I’d be very surprised if anyone reading this has not found themselves procrastinating at some point in their lives. Instead of doing the things that need to get done, we can very easily find ourselves being distracted by almost anything. Instead of picking up the phone to make those important sales calls instead, we find ourselves spending hours watching dancing cat videos on it instead.

For some, once they received the gratification from the distraction, it’s an easy process to get on and complete the task that needs to be done. But for others, the motivation just isn’t there. At this point we usually tell ourselves ‘I’ll start it tomorrow’ but when tomorrow comes there’s always another reason why we can’t start.

So why do people regularly find themselves procrastinating? Procrastination is not a character trait. it’s not a sign of laziness. Procrastination is simply a habit and like any habit, a neural pathway has been built up in your brain, which results in your thinking and behaving in a particular way.

Procrastination is actually a stress response. When we find ourselves in a stressful situation we think from the primitive part of our brain. We have an unconscious reaction that will trigger our fight/ flight/ freeze response. Procrastination is simply the freeze response to a stressful situation.

Procrastination has been described as the ‘unconscious desire to feel good now’. If we perceive the task we need to accomplish as being too stressful, we find distractions to make us feel good.

We can think of stress as being stored in a bucket and the fuller this bucket of worry is, the more we will find ourselves procrastinating. We fill this bucket up when we overthink and are critical of ourselves. If we fail to complete the set task due to procrastination, then it’s likely we’ll add more negative thoughts into our stress bucket. Thoughts of ‘I’m useless’, ‘I’m lazy’ and ‘Why can I just get things done?’ fill your mind and your bucket.

If you were faced with the same task but had an empty stress bucket, then you wouldn’t procrastinate.

So how do we stop procrastinating?

The first thing to do is to forgive yourself, acknowledge that it’s just a habit and that you have the ability to take control of this habit.

Then do a deep dive into what’s causing your stress. After analysing what’s causing your stress, can you make a plan to lower its effects or totally remove it from your life?

Finally set a time/ date when you are going to start the task you’ve been putting off, but only plan to do it for 1-2 minutes. The first step in a journey is always the hardest. Once you’ve started then you may well find yourself spending more time achieving your goal.

Perhaps you might be interested in reading other articles from my mini blog series;

How does caffeine affect our sleep

What’s our gut-brain axis?