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Happy New Year to you! How are you doing with your resolutions? If your goal for 2020 was to procrastinate less, you’ve probably already put it off. New Year, new you… eventually, right? It’s honestly not your fault. Let’s tackle it together. Yes, now.
2-4-6-8! Why do we procrastinate?
If you’re a procrastinator, you’ll have a particular poison. Perhaps you clean your house, clock a game, or spend too long on social media. Perhaps a quick scan of TradeMe takes you down a rabbit hole until you find yourself bidding on an actual rabbit hole. Or perhaps you find a lose thread on your top, and pull at it mindlessly until you’re sitting there naked, the long wrinkled string in your hand the only evidence of your wild distraction.
Put Some Clothes On, We’ll Wait
Ok? Ok. This article from the Miami Herald suggests that procrastination isn’t laziness, no matter what your partner tells you - at least that’s what you think they said, it’s hard to hear over the TV. Procrastination can be blamed on your amygdala. Your amygdala is the part of your brain that handles emotional responses, and sometimes it’s a total drama amygdallama. When anxiety overwhelms you, that’s your amygdala flooding you with stress chemicals. And in people who procrastinate, it’s bigger. They (you, we) literally have a bigger brain. Well, that one bit of it anyway.
Bigger Isn’t Better
With an overdeveloped amygdala, emotional responses are more intense. When faced with an anxious situation, like an upcoming deadline or presentation, you anticipate everything that could go wrong. Fear of the prep work being too hard, time-consuming or boring, the ironically paralysing fear of having too little time, fear of a poor reception. General catastrophizing turns a basic task into a giant octopus of panic from whose smothering tentacles the tiny aluminium dinghy of your work can’t escape and you’re dragged screaming into the foaming darkness and…
Sorry. What can we do about it? Well as it turns out, quite a lot.
We hear a lot about Self Care these days, but Self Care doesn’t always mean a massage or a rose-petal bath. In fact, a rose petal bath can turn into an exciting new stress situation if your bath has spa jets, similar to a seagull getting sucked into an airplane engine. Don’t try that at home. Try it at a motel, but don’t say we said to. Instead of recreating an unrealistic Pinterest version of Self-Care, really look after yourself. Drink water. Sleep. Eat a vegetable. Go for a walk. Get some of the guilt-laden tasks off your to-do list, either by doing, ditching or delegating. That’s Self-Care too.
That’s an annoying one, isn’t it? But it works. For many this pragmatic advice is impossible to follow. Procrastination is like a wall in front of us that snappy slogans have no power to climb or destroy. In that case we suggest:
We do mention Mindfulness fairly regularly, for a couple of reasons. Regular mindfulness practice has been shown to shrink the amygdala. Reducing your brain’s tendency to over-respond to stressors is the gold standard for anxiety sufferers. Mindfulness works best as an ongoing practice, not a last resort you leap into with a presentation looming. Try to factor it into daily life in a way you enjoy – the last thing you want is to find yourself procrastinating your mindfulness.
Who You Gonna Call?
Us. If you haven’t checked it out yet, our guide to managing presentation nerves is an evidence-based amygdala-buster. Nobody has to picture anybody naked, even if you’ve unravelled all your clothes again. Download it for free here: we want to help you get to a place when you can focus on the work, not the nerves about the work. Then you can really get somewhere with your career goals, and you’ll wonder what you were waiting for.
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