Have you ever found yourself waiting until the last minute to take care of something super important? I know that I have. And more than likely, at least on one occasion or another, you have also found yourself burning the midnight oil well into the eleventh hour, scrambling feverishly to meet a deadline.
In this article, I’ll look into the relationship between anxiety and procrastination, and what you can do about it.
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How Anxiety Induces Procrastination
From waiting until the night before an important project is due to pulling an all-nighter before a major event, for one reason or another, we have all been guilty of procrastination. Nevertheless, I don’t believe that it’s an intentional act but rather the result of two main underlying factors.
There are only so many hours in the day to get things done. From growing your business to being there for a growing family, time is perhaps the most precious commodity that we all have to successfully learn how to trade.
This leads to procrastination revolves around issues with time management. Given the ever-present essence of time, if you are not managing your time wisely, you run the risk of simply running out of it!
Taking on More Responsibilities
It feels that the more life you live, the more responsibility you assume along the way. Just when you start to feel as though you finally have everything on your plate under control, you inadvertently end up with a whole new set of responsibilities to take care of.
This second factor that appears to directly contribute to procrastination is essentially a byproduct of the first one. Similar to using the internet at home, if there are too many users on your network, the signal will be poor, the images lagging, and the entire network could easily shut down at any moment, ultimately leaving you, along with everyone else in your household, stuck on the dark side of the information highway.
In other words, everyone has a limit. No matter how much you may think otherwise, there is only so much you can accomplish in a day. There is only so much weight you can carry by yourself while still having enough interpersonal strength to stand.
From my experience, just like the internet, you can only take on so much responsibility before you find yourself lagging behind and—if you’re not careful with your precious time—ultimately, break down.
At the end of the day, it’s easy to see why so many people, myself included, have found themselves battling with anxiety-induced procrastination for so long. It’s that uneasy feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you have so much to do that you can’t even figure out how or where to get started doing any of it.
Just before you know it, along with a throbbing headache, an upset stomach, and perhaps even a stiff neck, you find yourself just about out of time to get anything done at all.
Have no fear! There is hope. Take it from me, as someone who has had to deal with his fair share of anxiety-induced procrastination.
Not only can you learn how to cope with it, but perhaps even more importantly, you can learn how to avoid procrastinating in the first place. You may just have to change the way that you look at time.
5 Ways to Cope With Anxiety-Induced Procrastination
Below are five simple strategies that can help you cope with anxiety-induced procrastination.
1. Triage Your Time
Take care of the most important things that you have to do first.
Just for a moment, imagine that you are an emergency room doctor and that you have multiple patients sitting in the waiting room of your hospital who are seeking medical attention. The most practical thing to do would be to try and take care of the most severe cases first, especially those with potentially life-threatening conditions.
I suggest that you apply the same consideration when trying to prioritize your responsibilities.
According to Abraham Maslow, the noted psychologist and author, there exists a hierarchy of needs within each one of us. To achieve self-actualization, which essentially refers to your true potential or ideal self, you must first feel as though your basic needs have been met. I happen to agree with his hypothesis.
One of the best ways to cope with anxiety-induced procrastination is to make sure that you take care of your basic needs first, such as your physical health and personal safety. Then, once the foundation for your personal growth is secure, you can focus on the more aesthetic aspects of your life with a greater sense of security.
2. Break It Down
Rather than trying to tackle a large project all at once, try breaking it down into smaller, manageable, and targeted tasks. Then, once all of the individual tasks have been completed, you can combine all of them to form the finished product.
Whether you are planning to start your own business or are just trying to become more efficient in your current position at work, instead of trying to finish a massive project in a single sitting—or even worse, at the last minute—consider chipping away at specific parts of it each day. Not only will you gain momentum in whatever you are doing, but you will also gain perhaps greater self-esteem as you prove to yourself that you are making headway moving forward.
3. Progress Not Perfection
After years of careful and costly introspection, I finally realized that I was a perfectionist. It’s not that I thought that I was any better than anyone else but rather that I was hardly ever satisfied with anything at all. Nothing was ever good enough.
As a result, I found myself spending the majority of my precious time and energy trying to improve everything around me without ever actually trying to improve myself. Ultimately, I ended up plagued with a multitude of unfinished projects since I couldn’t finish any of them.
Looking back now through the hourglass of time, it’s clear that there is a direct correlation between constantly striving for perfection and anxiety-induced procrastination. Rather than ending up bogged down in unattainable expectations of self-inflicted perfection, continue to build upon the progress that you have made moving forward in whatever it is that you are doing.
Finish the task at hand, and then, time permitting, go back to make it as close to perfect as possible.
4. Set Boundaries
No matter how much you want to accomplish, sometimes you have to know when to say “when.” Rather than setting limits on what you can achieve, you may want to carefully consider setting limits on the amount of responsibility that you are willing to take on, especially as you become more proficient in whatever it is that you do in life.
Along with success comes the added burden of responsibility. I have met a lot of people over the years who have become very successful. Unfortunately, however, they were unable to truly enjoy the fruits of their labor because they felt as though they were responsible for everything and everyone around them.
If you find yourself taking on the weight of the world, at one point or another you will probably find yourself at the bottom of it. In other words, before you try to take care of anyone else, try taking care of yourself first!
5. Schedule Down Time
Your brain is the most powerful organ in your body! It either regulates or controls everything that you think, do, and say. And just like any other powerful machine, if you use it too much or mistreat it, it can easily malfunction.
As a professional mental health interventionist, I have made a career out of always being willing, ready, and able to help anyone, anywhere battling severe symptoms of mental illness and underlying substance use disorders. As a result, I am usually always on the go, traveling from here to there, and then hopefully back again as soon as possible once my clients are safe and sound, receiving the care that they need.
At the same time, although my services are in high demand, especially now, I know that I have to somehow make some time for myself and my sense of wellness. In fact, studies have shown that taking breaks regularly can increase overall productivity by providing the mind with the time to re-energize and refocus.
Although I may not be able to stop and smell the roses all of the time, I try to do so, whenever, wherever, and as long as I can.
In conclusion, for one reason or another, we have all waited until the last minute to take care of something important. Unfortunately, as a result, we have had to inadvertently deal with all of the anxiety that came along with procrastinating.
Nevertheless, anxiety-induced procrastination is not a conscious act but rather the result of trying to keep up with all of our increasing responsibilities while, at the same time, having a fixed amount of time to work with.
Perhaps the best way to cope effectively with anxiety-induced procrastination is to take proactive—and even sometimes bold—measures to reduce as many anxiety-producing situations as possible in your life, well before you begin to feel any symptoms of anxiety in the first place.
As I stated before, just like gold, time is one of our most precious commodities. Therefore, being able to manage it wisely is an essential part of living a full, productive, and peaceful life.
Remember, Rome was not built in a day, and neither will your own empire. Life is a long and sometimes arduous journey.
Every so often, you have to make a pit stop along the way so that you can refuel, rest, and recalibrate your coordinates to make sure that you are still on the right track.
Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com