It’s 7pm on a weeknight. You’ve just gotten home from a long day at work and are absolutely exhausted. Unfortunately, you have a meeting in the morning you need to prepare for. Before starting to prepare you think to yourself “I should take my dog out for a walk”. When you get home from your walk you make dinner for your kids then start to get them ready for bed. While you’ve been productive with these tasks, you’re now even more tired and tell yourself you’re going to take a 30 minute power nap before you start your work. When your alarm goes off you don’t feel quite rested so you go back to sleep setting your alarm for early the next morning. When you wake up, you take your dog for a walk, get your kids up and ready to go, and before you know it, you have 10 minutes to cram in everything you need to know before your morning meeting. 

If this sounds familiar you are not alone. Although everyone’s days will look different, many individuals struggle with procrastination and learning how to overcome it. For many of us this seems like a pattern we’re doomed to repeat time and time again. However, a recent article on ideas.ted.com informs the reader how they can overcome this habit of procrastination. 

The author, Voge, informs the reader that procrastination is predictable if we’re able to understand motivation and the way it manifests. While there are many theories about the root of procrastination, Voge believes it’s correlated with our feeling of self-worth. He elaborates on this concept stating, “The paramount psychological need that all of us have is to be seen by ourselves and others as capable and competent and able … and we will actually sacrifice or trade off other needs to meet that need.”

In simpler terms, many individuals feel the grades they get, reviews from employers, or acknowledgement they may receive is directly related to their self-worth or value. Individuals who procrastinate typically draw the strongest connection between the external feedback they receive and their value as a person. The feeling is, “If I perform poorly, I am not able, therefore I have less value”. This thought process can be extremely damaging. 

Utilizing the thought process that performance = ability = self-worth, procrastination is utilized as a protective factor. In the equation above the only factor we have any control over is the amount of effort we decide to put into our performance. If we put in an immense amount of effort and the result is not what we’d hope, that may contribute to how you view your self-worth. However, if you put in very little effort and the result isn’t what you’d hoped, you can blame the results on getting distracted, not having enough time, etc. instead of it reflecting upon your ability and self-worth. If you “didn’t have enough time” to study or review your work, you have an excuse handy if the results aren’t ideal. Whether intentionally or not, by procrastinating, individuals may be giving themselves a built in excuse before even starting the performance piece. All of these factors can lead to us feeling stuck.

To break the cycle of procrastination the article on ideas.ted.com suggests 3 possible strategies. 

  1. “Be aware of what you’re doing and why”

By understanding why we may be procrastinating we start to reduce the control this cycle has on our functioning. Taking a moment to pause and ask ourselves if we are procrastinating and why can be very beneficial on returning to our optimal state of functioning. We very frequently fall back on specific tasks or chores when attempting to avoid doing something else. By taking note of these activities we’re more easily able to identify when we may be unintentionally procrastinating. 

  1. “Tip the balance”

Typically, when an individual is procrastinating it is due to the fear of failing at the task being more significant than the desire to complete the task. In these situations it’s beneficial to consciously think about why it’s important to complete a certain task. For example, reminding yourself how completing this task may bring you closer to achieving a bigger life goal. At this point, if the tasks continues to feel overwhelming, breaking it down into smaller pieces may be beneficial in making the task feel more manageable. 

  1. “Challenge your beliefs”

While this may be the simplest strategy to use it is also the most difficult. In order to make a change, we must challenge the thought process that our self-worth and value is dependent on our performance or abilities.

If you or someone you know is struggling with procrastination or negative self-esteem and would like some support, it may be useful to connect with a therapist. Contact us online or call 312-578-9990 to make an appointment with one of our skilled therapists today!