Reclaim Your Time: How To Overcome Procrastination

WellNest co-founder and psychotherapist Zainib Abdullah walks us through a simple yet effective way to shift the unhelpful attitudes and assumptions that fuel procrastination

In our last blog post, we talked about the beast on a lot of our backs; the thief of time: procrastination.

We have all struggled with procrastination at some point. In between not feeling up to doing certain tasks or we coming up with excuses to put off doing menial everyday things, procrastination begins to feel like a comfortable, familiar friend.

And it CAN be comforting to put off work at times!

Then slowly - as if without knowing it - you find yourself developing a habit of working at the last minute, or crafting one-of-a- kind reasons to convince yourself to not be productive. This often leads to greater feelings of distress, anxiety and frustration. The cycle continues, and you feel helpless.

However, it doesn’t HAVE to be this way! We can challenge the urge to procrastinate.

So let’s dive into it - and maybe try NOT to save this post to read later...let’s not procrastinate getting rid of our procrastination habit!

A Refresher On The Rules And Assumptions Of Procrastination

In our last post, we talked about the ways procrastination builds habitually in our everyday life.

The reason we procrastinate comes back to our conscious thought process and general attitudes in life. More specifically, people often procrastinate because they hold specific views or make assumptions that can be uncertain and unhelpful. These views and assumptions can often take the form of “should” or  “must” statements, and are often inflexible and inaccurate. 

These rules and assumptions end up generating uncomfortable or frightening feelings tied to completing the task or goal, and procrastination becomes a method to avoid discomfort.

These attitudes can fall into different categories, such as:

  1. The Need To Be In Charge: “Things should be done my way.” 
  2. Pleasure Seeking: “Life is too short to be doing things I dislike. I should have fun first.”
  3. Fear Of Failure Or Disapproval: “I must not fail.”
  4. Fear Of Uncertainty or Catastrophe: “I should be prepared for all scenarios.”
  5. Low Self-Confidence: “I can’t accomplish tasks, because I am incapable.”
  6. Depleted Energy: “I am tired - I must only complete tasks when I’m energized.”

Challenging The Rules And Assumptions Of Procrastination

Even though we have a better understanding of the thought process behind procrastination, challenging it can be daunting.

These habits have likely been building for years - so it’s understandable and completely normal to feel anxious or distressed when thinking about change!

The best way to overcome procrastination, is to adjust and reframe the detrimental rules and assumptions that enable us to procrastinate. 

In order to aptly adjust, it helps to sit down and make time to go through a series of steps that help challenge your thoughts.

Make sure to schedule a quiet moment to reflect. It will take some time, the same way it has taken time for these attitudes to develop.

Once you’ve scheduled the time and sat down without any distraction, introspection is key! In order to challenge the unhelpful rules and assumptions that enable your procrastination, you must be ready and willing to sit down and create a chart that answers these questions:

What is the unhelpful rule or assumption that I need to adjust?

Where did this rule or assumption stem from? 

How is the rule or assumption unrealistic? How is it unfair to be and my progress? In what ways is it unhelpful or unreasonable?

What are some of the negative ramifications of holding on to the rule or assumption?

What are some helpful alternatives to this rule or assumption that can be more flexible, balanced and cause fewer negative feelings?

How can I put this rule or assumption into practice on a regular basis?

Your chart can look something likes this:

RuleWhere Did It Come FromHow Is This Rule HarmfulWhat Are the Negative ConsequencesHelpful AlternativeHow To Put Into PracticeNeeding To be In charge: I believe that things SHOULD be done my wayWhen I was a kid I often received messaging that reinforced inflexible reasoning, and because I was consistently dominated and I vowed to never do things another wayThis rule is harmful because it is unreasonable to have everything always done my way. Also, I am human and fallible - sometimes things SHOULD NOT be done my wayI often but heads with people because I become inflexible and unwilling to listen. I tend to do things on my own to avoid conflict, which further alienates me from my peersIt’s okay for things to not go my way. Allowing other perspectives creates greater opportunity and gives me a chance to learn and growListen to other people’s opinions and follow others’ orders. Try doing things that I don’t want to do

Other Helpful Hints

When exploring these questions it helps to reflect on your past experiences, and take a look at the messaging you may have received from others.

Those messages inform our worldview.

Can you imagine having a worldview that is less rigid, and more balanced? We often go about life as if our singular view of the world is completely true, and we start to believe it. However, this is really not the case!

Leading our everyday lives with slightly more flexibility opens the door to what life can be like outside of rigid and infallible beliefs.

After this, implementing more helpful rules and assumptions to adjust and curb your practice of procrastination becomes that much easier.

Alternative tools to help overcome procrastination in other practical ways also include:

  • Writing a list of tasks and goals, and effectively prioritizing them. (Think due dates, cumulative percentages, clients, etc.)
  • Learning how to assert yourself in different settings. We often feel like we must say yes and help all those around us, while simultaneously avoiding our own deadlines and goals. Practice saying no!
  • Practice approaching tasks from various angles. You can use visuals, incentives and rewards, reminders and time limits! These methods can help alleviate the fear of what may be perceived as a daunting task

Before You Go...

Overcoming a habit that has influenced so many of your decisions can be a daunting task. However, it's possible to take on this task and conquer it.

Most importantly, try exploring and implementing techniques that help challenge your rules and assumptions-based thinking.

As always, if you find yourself experiencing any difficulty trying to overcome discomfort, or want to talk more in depth about ways to conquer procrastination, my email is always available to you - or book an appointment with any one of the skilled members of my team!

-Zainib

Zainib Abdullah is the co-founder and a psychotherapist at WellNest Psychotherapy Services. Her approach to healing incorporates various therapeutic modalities. She works from a client-centred, anti-racist/oppressive/colonial & trauma-informed framework. As a yoga teacher and student in the lineage of Classical Yoga, she further incorporates mindfulness based therapies to support clients in accessing greater connectedness to their inner wisdom and peace.