How to Stop Procrastination in its Tracks
As the New York Times explains, the word procrastination is derived from the Latin verb procrastinare — to put off until tomorrow. But it’s more than just voluntarily delaying. Procrastination is also derived from the ancient Greek word akrasia — doing something against our better judgment. So… why do we procrastinate if we know there are consequences?
We often view procrastination as an issue rooted in poor time management; however, according to psychology professor and researcher Dr. Tim Pychyl, it is much more existential.
“Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem.”
Procrastination is not a character flaw or absence of organizational skills. It is a coping mechanism triggered by unprocessed emotions like anxiety, insecurity, and frustration. Unfortunately, procrastinating itself also furthers these feelings and prompts potential guilt. Because there is an inherent anxiety around public speaking, we see this manifest a lot when it comes time to rehearse that speech.
We have all stared directly into the eyes of procrastination before. How do you avoid that gaze? Here are 3 ways!
Tackle those emotions at the source by recognizing the anxiety and reframing the narrative in your mind through visualization. Close your eyes and envision your performance in the ideal way you imagine it going. You are brilliant, gleaming, and confident in your favorite empowering outfit. Your audience glued in awe of your words, laughing at your jokes, crying at your emotional story, and giving a standing ovation to conclude. Take the time to decide what your perfect performance looks like. You can even create a fun vision board if it helps you bring that vision to life!
Next, create a checklist of all the things you need to do to get there! Have you already created your outline? What comes next? Creating your deck, practicing your delivery, etc. Once I know my main points, I always put “Write and Practice Opener” as its own category on this list, simply because it is so important to nail that first impression. Delegating extra time towards my opener also helps address the underlying anxiety that led me to procrastinate in the first place. Guaranteeing a strong start helps me set the tone for the audience and to support myself in tackling that anxiety for the duration of my entire speech. (If you need help starting a presentation with confidence and with something that stands out, see our mini course Start Presentations with Star Confidence.)
Along the way, you may find yourself experiencing moments of lacking motivation and backing into that procrastination mode. To push through this, you want to create rewards for yourself as you check off your to-dos. This also includes the “not to-dos” like avoiding distractions for a length of time, such as social media. The subsequent reward can be something as small as going for a walk or picking up lunch from your favorite spot (obviously this involves Chinese food). With each task you complete, your body releases endorphins. This small reward system will train your brain to crave those rewards, thereby craving the completion of whatever task is at hand.
Procrastination is something we all confront, as we all face the emotions that fuel it. But we can reuse, reduce, and recycle those feelings of anxiety or insecurity to fuel ourselves towards action. (Yes, I just connected green living to anxiety!) Motivating yourself to tackle those tasks will lighten the weight of the self-doubt thought loop on your beautiful, brilliant brain.