(noun) the action of delaying or postponing something.
Amit wakes up with a feeling of dread. Even before his mind can tell him what is wrong, he can feel anxiety and guilt start to overpower him. Then it registers. He’s woken up late! Yet again!!
He was supposed to wake up at 6, do his yoga, meditate, get a few chores done and get started with work at 8.30 am. Instead, here he was, staring at the hands of the clock insisting that it was 8.30 am, and feeling miserable.
“I have ruined the day before it even started!!” he moans.
Trying to salvage the rest of his day, he quickly brushes his teeth, rushes through part of the morning routine and sits down at his desk at 10 am. As he starts wondering what tasks he needs to get done during the day, his mind comes up with one really important task.
As soon as he gets ready to work on the first task his mind reminds him about the deadline for sending in suggestions for his team meeting. So he closes the file he had opened and goes on to open his email. And before he can get to the email with the attachment he is looking for, he is greeted by the deluge of new unread emails waiting to be opened. His heart beats faster, breath gets quicker and despite the cool morning, his palms get clammy with perspiration.
As he tries to quickly skim through the unread emails, his mind keeps reminding him that he is already behind with the things he’s supposed to get done today and simultaneously points out that had he woken up on time, he would have been done with at least two of these tasks.
Once again, he experiences a surge of hopelessness, guilt and shame wash through him. He gives into the routine of berating himself and thinking of all the times that he has done this before and hears his mind say things like:
“Who are you trying to fool? You know very well that this is who you really are – this lazy, undisciplined, good for nothing failure who is never going to amount to much! Stop telling yourself that you will somehow turn a new leaf, become disciplined overnight and transform into the epitome of efficiency, effectiveness and success. Just accept that this is never going to change. You are destined to live the life of a loser.”
Inexplicably, Amit feels exhausted and turns to his phone and thoughtlessly opens up Instagram. He scrolls down thinking that he will just check out a couple of posts. But the next time he looks at the clock it is already 12 noon. Feeling totally dejected, he decides to have some snacks and polishes off a large packet of wafers in no time. He spends the rest of the day feeling lethargic and getting very little done.
Does all this sound familiar? If it does, you are not alone. Even the most capable and intelligent people experience this every once in a while and more people than you could imagine, deal with this regularly.
But let’s take a closer look at what’s going on here. If you are thinking that the issue is Amit’s habit of waking up late, you are wrong. That is not the primary issue. While good sleep habits are important and need to be managed, life will invariably throw you curveballs that will disrupt your plan one way or the other. In this case, waking up late led to Amit losing about an hour of personal preparation time and 90 minutes of work time, which totals up to 150 minutes. If he had gone on to use the rest of the day well, He would have lost only about 2 hours of productive time. But the issue was that anxiety, guilt and shame overpowered him and made it impossible for him to utilise the rest of his time. And he lost over 5 hours instead of 2.5.
So you see, the biggest problem in most situations is not so much the interruption of plans, but our inability to manage our self talk and the resultant anxiety. Here are 3 simple steps you can take to overcome anxiety induced procrastination.
3 Simple Steps To Overcome Anxiety Induced Procrastination
- Three top tasks for the next day: Before you finish for the day, write down the things that you’d like to get done the next day. Now circle the three most important things on the list. Make these very specific. For example, instead of writing “Get started on the report”, you could write “Have the first draft of the report ready”. Now rank them in the order in which you’d like to get it done and write down an approximate amount of time you expect each of these tasks to take. You see, when you are ready to start in the morning, your mind is ready for action mode, but if you give it the job of deciding WHAT TO DO, it is going to take up precious energy and working memory space, leaving very little of the energy and focus to actually get the job done. However, at the end of the day when your mind is still in work mode, it is far easier to think about what you’d like to get done the next day. And the next morning, you can channel all your enthusiasm into working on the tasks.
- Tackle the anxiety: If things aren’t panning out the way you planned them to, take a few minutes to become aware of the self talk which tries to thrash you. Acknowledge the need behind the anxiety – The need to get things done. Focus on your breath for a few more minutes and ground yourself. Remind yourself that plans getting waylaid is a common occurrence in every one’s life and as long as you are human, it is going to happen once in a while. Ditch the “All or Nothing” thinking that your mind tries to sell you. Remember that if you were to stay calm, you can still achieve a big part of what you set out to do that day. If you notice the anxiety reappearing, schedule 30 minutes of “worry time” towards the evening – a slot of time where you give a free reign to worry and anxiety. And each time you notice anxious thoughts returning, remind your mind that you can do the worrying during the allocated half an hour, not before or after.
- Time your tasks and take breaks: Look at your task list and start with task no 1, with a timer set to half an hour by your side. If your mind comes up with distractive thoughts while you are at the task, note down the thought in your physical or digital notepad so that you can look at it after you have worked on this task for a continuous half an hour. Same applies to any other external distractions you may face. Getting a phone call? Send them a text that you will call them back after half an hour; reminded of an email response you were supposed to send this morning? Jot down a reminder about it on your notepad and get back to the task you were doing. When you have put in a solid half an hour of focus, take a break and do any quick calls or messaging from your notepad list and get back to working on the task for another half an hour with a timer. Keep working with half an hour chunks of time with 5 min breaks in between. This will help your mind remain super focused.
Whether you are a working professional, a student, a consultant, a home maker or an entrepreneur, these steps are applicable to each one of you. Procrastination is not caused by laziness, rather it is the mind’s way of coping with increasing anxiety. The above mentioned steps are healthier ways to overcome anxiety induced procrastination, thus making it possible to take action, and to progress towards your goals.
We hope this article on 3 simple ways to overcome anxiety induced procrastination helps you! Do let us know your thoughts in the comments below! For more articles like this, check out Healthy Reads or tune in to LIVE sessions by our Emotional Wellness Expert Divya Thampi on GOQii Play.