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There’s this important thing you really need to get done, like cleaning your house or a boring task for work or school. You start to think about doing this thing and you realize that it really doesn’t have to get done right now. In fact, it would be fine if you do this thing tomorrow instead. No one would care, its no big deal if it doesn’t get done right away…

We’ve all been there. Rationalizing in any way we can why we don’t have to do that important thing right now and finding just about anything else to occupy our time. Then comes the guilt… we are now “lazy”, kicking ourselves for not just getting the darned thing over with! Why do we always do this to ourselves? Why is it so easy to procrastinate?

There is an immediate reward to procrastination. It feels great to yet again avoid that thing we don’t feel like doing right now. Typically, the task we are avoiding causes some anxiety or dread and by procrastinating we get rid of that feeling. However, as we all know, that anxiety and dread is still there later as we realize the task is not going to go away by itself. In the moment we just don’t care, as we tend to have little empathy or concern for our future selves.

Those who procrastinate regularly often experience chronic stress, anxiety, depression and even increased physical health issues. So how do we stop this vicious cycle? First, we need to realize that procrastination is normal in moderate amounts and forgive ourselves for doing it. The negative feelings we have towards ourselves when we procrastinate only increase the urge to procrastinate again to provide that immediate gratification. We can also break down tasks into small steps so that we do not feel so overwhelmed and anxious about getting it done, focusing on only the next needed action rather than the task as a whole.

Realizing that procrastination is really about feelings and not about behavior, we can be more introspective and compassionate towards ourselves, thereby increasing motivation and task completion. Procrastination is a natural impulse to avoid negative feelings and does not make us lazy or incompetent. It just makes us human.

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