The sun rises in the east, water is denser than oil, and procrastinators put off dealing with ..well everything.
No surprises here; everyone is prone to procrastination.
Procrastination is as old as our civilization. But, when anxiety and stress start building up as chances of completing the work become slimmer and consequences larger, it is becoming even harder to defeat procrastination.
And I find it troublesome that we only talk about procrastination in terms of work.
Procrastination can easily start manifesting within every aspect of one’s life; Read: health and nutrition. When you put on hold the simple decisions in your life, you can easily put on hold your entire life.
Procrastination can jeopardize our health, and I see a need to dive deeper into the subject.
Procrastinate: Latin procrastinare, from pro- ‘forward’ and crastinus- ‘belonging to tomorrow’
Science will always try to understand what is hidden behind.
A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine explains how procrastination can have a negative impact on heart’s health.
They questioned both health people and people with cardiovascular disease (CDV) and hypertension and found out that higher procrastination scores, along with older age and a lower educational level, are associated with hypertension, high blood pressure, and CVD.
I find it interesting that this study defines procrastination as personality trait:
“Supporting this view of procrastination as a relatively stable trait, behavior-genetics research with over 300 same-sex twin pairs has demonstrated that procrastination, as measured with the General Procrastination Scale, has a moderate degree of heritability (46 percent), and is distinct at the phenotypic level from a related trait, impulsivity.”
The study does not explain the relationship, but it does suggest that those who are habitual procrastinators are more likely to put off things associated with exercising and eating healthy.
Stress is another major contributor. Unnecessary stress that is a result of procrastination can contribute to depression and support bad behaviors like overeating and smoking.
Various studies have already linked procrastination to a range of health problems that have stress as a trigger, including colds and flues, insomnia, headaches, and digestive problems. It seems that the connection between procrastination and health problems is interlinked. Procrastination leads to problems related to health, and any problems concerning our mental and physical functions support the procrastination behavior. It’s a magic circle.
What happens if you put of sleep?
Sleep deprivation can have serious health effects causing obesity and messing with metabolism. Researchers from Utrecht University found out that people who put off their bedtime were less likely to get quality sleep. Chronic weariness further support procrastination and without a good night sleep we have less energy and enthusiasm to work, eat, exercise.
Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week
Studies showed that 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators, while the rate among students is around 70%. The conclusion? Procrastination leads to a higher likelihood of neglecting health. Chronic procrastination affects all aspects of life, not just our careers or social skills, communication and relationships with people. It affect our health.
If you dig deeper into this subject you might see that lacking self-control may be the other side of impulsivity. Can you think of any consequences? I can. From making bad decisions every day to turning your life upside down.
What type of a procrastinator are you?
Knowing thyself is the first piece of the puzzle.
Dr. Joseph Ferrari, associate professor of psychology at DePaul University, identified several types of procrastinators:
- the last-minute procrastinator (thrill seeker)
- the fear procrastinator (avoider)
- the decisional procrastinator (indecisive)
As he points out, fear procrastinators, for instance, don’t like being judged, so they shouldn’t focus on what other people are saying, but on getting the things done. Fear thrills and prevents them from getting things done.
The last-minute procrastinators enjoy working against deadline, and get a rush when they are doing things last minute.
The decisional procrastinators fear of making the wrong decision, sometimes they cannot make a decision. They set unrealistic expectations and because of it often feel overwhelmed. Indecisive people are often perfectionists, and that can truly stop them from showing their best selves.
How to start beating a procrastination behavior?
Understanding that procrastination is a bad habit leads towards a solution and doing activities that will repair the mood is closely linked to building willpower.
Understating that emotions may cause distractions and derail self-control is a step closer to shifting to the positive attitude.
While procrastination is linked to an unpleasantness, lack of self-confident, and fear, one may procrastinate even if he is confident in their abilities, energetic, and enjoys doing certain things, says Clarry Lay in At Last, My Research Article on Procrastination.
The good thing is that procrastination can be reduced and “tamed”, and the important thing is to find the best practice and technique. What can you do?
The fourth time you tell a lie, you will believe it’s true.
Procrastinators feel bad about putting things off and annoying other people. Procrastinators also try to convince themselves telling lies about themselves. “Why am I so irresponsible?”
Negative thoughts only increase doubts, concerns, guilt and shame, leading to self-sabotaging and lowering self-esteem and productivity. The temporary solutions lead to long lasting consequences.
Self-forgiveness is necessary to dispel self-blame and guilt. Accept who you are and don’t be afraid to be yourself.
Time travel technique
“To tell the chronic procrastinator to – just do it – would be like saying to a clinically depressed person – cheer up”, says Dr. Ferrari.
