Everyone procrastinates from time to time. 88% of the workforce admits that they procrastinate at least one hour a day (and quite often much more!), But just because procrastination is a universal issue, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a significant problem.
Procrastination goes beyond work, and can interfere with several areas in your life:
Not dealing with a car repair can lead to more significant, more expensive repairs. Putting off an awkward conversation prolongs the conflict and the low-level stress feelings of needing to have the conversation. Failing to save for retirement can lead to being a burden on your children. Avoiding making a career shift can result in feelings of worthlessness or failure; and Not taking action on your dreams can lead to a life of disappointment and mediocrity. In fact, a University of Calgary study shows that procrastinators perform more poorly than their less-likely to procrastinate counterparts… which you’d expect. However, they also are more likely to feel unhappy, waste money on taxes and other expenses, suffer from medical issues related to neglect and put off important financial decisions like investing and saving for retirement. All of these things have a significant impact on your life.
Before we can dig into the cause of procrastination, as well as the solution to the epidemic, it’s helpful for you to identify the activities that you’re likely to do when you’re procrastinating.
A Lack Of Discipline doesn’t cause procrastination
Now, it’s a commonly held view that if you procrastinate, you just didn’t manage your time well. Or that you’re lazy, undisciplined, unmotivated, or distracted. Many even think that procrastination is a problem with your willpower.
But in reality, procrastination isn’t any of those. It’s really an emotional issue.
Sometimes our brain uses procrastination as a helpful tool. It’s an involuntary, subconscious protection trigger to help you avoid dealing with a potentially painful or uncomfortable experience.
Whether you’re consciously procrastinating, or unconsciously avoiding an emotion… the results are the same. The damage from procrastination doesn’t just stop with blowing a few deadlines and disappointing yourself and others.
Procrastination is when you consciously or unconsciously delay a required action or deadline, despite the fact that this delay is harmful towards achieving your goals.
Why Do We Knowingly Or Unknowingly Continue The Spiral Caused By Procrastination?
Well, based on the latest brain research, 95% of the time, people procrastinate to avoid certain emotions and feelings.
Procrastination is a coping strategy to help us deal with emotions we aren’t ready to face or directly, we do not know how to deal with them.
Since your brain is focused on what is happening right now, it automatically sends messages to you to avoid and move away from any situation that causes even the slightest emotional anxiety or stress… also if it results in greater anxious feelings and even more fear later.
And the real kicker is, procrastination hurts you in more than one way. By procrastinating, you’re not only
avoiding negative emotions now in exchange for potentially greater ones later… you’re also
depriving yourself of the positive emotions and feelings that come from accomplishment, success, and a job well done.
So, in fact, you’re increasing the negative experiences in your life and decreasing the positive ones… yet you still do it. How many times have you pursued short term pleasure to avoid short term discomfort?
The Solution to Your Procrastination Problem is Surprisingly Simple
Knowing that procrastination isn’t a time management problem, but rather an emotional and mindset issue, should set off some ah-has.
This is the reason all of your efforts to crush the procrastination habit in the past haven’t worked. Making lists, developing discipline, buying new planners and organizers, setting timers, and checklists all fail because they don’t address the root cause of procrastination.
Real, lasting change comes from retraining your brain to deal with those negative or disempowering emotions and feelings before your procrastination even starts.
It all comes down to neuroplasticity…
It’s a big word, but a simple concept: neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change itself through new neural connections, based on repeated actions.
Scientists used to believe the brain became “hard-wired” after just 2-3 years of life. Now, we know that isn’t true: the brain can change its structure based on how you use it — basically, the brain is just another muscle you can work out and mold.
Think about it this way: when you hear the word “cow,” “milk” probably springs to mind. The term “cherry” likely does not. But if you were to repeat the words cow and cherry together every day, the two will quickly become linked in your mind.
And your brain can do that for all kinds of connections, as long as you utilize techniques that target a particular goal. Stroke patients have used specialized neuroplasticity techniques to recover from partial paralysis. Meditators have grown their grey matter and shrunk their amygdalas just by being mindful.