Don't Read this Now, Do it Later
A NEW WAY TO THINK ABOUT PROCRASTINATION
Dr. Piers Steel, author of, “The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done”, explains a new theory on the all too common behavior of putting off an action that is clearly in our best interest to do, yet we resist doing it.
If you start with the assumption that all behavior, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive it seems, has an explanation, then you go about looking for it. If you also assume that the unconscious mind knows what it is doing and has its own logic, then you can also find answers that make sense.
In this case, it’s all about avoiding negative feelings. Let’s take doing our taxes as an example. Our experience in the present moment, unless it is April 15 and the Post office is closing shortly, is that doing our taxes is not that urgent, and the idea of sitting down and doing what it takes to get the task done is making us feel lousy. The concept that in the future we will regret not doing it now, hasn’t enough sway to push us over the edge to do them right now.
As Steel explains, we did not evolve to take into account events that far into the future. Our ancestors didn’t have to think too much about the future. What might happen weeks or months from now didn’t matter and was not important. Even the concept of weeks, months, time itself, was much more recent in our development. So a future self is seen in some ways as someone else’s problem. Not my problem. What I feel like doing now is far more powerful than the thought about some possible outcome in the distant future.
So we do what is most compelling to us in the moment. We eat, watch Netflix, get back to our cliffhanger of a novel, answer the text that just came in……. Anything but those taxes.
How to overcome this evolutionary shortcoming that isn’t serving us in the 21st century? Find a way to make the dreaded activity rewarding in the present moment, right now, rather than some point in the future. Hypnotherapists are experts at this very thing. It’s called reframing.
Instead of thinking, “I hate doing my taxes” reframe it to, “When I am doing my taxes I am removing a big weight from my shoulder”. Or, “when I am doing my taxes, I feel lighter and energized.” Find a phrase that works for you, so that when you say it to yourself, you actually feel the difference. It has to have meaning for you.
Make it in the present tense, and the positive. What I am doing now makes me feel good now.
Now go ahead and do those taxes.