Despite the fact that most of us tend to focus on navigating past external obstacles on our paths to success, the truth is that the most formidable threats often come from within rather than without.
As the saying goes, “you are your own worst enemy”– and it’s especially true when it comes to procrastination and the need for emotional avoidance that fuels it. If you’re used to spending your time and effort running away from the discomfort of negative emotions, breaking the procrastination habit can be a monumental task.
After all, it can take a lot out of you to put a stop to your own escapism—and yet this is exactly what you need to do the most in order to break the habit.
As with any problem-solving endeavour, though, taking a logical and systematic approach is key, even if it involves sorting through a whole spectrum of messy human emotions. Here’s how you can use emotional self-management to overcome procrastination once and for all, starting with emotional self-awareness.
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There’s no two ways about it; since procrastination is fundamentally an issue of emotional avoidance more than anything else, it demands that you square off with your own emotions.
As complex and multi-faceted as we like to think we are, it’s not that difficult to understand and empathise with ourselves. No one wants to look in the mirror and find that they don’t like what they see–this is exactly what leads people towards the emotional avoidance strategy.
Practicing some self-compassion is essential here. Research has shown that most chronic procrastinators have negative self-images and low levels of self-compassion. It’s why they tend to put off their work to avoid facing their own negative self-perceptions.
Yet paradoxically, they end up ultimately feeling worse about themselves; the more you procrastinate, the more stressed you feel in the long-run and the harsher you’ll be on yourself.
To understand what exactly is motivating your emotional avoidance, you have to stop running from your negative emotions in the first place. Studies have found that practicing self-compassion (for example, by engaging in positive self-talk) lowers the stress that’s often associated with procrastination–ultimately making it easier on you to cut out your emotional avoidance.
Taking some time to self-reflect on what’s driving your need for emotional avoidance can go a long way in helping you not just to overcome procrastination, but to re-discover yourself.
Ask yourself which emotions, in particular, you’re running away from, and why. For example, two very common emotional reasons why people procrastinate are:
Without knowing what you’re running away from, it’s difficult to keep yourself in check. Becoming emotionally self-aware in this way is the first step towards emotional self-regulation (and by extension, towards leaving procrastination behind.)