Are you a (secret) procrastinator?
Procrastination is viewed as many things: irresponsible, lazy, and unorganized.
What is it really though?
Avoidance, emotional and shame-filled.
As a high-achieving person, with a successful career that is goal oriented with all those things to do checked off, why is it that when there is a large project due, you procrastinate until the last minute? Could it be because of fear? Fear that it won’t be perfect? Fear that people will figure out that you don’t know what you’re doing? Fear that you’re not good enough?
Welcome to anxiety procrastination. It’s a mysterious issue that plagues so many highly successful people with seemingly no reason - but the actual reason is fear and the anxiety that comes along with it.
Are you anxious? Probably, and not for the reason you think. Anxiety is just a part of our brain and a part that we need. Anxiety helps us not fall down holes, reminds us to put our seat belts on, and keeps us safe. But, anxiety can also become a habit of the brain, a part that tells us we’re not good enough, we need to be “perfect” and all the things that can go wrong that are actually very likely to never, ever happen.
When procrastination anxiety kicks in, your brain starts thinking about all the negative “what ifs”, often without you even being aware of it. Those negative thoughts become white noise, something your brain is used to hearing and so it stops paying attention, but probably sounds something like this:
“You know you can’t do this right.”
“What makes you think you’re good enough to pull this off?”
“You are never going to be able to get this in on time!”
Sound familiar? This is your brain trying to keep you emotionally safe, just like it’s designed to do. But, over time, it’s no longer a safety feature but a habit that needs to be changed.
Here’s how to change it!
Block your time.
Time blocking is a great way to bypass all the negative habits and use another sense, your vision, to retrain your brain. If you have a project due or need to do a task you’ve been avoiding, block small-ish chunks in your calendar to get it done.
The visual of the smaller chunks by-passes the feeling of overwhelm that you get stuck in, which causes procrastination.
Write down what you hear.
Those examples listed earlier of the negative white noise are likely going on in your brain at the moment of the procrastination, or at least something similar.
If you think about white noise, a fan, or a noise machine, your brain “hears” the noise for a period of time, then filters it out because you don’t “need” the information to function. But, if you start “thinking” about the fan or the white noise machine, you “hear” it again - crazy, right?
Your brain does the same for negative thoughts. It filters out that “noise” because it’s not a necessity for functioning, so you don’t consciously hear it. However, unconsciously, you’re still aware of the negative noise and responding to it.
Clear as mud, right? Here’s the point: make those negative thoughts conscious again. Pay attention when you’re procrastinating so you can actually “hear” what you’re saying and change the language. Writing down your thoughts forces you to use both sides of your brain, which will unleash the power of your brain to change.
These two simple changes can change your procrastination habits and give you a calm, clear, and collected brain.
Mattie is a counselor, coach, and CEO of Cerebrations, LLC. With over 25 years of experience in understanding how the brain affects our emotions, reactions, and our experiences, she is passionate about empowering women to harness the power of their brain and body connection to create intentional action and deeper connections with their families. You can reach her at email@example.com or by scheduling a free consult chat.