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The Procrastination Trap: How to Reclaim Your Time and Energy

How often do you find yourself procrastinating?

I know, I do it too sometimes…

  • When I have a big project that I want to complete and it seems overwhelming and I’m not sure where to start.

  • When I planned to exercise, but I’m just not in the mood when the time comes.

  • When there’s a task that I’m dreading (ugh, laundry).

  • When I have a decision to make. Sometimes even small ones, like “What’s for dinner?” or “What should I wear today?”

And I do anything and everything to avoid doing “the thing”.

I scroll socials, check email, fill online shopping carts, worry, call a friend, reach for a snack.

I do other tasks to feel “productive”, to avoid whatever it is that I’m avoiding.

Altogether, it’s a huge time and energy suck!

And sometimes my brain offers me the following thoughts, which are NOT helpful:

-You’re so lazy.

-You should know how to do this by now.

-You’re not going to have enough time to get everything done.

-You’re not going to make the right decision.

-This isn’t going to work.

-You’re not going to do this “right”.

Does any of this sound familiar?

This is all 100% normal. The job of our primitive {survival} brain is to seek pleasure, avoid discomfort and conserve energy {by doing what’s easy and familiar}.

Even though it’s normal for our brain to respond this way, it doesn’t mean any of it is true.

Here are some of the real reasons we procrastinate:

-Our brain tells us the task is too hard, it’ll be unpleasant or we might experience some discomfort (physical or emotional);

-We overload our schedule and then get overwhelmed;

-Our brain overcomplicates it, so we feel confused;

-We’re afraid to fail and it feels safer to just put it off.

Next time you find yourself procrastinating, try these strategies.

Get curious. Instead of beating yourself up for procrastinating, get curious about why you're doing it. Our brains are wired to seek pleasure and avoid discomfort, so it's natural to put off tasks that seem challenging or unpleasant. But remember, these thoughts aren't necessarily true; they're just your brain's way of protecting you. Challenge those thoughts and ask yourself: Is this thought true? How do I know it’s true? What else could be true? Why am I choosing to think this thought? Is it helpful? What can I think instead? By questioning our inner dialogue, we can overcome some the self-imposed obstacles that are ultimately stealing our time and energy {our most valuable assets}.

Remember why you wanted to do the “task” in the first place. Is your reason compelling to YOU? If it’s not important to you, consider letting it go or delegating it. But, if it truly matters to you, use that intrinsic motivation {and discipline} to push forward.

Simplify and conquer. Ask yourself how you can make it easier. For example, when faced with an overwhelming project, break it into smaller, manageable pieces. By doing this, you'll reduce the sense of overwhelm and create a clear path to follow. Imagine yourself succeeding at each step, and suddenly, the seemingly impossible task becomes achievable.

Add joy. “Temptation bundling”, coined by Katherine Milkman and colleagues, is a useful technique to infuse joy into mundane tasks. Love podcasts? Listen to your favorite one while cleaning the kitchen. Enjoy watching shows? Cue one up while you’re walking on the treadmill. Hate sitting traffic? Listen to an audiobook {maybe the one that’s been sitting on your nightstand that you never seem to have time to read ;-}. Combining joy with a daunting or unpleasant task will give you the nudge to get it done.

Implement the 10-minute rule. Give yourself permission to procrastinate for 10 minutes. But here’s the kicker – once those ten minutes are up, commit to working on the actual task for at least ten minutes. You’ll be amazing at how often those ten minutes evolve into a productive flow.

Harness the power of time blocking. Ditch the never-ending to do list and schedule specific time blocks on your calendar for tasks or parts of larger projects. This not only prevents overloading your schedule, but also rewards your brain with a dopamine hit when you complete the blocks.

Take action to create momentum. Inaction feeds, procrastination, so start taking action. No matter how unsure or confused you feel, identify one thing you can do right now to move forward. The first step is often the hardest, but it creates momentum…inching you closer to your goals {big or small}.

When we get stuck in procrastination, we often choose the path of least resistance – temporary relief at the cost of long-term gratification. But, you CAN reclaim the time and energy that procrastination is costing you. And maybe some $$ too, if you’re like me and procrastinate with online shopping ;-).

The key is taking action and choosing to move forward, rather than lingering in the comfort of delay. It’ll take some experimenting and practice to see what works best for you, but it’s worth it in the end!

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