How a (Little) Change in Mindset Can Help You Beat Procrastination And Start Afresh
3 creative ways to approach your work and say goodbye to procrastination
Procrastination has never been a stranger to humans.
According to a survey shared by Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation, about 95 percent of people admit putting off work so we get regular bouts of it.
We often blame internet for distractions, but procrastination did not just begin recently.
Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero called it ‘hateful’. So procrastination is a part of humanness.
Delaying a task may (sometimes) help in gaining more clarity of the task (a secret power of overthinking introverts). We align ourselves with the direction of the day while we’re at it.
But procrastination can lead to negative consequences such as mental fatigue and missed deadlines (to name a few).
As a short-time procrastinator, I believe we create new and artistic ways to delay a challenging and uncertain task. That’s probably why we procrastinate from time to time.
The interesting thing is: we quickly judge our procrastination tendencies as a time management issue. We think with a better grip on time and reschedule, we can help it.
Many myself included fall in this trap of scheduling or rescheduling things but the psychologists are realizing this is wrong.
A couple of studies have shown that that procrastination is an issue with managing our emotions, not our time.
“Procrastination has nothing to do with time management.” — Research Psychologist Joseph Ferrari
When a task makes us feel bad or seems boring, to overcome emotional unpleasantness at the moment, we start doing something else, like researching, watching videos.
We may procrastinate when we,
Don’t feel like doing something
Don’t know the exact method to start
Are afraid of failure
Are afraid of success (perfectionism)
Find stuff just plain boring
Are distracted by social media
Delay daunting task to manage overwhelming sensation
As I’m sure you know, none of these has anything to do with time management. It isn’t an indicator of laziness, it is an indicator of uncertainty, boredom, and confusion.
So the problem is, emotions getting in our way.
But the good (proven) thing is: Everyone procrastinates, but not everyone is a procrastinator. In other words, procrastinating tendencies do not translate into a bleak future.
Bill Clinton, Leonardo da Vinci, Frank Lloyd Wright, Victor Hugo, Margaret Atwood, Douglas Adams, Naomi Campbell, and Mariah Carey are all known for waiting until the last minute to do things and the world validates the things they did.
Acceptance, thus, is the only way to self-improvement as author Carl Rogers wrote,
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” — Carl Rogers
3 creative ways to approach your work and say goodbye to procrastination
Here are the 3 ways to overcome emotional unpleasantness and repaint the canvas of your task.
1. Sap the strengths of distractions by becoming the problem
Louder and brighter distractions are everywhere around us begging attention in artistic ways whether we perceive them or not.
But we can hardly control the (influence) of external distraction because it already has evoked a disturbance in our workflow.
Author Steve Chandler tells in his book 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself how ‘becoming the problem’ approach solves self-motivation problems.
Much of the time we are too absorbed in our apparent situation that we forget to be aware of the actual situation.
“Whatever type of problem you are facing, the best self-motivational exercise I know of is to immediately say to yourself, “I am the problem.”
While connecting these simple words with self-motivation he further notes,
“We shut down creativity when we declare the source of the trouble to be outside of us. However, once we say, "I am the problem," there is a great power that shifts from the outside to the inside. Now we become the solution.”
Awareness is the first step to change. When we step back and see what’s happening, we find the way out.
This little change in thinking pattern immensely changes the way we cope with the world's most common problem — procrastination.
When we recognize the problem, we muster the strength to find a solution.
2. Ask yourself some silly questions
The curious thing that gives strength to the most vulnerable part of a family/society ( children) is curiosity. They never procrastinate even for a moment because of the creative approach.
However, while remodeling our skeleton while growing up we wiped some of our curious traits.
Cultivating curiosity and attacking our boring task with it, thus, is sometimes the last thing on our mind.
In the book, Great at Work, the author Morten Hansen shares a sweet little way. He says we fail to imagine new great redesigns and ways to do our work because we’re trapped inside the webs of conviction.
We are habitual of doing things as we usually do them.
And our inability to delay or avoid something sprouts from this fixation.
As a coping mechanism to this fixation, he tells when we ask ourselves some stupid, silly questions we open ourselves to new possibilities.
This way we loosen the restraints of familiarity and boredom which helps in two ways,
- We come up with a creative outlook on the project at hand and the daunting task becomes less daunting
- The possible humor is good for health. Just a twitch of jaws even in a (half-) smile is enough to uplift one's mood, Isn’t it the thing we need?
According to Wikipedia, Silly Question Day was “created by teachers to encourage students to ask more (curious) questions in the classroom.”
So curiosity scraps the complexity of every situation and makes it much more interesting and fulfilling.
The next time you feel confused or bored, ask yourself little silly questions. It might save you lots of time and rescheduling things.
3. Imagine a soothing combination of color around you
Procrastination is a part of humanness because intrinsic motivation and energy are limited.
It can be renewed but there’s no such thing as a perpetual reservoir of energy.
Being productive doesn't demand being flawless, it asks to rewire the brain in a new, creative direction whenever needed.
But being unable to align (completed) work with approaching deadlines triggers a downward spiral; we indulge in self-criticizing behavior — without realizing it — only to stir more unpleasantness.
Self-criticism and procrastination have a strong connection because, at the very core, both of them speak to emotions.
The cost of a few hours we spend on delaying a task by watching videos or researching feels much heavier than it really is.
But to rekindle lost motivation, it’s important to bring a sense of calm.
Experts recommend optimizing one's surroundings can do this for you but if (like me) you feel too enervated to invest yourself in this activity there's another way.
Genuine self-forgiveness reduces procrastinating tendencies so as a self-compassion practice— psychologists encourage us to imagine a compassionate color (whichever color evokes calmness in you) drifting and flowing through your surroundings and you.
When it surrounds you (in imagination), it absorbs bothersome immediate emotions and we eventually renew our motivation for a new beginning.
So when the weight of procrastination feels heavy for the spontaneous shift in direction of thoughts and energy, visualize a soothing combination of colors.
When rhythms of shaded colors dance in imagination, we find colorful ways to approach work.
A combination of awareness and acceptance is a much better way to overcome procrastination than the alternative — suppressing procrastination.
When the trap of procrastination deepens its roots, a little conscious choice takes care of everything about self-motivation and discipline because,
“The voyage of discovery lies not in finding new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” — Marcel Proust