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Why do we procrastinate

April 2, 2016

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Why do we procrastinate

April 2, 2016

 

Procrastination is what we all do. But why? Why do we wait until the last second to start that paper or make that call? To sit down and study?  Or write that report? Why are most of us willing to do anything else BUT what needs to be done even when we know that we will pay a huge price for our procrastination?  I recently watch the TED talk of Tim Urban "inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator" and loved it. Short, witty, straight the the point. And I finally had my answer - it was not me! It was that monkey in my brain that makes me procrastinate! How cool was that! I was finally free of feeling guilty and blaming myself for all the procrastination I had done in my life. I immediately texted the link the talk to my 26-year old daughter, excited to share the news with her. Her answer?  "Mom, my monkey has a TWIN!" Oh, boy! What have I passed on to her?!

 

So why do we procrastinate? Well, probably because we perceive the task as too difficult. Everyday I see all kinds of people in my clinic - smart, intelligent, hard working, determined, sad, happy, driven, successful, burned out, calm, and hyper - and they all have one thing in common!  They all procrastinate. And they all feel guilty about it. When I ask them why they all say - "because I didn't feel like it" . but when we dig deeper, it turns out they are all telling themselves that it is going to bee too difficult, too boring, too long, too stressful...! The story is the same every time - it was going to require too much mental or physical energy and they were not up to it so they did everything else but the work they needed to do. Some cleaned and cooked, others watched TV, or spend the day on Twitter and Facebook, or sent silly Snapchat videos to their friends (or mothers), or re-decorated their houses and weeded their gardens. Just to avoid making that call, or writing that report, or studying for that exam. Oh, and while doing all those other things, they all had to work really hard to quiet that guilty little voice in the back of their mind telling them they were doomed. It all sounded like a lot more work than the work they were avoiding.  

 

The truth is, we were genetically wired to avoid stress and any hard work that could potentially lead to spending too much of our precious energy. In fact, our purpose in life is to avoid stress. Every time were face a hard task, our brain sees it as a "threat" to our survival and our genes go on panic mode and start screaming. "No! Don't do that! You will destroy us! We need to keep our energy to survive! Just walk away!" And we do, we obey and go do something else. Something that is often harder than that task we just walked away from. SO, that is the answer to why we procrastinate - we perceived the task we just avoided as too difficult, too big, too boring, or too dangerous. 

 

So how do we stop procrastinating? Here are my strategies:  

1. Ask your self - why is this important to you? Working from a value-driven point of view makes suffering easier.

2. Break the task down to smaller parts. And if you still have hard time starting then it is still too big - break it down even more.

 

 

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