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7 Creative Ways To Overcome Procrastination

7 Creative Ways To Overcome Procrastination

Everyone procrastinates. It’s a fact of life. Every day you’re faced with undesirable tasks that you postpone. Who hasn’t put off paying taxes, making doctor’s appointments, and organizing the piles of papers on your desk? And it’s not only tasks. Communication is an often-procrastinated task that we avoid. The other is putting things in their proper place. Why should you should you put your clothes away when you’re going to wear the same ones later? Think about it, how many conversations are you avoiding (right now) that you should be having?

It’s human nature to avoid the unwanted, uncomfortable, and undesirable tasks, events, and situations. If you avoid a task, you might want to ask yourself, what is this showing me about myself. We avoid tasks because they show us our hidden character flaws (ones that we’d rather not see in ourselves). Procrastinated tasks are triggers of our what we don’t like in ourselves.

We don’t want to face the fact that math that concepts are hard. Or maybe a task will shows you how disorganized you are. (Where are all those receipts I saved for taxes?) We don’t want to admit that a certain subject makes us feel stupid. (I’m an artist my brain doesn’t comprehend finances). We’d like to believe that we could master any subject.

People tend to label themselves as procrastinators but it’s not that simple. There are many hidden issues that cause us to avoid starting or finishing tasks. If you know what type of procrastinator you are, it’s easier to customize a system that will support you during the stressful times, and lead to success. There are different types of procrastinators.

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There are perfectionists who get stuck over-preparing. Every detail has to be in place, lined up symmetrically before they can begin. There are the pressure-cookers who choose to wait because they work best under pressure. But in reality, they have no sense of timing, don’t understand the project, or it’s something boring like taxes, monthly accounting, and organizing paper piles.

And then there are party people who’d rather be hanging out with friends in the neighborhood bar than face paying bills (because if they do, they’ll overdraw their account).

Don’t forget the pretenders who get themselves into situations they know nothing about. Sure, I can do that, they tell their colleagues. They’re confident (at the time) that they’ll figure it out but as the deadline comes closer, they sit there blank and clueless. Their “superman complex” makes them think they can fly, but when they’re standing on the ledge, they look down to see it’s made of Kryptonite.

Let’s face it; when you’re procrastinating you just don’t want to do what you have to do. Whether it’s paying taxes, going to the dentist, or calling your aunt to wish her a happy birthday- admit it, there is something about that task that sets off your internal discomfort alarm.

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Some reasons we procrastinate are: doubt (I don’t know how to do it), fear (I’m afraid I won’t be good enough), desire (I’d rather go out with friends), indecision (I can’t decide what or how to do it), or boredom (I can’t concentrate. Too boring!).

So don’t waste your money or try to read a book on productivity, you know you won’t do that either. What you need are some creative-out-of-the-ordinary do-it-now hacks. Here are seven creative ways to overcome procrastination.

Be honest with yourself.

Admit it. It’s okay to say, I just don’t want to do this. Don’t deceive yourself. You’ll feel so much better if you’re honest with yourself. Face the facts. If you don’t want to do it now, say so. But commit to when you will do it, even if it’s an hour before the deadline. Why do you think the post office stays open past midnight on April 15?

Avoid traditional methods.

They won’t work if you don’t want to do the task, no matter how many clever reminders you use. Know what’s holding you back from facing the task, and then get creative. Customize the task for your specific needs. If you’re a night person, and your brain functions best at 1:00 a.m., plan your day around your high functioning hours. That means instead of grabbing another Red Bull or double-shot espresso at 3:00 p.m., take a power nap and prepare for a late night.

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Get support.

You may be avoiding the task because you don’t know to do it. You can spend hours trying to figure out how to do it, but that’ll only cause more stress. Ask for help. Admit that it’s not your area of expertise and find a friend, professional, book, or website that will help you get the job done.

Know your strengths.

You may be an expert mathematician, but your analytical mind might not comprehend the cognitive logic of psychology. Admit your reason for not getting started. Face the facts. It’s ok. Nobody’s perfect. Everyone isn’t a master in every subject. Go easy on yourself. Know that you have strengths but you can’t excel in every area. Knowing your strengths will help you accomplish your goals. Take this survey to discover your strengths.

Set a deadline.

Stating that you know it will be late creates a feeling of control, even if it’s up a last minute deadline. Admit that you’ll get the job done when you’re ready. Try to keep the deadline. Write it on a calendar. Send yourself an email. Set 3 alarms at different intervals to remind you to meet the deadline. The future can’t be seen or measured. What’s measured is managed, said Peter Drucker. Measure your time so you can manage it.

What’s the punishment?

Procrastination is denial. We know there will be a consequence but we ignore the repercussions if we do not complete required tasks. Procrastinators put off monitoring their bank accounts until they get an email saying their account is overdrawn. We become time blind, Dr. Russell Barkley states in his book, Taking Charge of Adult ADHD. Here and now is all that matters.

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What’s the reward?

When’re stuck in procrastination, negative thoughts take over your mind. All you think of is the despicable task you’re avoiding. You forget the benefits you’ll receive from completing the task. If you’re a student struggling to finish a paper for a required class, keep the reward in mind, you’ll be motivated to push through the discomfort to get a diploma. It’s amazing how motivated a bride can become when she has to lose weight before her wedding. Rewards are motivators.

You are not alone. Everyone avoids what they don’t enjoy. It’s true, some people are masters at forging through the tough tasks, but most of us have a long list of avoidances every day. Discover your strengths and then use them to get through the discomfort of procrastination. You will feel fantastic when you do!

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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