I'm working from home today and originally planned to write first thing this morning (on a completely different topic) but when it came time to start, I suddenly noticed innumerable other things that needed to be done. I told myself it would be better to get them 'out of the way', but who am I kidding. I just didn't feel like writing. So, it's now 11.00am and I'm just starting. My house is clean, the shopping is done, and I've even answered some emails, checked social media and played with the dog. I don't know about you, but I get surprisingly productive and somewhat side-tracked when there's something I don't feel like doing especially if I have to (oh and I accepted an invitation to lunch with a friend I haven't seen for a while).
It got me thinking, and it makes sense really. Some tasks just make us feel bad. Cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine send us into fight, flight or freeze mode. So what do we do? Well, in fight mode, we get cranky and stubbornly refuse to do the task, denouncing it as stupid, useless, or a waste of time, etc. Sometimes our instinct is to flee - escape physically or mentally - spend time with friends, eat, check social media, surf the net, play games, or do anything other than the ‘odious’ task - even ones that seem less odious at the time like cleaning or shopping. Other times we freeze - literally do nothing, just stare blankly at the computer screen. Why? They all stop the bad feelings by giving us a sense of control. Unfortunately, they're only temporary solutions to our pain. The task still needs to be done (and often gets harder) and so begins the vicious cycle.
More bad feelings, more switching tactics, which is reinforced each time we escape the pain. Ingenious really. Why feel bad when you have a choice? Washing up (bad), or watching tv (good)? Finish that report (bad), or chat with a colleague (good)? Go jogging (bad), or sleep in (good)? Even though they don’t address the cause of the pain, our strategies work – so, of course, we chose the option that feels better. If you'd like to stop procrastinating and embrace anticrastination mode, here are some tips I find helpful:
Have a fabulously productive day! Share your favourite way to reward yourself in the comments below and inspire others!
DEBORAH FARRELL (MCounPsych)