Procrastination isn’t your fault, but it IS compounding your overwhelm.May 30, 2023
Procrastination is the worst. And I don’t think anyone is immune to this behavior. Like… anyone.
And here’s why: procrastination is not the act of avoiding a task. It’s actually the act of avoiding a specific emotion (or host of emotions.)
It’s an emotional regulation issue. And our society teaches us to avoid emotions that are uncomfortable to feel, talk about, or express.
So naturally, we’ve learned (erroneously) that we should not feel negative emotions - and this is a real problem, because suppressing negative emotions and not allowing ourselves to process them is precisely the moment where we develop coping mechanisms, like procrastination.
But when you think about it, emotions are simply a vibration in your body, caused by a thought. If you get comfortable feeling your negative emotions, however - identifying them, knowing what they feel like in your body, and allowing them to be there without pushing them away - you’ll overcome procrastination (and more, but for the sake of this post, we’ll limit the topic to procrastination.)
Let’s say you’re procrastinating on writing a speech that you have to deliver to a large group of people. Chances are, you’re closing the laptop or moving on to other tasks because you come up against the emotion of “nervous.” Here’s what’s probably happening in your brain:
I have to write a speech. Oh my god, what if it sucks?! Now I feel nervous. *shuts laptop, goes and does laundry.*
A new thought might pop into your head justifying your actions like “maybe I need a break to find inspiration.” But the bottom line is, you stopped because you wanted to avoid feeling nervous.
And this cycle will continue (because you don’t want to feel nervous) until you are down to the wire and absolutely have to get it done.
At this point, you’re probably feeling even more nervous, not producing your best work, and panicking (holy moly - overwhelm!)
But you can break this cycle, and pretty easily with practice. At the point where you felt nervous in response to the thought “omg, what if it sucks?!” all you needed to do was process that emotion.
Here’s what that means:
Identify your emotion. Name it. Feel it in your body and describe it.
Seriously, this simple process is magical. Because something starts to happen as you do this.
You learn what it feels like and you become acquainted with it in a more intimate way. You might still not like the feeling, but you grow more comfortable with it being there. And when you’re comfortable with it being there, and you allow it to exist as you move through tasks, you no longer give in to the urges to do something else.
In other words, you stop procrastinating.
When feeling the emotion itself is the scariest thing that can happen to you, and you know how to manage your emotions, you can do anything.
Learning to process your emotions is THE key to ending your cycle of procrastination.
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