding for Three Months: A Memoir”. Sometimes, it’s just impossible to make ourselves do stuff. We end up drinking juice out of a measuring cup because we can’t be bothered to wash our dishes, or we never replace those lightbulbs that have been burnt out for two years just because. I kept paying 8$/month for a subscription FOR A YEAR because I was too lazy to write an email.
A lot of us are procrastinating on all the little things. But why, exactly? And how to stop?
Something About The Way You Feel
Sometimes we procrastinate on small tasks because we make a somewhat conscious choice to put off things that arouse our insecurity. This could be something as menial as filing up unfamiliar paperwork or writing an email to a colleague when we’re dreading their response. We put the tasks aside and we feel better already. But then we begin to ruminate on the thing, asking ourselves what’s wrong with us for not being able to deal with such a small thing and turning little problems into insurmountable mountains.
Procrastination and Negative Emotions
Many of the things we’re putting off have a common trait: they’re tied to negative emotions. Timothy Pychyl, a psychology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa and author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, says that at its core, procrastination is an “emotion-focused coping strategy.” Frustration, boredom, fear. Those negative feelings overwhelm our emotional brain making us act irrationally.
Rational Solutions to Irrational Problems
The problem is that many of the popular tips for pushing through procrastination offer rational solutions: you may have heard of kanban boards to take back your time, or maybe you’re more familiar with kaizen philosophy. And let me tell you, those things are definitely helpful. But rational solutions to an irrational, emotional problem rarely work on their own. You should look at them as the scaffolding upon which you need to do some emotional work.
Focus on the Good Feelings
There are all sorts of consequences to procrastinating. But sometimes it looks like there kind of aren’t. In those cases, focusing on the good feeling we’ll have when we complete our tasks can be a great motivation booster. It may sound corny, but write down the tasks you completed – or even those you just started – and treat them as wins for your day. This simple practice can prime your brain for confidence and achievement and help you stop procrastinating.
How to Stop Procrastinating the Tiniest Things
You can generalize this idea. Whenever we’re dealing with procrastination, we have to find a better reward than avoidance — one that can relieve our stress in the present without harming our future selves. Sometimes, this could mean showing ourselves some compassion for our mistakes. Sometimes, motivation actually follows action and all we have to do is to start doing without waiting to be in the right mood. Let me know down below in the comments what’s your way to reward yourself and avoid procrastination.