22 May “I just want to run away.”, said my Avoider.
I have been serial procrastinator for a long time & it’s been frustrating. It’s simply so irritating to have this habit as one of my weaknesses.
In a couple of days, I have my final dissertation coming up. I’m in my third year of economics and we all have to prepare a research study on different topics. It’s supposed to be quite intensive, and a task.
We have to do a literature review of the previous research, form a questionnaire, collect the data, analyze the whole thing and then finally come up with some results. It seems like a mountain of work when you break it down like this. And it truly is.
But, I also ‘wish; to perform really well. I want to give my 100% and truly learn from this experience. I know it’ll teach me how to conduct a large study independently & make me stronger.
But to be completely honest, over the last couple of years I’ve hardly been able to live up to these ‘wishes’. I’ve taken complete advantage of my ‘habit’ in early school days with no consequences and felt the pang one too many times in achieving my own personal goals (or even thinking of setting one – it’s tough!)
More than often, I find myself disappointed, in myself for having a habit sabotage my life this way in the first place. It’s frustrating. It makes me feel hopeless and like giving up.
If you haven’t hated yourself for anything before, then welcome, procrastination is a breeding ground of self-hatred. It even changes the way people take you seriously!
Basically, a procrastinator = a loser.
Things were much, much worse a couple of years back. I wanted to run for the Entrepreneurship Cell Head in my college. I remember trying to prepare for some campaign collaterals. I sat there, with a couple of over-the-top fake words, constantly cursing myself for a bad attempt. I sat, and sat, and sat.
My head started throbbing and a weird dryness had formed in my throat. I remember that I couldn’t even look at the screen anymore. Instead of retrying, or taking a break, I put Netflix on. I was passively ignoring the bulk of the work left to do, yet still feeling anxious about finishing it well.
It was only in panic due to a deadline that I was able to finish even writing something. But until I hadn’t, I tried everything I could to avoid the pain from the ingenuine, flashy and terrible piece I could come up with!
I went to take a nap, yet tossed and turned. I tried speaking to a friend only to realise how emotionally reactive I had become. Back then, I had absolutely no idea what was happening. It was as if my thoughts, beliefs and experiences were one with my identity, and for me, I was a loser. My life had been ruined. And I hated myself.
But, just like every sad story, even I found my saviour.
This time in the form of psychology. Luckily, I was introduced to the concepts by Dr Nicole LePera, the Holistic Psychologist & very similar ones by Shirzad Chamine’s Positive Intelligence and Mel Robbins’ Youtube videos.
I tried to understand what really is this habit of procrastination after all? So, a habit usually has a trigger followed by a conditioned behaviour and a reward – which keeps us repeating it. But, what were these ‘triggers’? Going deeper, I realised that every time I faced a task outside my comfort zone, maybe with a risk of criticism, judgement or failure I would follow my regular pattern of running away.
To give you an idea, procrastination is how our subconscious mind forms a protective cocoon around us, like a mama tiger around her baby cub. This part of our brain is one of the oldest (limbic system) & has evolved to survive (not to be happy). In the wake of stress or danger, my limbic system protects me automatically by self-soothing through incessant scrolling on Instagram, Reddit, my gallery or possibly anything I can scroll (of course, your ways of self-soothing may be very different). When this part sees the mammoth task in front of us, it flashes a huge red danger alert sign – like a big bright red strobe light that won’t shut down.
But just realizing that our subconscious mind protects us to such an extent, fills me up with some gratitude. Just being aware of the mechanism behind this habit of mine and recognising it emerging in real life has genuinely made so much difference. It’s still painful to have it, but it has even made me discover myself more deeply. What do I dislike? What do I like? What am I comfortable with, or not.
To sum it up, there was a point in my life where I didn’t quite understand why I behaved in this chaotic ‘last-minute deadline-oriented’ manner. I had friends who could wake up easily at 7 am, but I could never live up to this promise. It’s only recently that I learnt how to detach my habit and my own identity.
In the process of writing this piece, a couple of ways to battle this habit emerged. I’ve laid them out for you, or for me in case I want to come back to them:
- Recognising my judgemental thoughts calling myself a failure, as just my own. They’re not a universal truth & they’re not written in the Gita. It’s just a manifestation of my fear. Detach from it.
- Building self-trust by keeping a small habit of 10 minutes or less every day. Super helpful to form new neural pathways that convince you, you can. (Dr. Nicole LePera)
- Taking the first step is the hardest but if I’m able to jump & start, it’s the easiest way to enter a ‘Flow’ state.
- Developing my mental strength (prefrontal cortex’s strength) by doing PQ reps using sight, sound and touch. (Shirzad Chamine)
- Avoid thinking too much, and just dive into it.
- Take a break to re-energize and listen to some of my favourite music!! Possibly end with a power song!
- Reminding myself of the consequences of not finishing the task, usually, we discount gains in the future for gains in the present – Instant gratification.
- On days when it still feels like too much, telling myself it’s okay. I’ll come back to it again. (or maybe let the panic catch me, no I’m kidding don’t do that, it’s not healthy, thanks)