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Break Procrastination cycle

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By Shelby AndersonPublished 6 months ago 3 min read
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Break Procrastination cycle
Photo by Magnet.me on Unsplash

As the clock strikes 5 p.m., a sudden realization sets in – that report you've been putting off is due tomorrow. The moment has come to buckle down, fire up your computer, and plunge into the task at hand. However, before you fully commit, the allure of checking your phone and catching up on your favorite YouTube channel becomes too tempting to resist. Perhaps a brief detour to prepare dinner first, considering your usual enjoyment of cooking. Yet, the looming work casts a shadow over this routine, and before you know it, the evening has slipped away. The thought of giving it another shot in the morning crosses your mind. Ah, the perpetual cycle of procrastination – a scenario that resonates with us all at some point.

But what fuels this tendency to delay important tasks even when we are well aware of its detrimental consequences? It's crucial to differentiate between responsible time management and procrastination. While delaying certain tasks may be a deliberate choice in prioritization, procrastination occurs when we avoid a task we committed to without a valid reason, knowing it will lead to negative consequences.

Ironically, procrastination is a defense mechanism initiated by our bodies to shield us from perceived threats. When faced with a daunting task, such as writing a report, the brain reacts as if it were confronting an imminent danger. The amygdala, a cluster of neurons responsible for emotional processing and threat recognition, releases stress hormones like adrenaline, triggering a fear response. This stress-induced panic can overpower the prefrontal cortex, which typically aids in long-term thinking and emotional regulation. In the midst of this fight, flight, or freeze response, the decision to avoid the threatening task in favor of a less stressful one is made.

While the severity of this response may seem disproportionate, particularly when considering it's merely a deadline and not a life-threatening situation, it stems from the tendency to procrastinate tasks associated with negative emotions such as dread, incompetence, and insecurity. Research on procrastinating university students reveals a consistent inclination to delay tasks perceived as stressful or challenging.

Moreover, the perceived difficulty of a task tends to escalate during procrastination. In an experiment involving students and reminders to study, participants reported the act of studying as less stressful while actively engaged in it. However, during procrastination, the same individuals consistently rated studying as highly stressful, creating a barrier to initiation.

Notably, procrastination is not solely the domain of laziness. Laziness, marked by a lack of energy and general apathy, contrasts with the often anxiety-driven nature of procrastination. Procrastinators frequently report a high fear of failure, delaying tasks due to apprehension that their work won't meet their self-imposed high standards.

Regardless of the root cause, the outcomes of procrastination are consistent. Frequent procrastinators are more likely to grapple with anxiety, depression, persistent feelings of shame, heightened stress levels, and physical ailments associated with stress. Paradoxically, while procrastination harms us in the long run, it provides temporary relief by reducing stress, reinforcing it as a coping mechanism for dealing with demanding tasks.

Breaking free from the cycle of procrastination requires a strategic approach. While conventional wisdom may suggest cultivating discipline and enforcing strict time management, contemporary research leans towards a more compassionate perspective. Being overly harsh on oneself can exacerbate negative emotions, intensifying the perceived threat. To disrupt this stress response, it becomes essential to identify and diminish these negative emotions. Strategies such as breaking a task into smaller components or journaling about the stressors involved can be effective. Minimizing nearby distractions that facilitate impulsive procrastination is also beneficial. Above all, fostering an attitude of self-compassion, forgiving oneself, and devising a plan for improvement contribute to overcoming the procrastination challenge.

In a culture perpetuating the stress-procrastination cycle, embracing self-compassion and implementing practical strategies becomes imperative for collective well-being in the long term.

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About the Creator

Shelby Anderson

I like writing about many things

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