My struggles with procrastination and avoidance inspired me to write about the solutions I discovered and use regularly. I hope they can help you too. Newman, Care Ministry Director
Procrastination & Avoidance
Procrastination and avoidance, not to be confused with patience and diligence, can be caused by many factors including:
Anxiety – the irrational fear of what might happen
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) – difficulties with focusing, sequencing, and prioritizing
Depression – low energy, motivation, concentration, pleasure, etc...
Low Self Confidence – the uncertainty of ability to succeed
Hyperbolic Discounting – also called “present bias,” is a cognitive bias, where people choose smaller, immediate rewards rather than larger, later rewards
Dealing with Challenging Feelings
Procrastination and avoidance can make anything seem intimidating. When you procrastinate, you opt for the instant gratification of enjoying yourself rather than the future reward of accomplishing the things you set out to do. This approach to life is called Hyperbolic Discounting.
The human brain is wired to cause us to hide our feelings, self-isolate, and live inauthentically. We prefer to put-off our discomfort of future survival and focus on the immediate relief to survive the moment.
The more we avoid thoughts, people, and experiences that stir up uncomfortable emotions, the smaller life becomes.
This is why procrastination and avoidance are more about ignoring feelings. We prefer replacing task with an easy distraction than focusing on work that offers a future reward because of how it feels. The same goes for avoidance.
A lot of important decisions that concern our health, wellness, financial security, and careers are affected by hyperbolic discounting.
Under harsher living conditions, we didn’t know if we will survive till the end of the day — so we choose the immediate things we feel help us survive.
Hidden feelings always become surrounded by shame and guilt. These common feelings hide in the shadows, but exposed to the light, they have no place to hide and have to leave.
Using the Triple A's: Acknowledgement, Awareness, Application,
Acknowledgement - When a challenging feeling presents itself, it is telling you it wants to be acknowledged and addressed. Feelings that lead to procrastination or avoidance also need to be measured. Take notice of how fast the feeling increases. low, med, high. For example, “I have things I really don’t feel like doing today.” This acknowledgment will remove from the shadows the nagging feeling to procrastinate or avoid and help you move forward.
Awareness - When a feeling overwhelms, it’s because it escalates. Having an awareness of solutions is key to adjusting the levels. Balance is brought back into focus with healthy responses. So, with awareness, you don’t have to overreact or under respond. Awareness requires some effort to develop because we need a landscape of knowledge to better understand ourselves. Example: “I’m aware I don’t want to do this. So, I’ll take a moment and step back, then decide the next step to take forward.” Just this simple change puts awareness into motion.
Application - Applying healthy mental exercises regularly, like mindfulness, improves resilience and builds mental health to strengthen daily living. Also, a mindfulness practice can move around with you as you go. It’s like having a supportive friend near the moment a challenge appears, helping you to remain focused. Example: “I’m taking one step at a time, but I’m feeling anxious. So, I’ll take a break, do mindful breathing, and then refocus.”
Mindful Practices help you relax your brain. The benefit is that when you relax your brain, you can shift gears and take on new information. That's when you can set a new intention for a better result. In the moment of clarity, the cleared-out space makes room for new direction. Like telling yourself the opposite of the previous feeling.
Just because a challenge can cause you to stumble, doesn’t mean you are a failure. Mental and physical challenges don't' define who we are. No one ever says, “I am cancer.” They say, “I have cancer.”