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Are You Making One of These 7 Procrastination Errors?

Are You Making One of These 7 Procrastination Errors?


    Have you ever suffered from procrastination?

    You’ve got so many things to do and yet you find yourself doing pretty much anything but the task at hand!

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    I don’t know about you, but I’ve done many mundane things that usually don’t get the time of day – all due to procrastination! I’ve cleaned the entire house from top to bottom, cleared out my email folders, cleared out the wardrobe, all things that aren’t really that urgent or important in my life – they just serve as a distraction so I don’t have to get on with those big tasks I’m avoiding.

    Sound familiar?

    There really is nothing more debilitating than being caught in the grips of procrastination. It stops us from focusing on what’s truly important to us, which can for many, lead to an unhappy, unproductive life.

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    To beat procrastination, first we must understand what the triggers are – and why we bother to procrastinate at all. There are a few common errors people make that can lead them down a destructive path of procrastination.

    Have a look at the below list to see if any of the errors sound familiar to you. Fear not — there are also some tips for overcoming these errors, so read on…

    1. Fear of failure

    If we fear that there’s a chance we may fail at something, it’s common for us to put off even trying. Yet what we don’t realise is that failure is a good thing! It provides us wiht valuable feedback so we can move on and learn from our mistakes. All the greats have learned to love failure. It’s important to spend some time changing your attitude to failure so this no longer affects your goals.

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    2. Feeling overwhelmed about a situation

    This is related to ‘fear of failure’. If we feel that a task is just too big or too overwhelming then again, we will make up excuses to try and avoid tackling it. One thing you can do is to break down big tasks into ‘bite size chunks’. By tackling a big task, one step at a time you will feel less overwhelm.

    3. Too busy with other things

    Often we are unrealistic about what’s achievable. We can take on too many things yet plan a really big goal that ultimately needs more time than is available. We need to make sure we have enough time & energy before we take on a new task. This may mean we need to remove other smaller, insignificant tasks form our list to make room.

    4. Lack of confidence in the task at hand

    If at some level we don’t really believe we can do the task, we will put it off. This links to the first point; fear of failure is really the biggest trigger for procrastination. If you have any doubt in your mind then it’s highly likely you will find other things to do! Make sure you have built up your confidence before attempting a goal!

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    5. How important is the task?

    This is a big one. Many people will set themselves a goal – but it turns out they’re not really that bothered about it. It’s essential you get clear about why you have set yourself goals and what the benefit is for you to complete them! If at a subconscious level you’re not really sure why you’re doing something, your brain will just decide for its self that it’s not that important and therefore demote it to the bottom of your priorities. The best thing you can do is prioritise your goals and then cross off those items that aren’t that important. This will free you up to focus on the goals that really matter.

    6. Is the task really for you or for someone else?

    When we are young we pick up certain behaviours and attitudes form our parents. It can be common when we reach adulthood to carry these attitudes with us – yet they are not ours and they are not really important to us. So, when we set a goal – sometimes it can be someone else’s goal. This makes it very hard to achieve because on some level we don’t really want it. You see this with young adults who have taken a career path into law because their father was a great lawyer. They are doing it for their father and not themselves and at some stage they end up sabotaging the career. Make sure your goals are your goals and no one else’s.

    7. Lack of Focus

    If you surround yourself with distractions then the temptation to procrastinate is much higher! It’s essential you remove ALL unwanted distractions so you have the space to focus on the task at hand! Yes — this means no television, no Facebook, no mobile phone and no emails — unless these things help you to focus. Believe me, the world will not end if you ‘turn everything off’ for an hour so you can focus!

    (Photo credit: Snooze Button via Shutterstock)

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    Zoe B

    A strategist, coach and blogger who shows people how to stop what isn't working for them in life and to start to plan the life they really want.

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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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