Pretty much everyone has procrastinated at some point in their lives. To the majority of us is not a pleasant feeling specially when the result is having to work under the pressure of an immediate deadline. So, the obvious question is why do we all procrastinate when we know the outcome of it? The answer why we keep self-sabotaging us lies in the subconscious mind. Procrastination is an emotional process. It keeps us safe from doing things that overwhelm us. Our brain experiences a short-term reward from avoidance. Therefore, if we want to stop procrastinating, we need to act at a subconscious level.
If you don’t have much time today, I hope you have enjoyed this previous summary we have prepared for you. On the other hand, if you want to learn more, I recommend you to read the rest of the article. In any case, thank you for the support and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter here to stay updated on the latest content published on all of our platforms. Buckle up and #subconsciouskaizen for all!!!
Procrastination vs giving yourself time
The other day I was talking to my friend Martino Sacchi (PhD in philosophy and master in psychoanalysis) and I told him I was working on an article about procrastination. He was interested because it has been an extremely popular topic over the last years in the academia. As it normally happens in our conversations, he gave me a remarkably interesting insight:
- M: “Remember, Jackie, do not confuse procrastination with waiting for the right time to do something.”
- J: “What do you mean by that?” (I needed a more detailed explanation because sometimes he speaks to me as if I was the little grasshopper ).
- M: “It took me 2 years to finally start my PhD. Do you think I was procrastinating?”
- J: “Absolutely not. You were doing your masters on psychoanalysis.”
- M: “Exactly. I was just waiting for the right time for me to start my PhD.”
- J: “Well how do we differentiate one thing from the other?”
- M: “You need to look and observe the bigger picture. Only you own the narrative of your life. You have the answer to the question what should I do next with my life? Is it the right time to start this part of my journey?”
Dear Kaizeners, even though this article talks about procrastination and its deepest connections to the subconscious mind do not forget that it is important for you to distinguish if you are procrastinating or waiting for the right time to start certain part of your personal journey. It is essential that we are honest with ourselves to recognize when we are procrastinating.
Pinpointing why you are procrastinating is key to help eliminating it from our minds and subsequently our lives. When we understand what underlying beliefs are in our subconscious that are causing us to procrastinate it makes changing much easier.
Procrastination: the word we love to hate and hate to love
Procrastination. The word that most of us have a love-hate relationship with. We say we hate to procrastinate, yet love doing other things in lieu of what we are supposed to be doing, and then we hate when we have put things off for too long and have to complete the tasks NOW.
Everyone has procrastinated at some point or another in their lives. At home we put off cleaning the dishes, doing the laundry, or tidying up the bedroom. At work, we mentally note to send that email later, start that project right after lunch today (and then don’t), or sit down at the computer and decide that first you need a coffee if you are going to get anything done (and then only mark off two or three things on your to-do list). Can you recognize yourself in such a setting? Are any triggering feelings coming to the surface? Hold on to them and keep on reading…
It has been said that procrastination is the thief of time, and that is true. How much time do we actually rob ourselves of by putting things off? How many hours in a year are consumed with building our alibies to postpone doing what we must? Why do we do this? And is it possible to stop?
Why we procrastinate: Procrastination and the subconscious
We have three main parts of the brain: The prefrontal cortex (the part of you reading this article right now), the limbic system (the emotional part of the brain), and the reptilian brain (responsible for our fight or flight response), all of which we have talked extensively in here. As humans we are wired to survive; thus, our reptilian brain (where the subconscious is) controls a lot of our lives. It is the part of the brain that establishes our behaviors and habits. It is also is linked to the limbic system, which provides the emotional response to our survival behaviors.
When you procrastinate it is because at first you come across a task that you don’t want to do because it’s boring, stressful, or overwhelming. This emotional response comes from the limbic part of our brains. This is the part that decides a particular task is unworthy to execute at the moment, and it would be best to do something else to feel better. Once these behaviors are repeated, a habit is formed. Once our habits have been established, the reptilian brain views these as habits as part of our survival, and we perform these habits without even thinking about them.
What about the people who say “Hey, I just work better under pressure!” Well, there is a subconscious reason for that behavior as well. Centuries ago we had to work under pressure in order to literally survive. If a sabretooth tiger was coming at you, your limbic system would set off some strong emotions, and you would respond in that moment. The difference is nowadays our deadlines serve as the sabretooth tiger, so we think on a subconscious level if we put something off, it’s better because your “flight or fight” response kicks in. In actuality, you need to reprogram yourself if you want to stop procrastinating and feelings of anxiety, stress, and overwhelm.
So, procrastination is actually an emotional process. A study conducted by Diana Tice indicated that people procrastinate more when they are sad or upset because procrastination gives the short-term emotional relief of pleasantness. In a fleeting moment procrastination fixes our mood, but it is only temporarily. What are your actual deep-rooted feelings to the task? Often times feelings come up such as fear of failure, anxiety, overwhelm, self-doubt, or fear of judgement that keep us from completing our tasks. When you stare at the first slide of a blank power point presentation, you might think: I don’t even know where to start (overwhelm), and I don’t have enough knowledge to this (self-doubt), or what will other people think of this (fear of judgment), etc.
Then, you decide to take a little break and come back to the PowerPoint later. But, that blank presentation and more importantly, those feelings are still going to be there when you come back, and if you are in a time-crunch, these feeling will also be accompanied with stress, more anxiety, and self-blame for not doing it sooner.
Ultimately, what we are doing when we procrastinate is avoiding. And if our brains are wired in such a way that avoidance is giving more satisfaction than non-avoidance, then avoidance (or procrastination) will keep winning. But the procrastination is only a momentary relief. The problem is that we feel relieved, and the brain recognizes this temporarily relief as a reward. When we are rewarded for something, we are more likely to do it again. So, we end up rewarding ourselves for this self-sabotaging behavior and enter into a vicious cycle-one that eventually becomes part of our daily habits.
The reward and subsequent feeling of relief usually come from what we do to avoid the procrastination. Some rewarding tasks that give us temporary relief are:
- Surfing the web
- Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook
- Watching Netflix
- Checking e-mails
All of these avoidance techniques are so rewarding for your brain and reinforce procrastination even more. Do you engage in any of these rewards to avoid procrastination?
Procrastination is something that we all have done-it is part of the human experience. However, if you procrastinate more frequently than you would like to, it may be time to take a look at your subconscious and begin to transform it, one step at a time, the kaizen way.
I hope you have enjoyed the article and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter here to stay updated on the latest content published on all of our platforms. Thank you for the support and #subconsciouskaizen for all!!!