Dave Lovemartin

A technique for overcoming procrastination

And why we prioritise other things instead

last tended: 14.2.2024

Procrastination is a habitual tendency to delay a task you planned to do. How often do you come up with an excuse to avoid what you have to do, and instead, end up doing something else that makes you feel better?

Procrastination is deeply connected with our emotions. It’s an avoidance strategy that acts as a short-term mood repair. When we procrastinate, we get temporary relief from facing something we don’t want to do.

Procrastination is also a habit. And if you want to tackle procrastination, you need to understand how habits work:

  1. The cue — a trigger that sets your brain off on an automated response.
  2. The routine — a habitual response that your brain makes when triggered by the cue.
  3. The reward — every habit develops because the brain gives us a feeling of pleasure. To change a bad habit, you need to develop alternative rewards.

By changing your reaction to the cues that trigger your habit of procrastination, you can start working on the things that matter:

You can try interstitial journalling to help track when you procrastinate.

Write out your strategy as an Implementation Intention:

If you find yourself procrastinating, take some time to explore why. Journalling helps you structure your thoughts. Becoming aware of your feelings is the first step to accepting them.

One tool for thinking differently about tasks is to concentrate less on the product of the task (as this is causing the anxiety that your brain is trying to avoid) but instead concentrate on the process of carrying out the task. The process relates to the flow of time and the actions associated with that flow of time.

By thinking about the process of carrying out work, rather than the product of the task, your goal changes to something more manageable.

Here’s a process to get started:

Understanding why I procrastinate has had a really powerful effect on me. By noticing when I am putting things off, and realising that this is a defense mechanism at play, I now know that this is the time I need to get introspective and think about why I’m acting this way.

More often enough, this happens when I don’t know how to do something and I get frustrated. Now I know to lean into the frustration and take the time to work things out.

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