Projecting in the future to imagine the good feelings one will have after doing things or the bad ones if the decisions are put off, is a practice that can help overcome present anxieties and stress.
“What negative things will happen if I procrastinate?”, Sean Gilbertson, a software engineer, asked himself, and this question helped him boost his willpower to finish programming a prototype of a medical device that can help wheelchair-bound patients.
Can we use the same technique related to healthy eating and exercising? Yes, we can. Every time you decide to skip a meal or a training, try to image the bad feelings and guilt you will feel soon. Ask yourself what good a training can bring or how much energy you will have if you replace two cups of coffee for a proper breakfast.
A two-minute rule
The idea comes from David Allen’s book: Getting Things Done and it is very simple:
- If you need less than two minutes to do something, do it right now.
120 seconds might not sound as a lot of time, but you will be surprised when you see how easily you can do many things and make good decisions.
Let’s say you don’t feel like cooking or preparing a meal. But can you eat an apple in the next two minutes? Yes, you can. Firstly you will feel better as you know you have eaten something healthy. Secondly, you will get into a positive mood, and you might find that you feel like eating a healthy meal. Even if you don’t prepare a healthy meal after you eat an apple, you will feel better. And if you repeat the same technique, you will eventually make a habit of it.
The idea behind the rule is to forget the size of the thing you need to do, but to focus on the next two minutes. Don’t focus on how you feel lazy to spend the next 15 minutes preparing a healthy meal. Focus on the things you can do in the next two minutes. This way you will get yourself a positive start and realize how, in fact, you do have time and need not to put of your health eating habits. Step by step, you can turn a two minute rule into a good practice.
Eat the frog first
What is the hardest part about avoiding exercising? What is the biggest problem with meal preparation? Why are you skipping breakfast? Stop for a moment and think. What drives you to do all the things you regret later?
The idea with – eat the frog first – is to do the hardest or the most unpleasant thing early in the day, or to get over the hardest moment related to your problem. When you do that, everything else seems like a piece of cake.
What moment or things is the frog? Make a priority because if everything is important than nothing truly is.
How can you do this?
Identify what is your biggest obstacle, but don’t think about it too long; it can get you off your path, and you will postpone it. Consider that your emotions may cause distraction and enhance a negative mood. Try not to bring in our emotions when you start t prioritize, this way you can become intimidated or overwhelmed.
Think about all the benefits you will reap when you do the most important thing – that’s the best way. Identify the moment of the highest value.
Simple strategies like – eat the frog – or the two-minute technique can make the first step easier, helping you to follow through with your health goals.
How to beat nutrition and exercising prostractination?
Prepare yourself. Nutrition and exercising require a lot of preparation and planning, which can be a good thing. Once you identify the hardest part of healthy eating for instance, write a list of tasks you need to do, like purchasing the food, packing, preparing a weekly diet, and so on. When you face your fears, this step is easy to follow.
Here are some precise steps you can add to your list:
1.) Make a meal plan, either weekly or monthly, whatever suits you best. Sticks with basis, it does not have to be a complicated menu. Think about the food you like to eat (healthy, of course) and simple write down the first easy to do recipe.
2.) Make you food in advance. The second thing to do is to write down which meal you can make in advance and when.
3.) Plan your grocery shopping. See what food you need, and prepare for shopping. Try to get everything at the same place, it takes less time. Or, if you can, order online and have the food delivered.
4.) Think about the packaging. Do you have glass containers? If not, add it to the list.
5.) Stay hydrated. Some have problems differentiating hunger from thirst. Often when you feel hungry, you are in fact thirsty. I have already written about this misinterpretation, make sure you read the tips. To hydrate your body properly think about buying a water bottle.
Here are the steps you can take to keep up with your exercising routine:
1.) Follow a schedule. Repeat the same with the weekly meal plan – think about the most convenient way for you to start exercising and write down your schedule. Don’t jump into making a plan you cannot follow, be honest and create a plan you can accomplish. Print it and place it somewhere to see it every day.
2.) Write down the reason why you want to exercise. This might sound as unimportant things, but it’s crucial to be very clear what lies behind your effort. Do you have a 9 to 5 job and sit too much? Is this and advice from your doctor? Do you want to stay in shape? Do you lack energy? You should have an answer to these and similar questions.
3.) Ask for help. It’s perfectly fine to ask a help from a trainer or friends. If you think they can help you stop procrastinating, then you should talk to them.
Try a web service STICKK
If you need more motivation, you can try STICKK, which has an interesting idea. The service is created by behavioral economists at Yale University. Once you join, the platform gets you a chance to form a committed contract that will help you accomplish certain goals, like weight loss or regular exercising, or you can set your own different goal. The important part is to set the stakes (money or reputation, for instance), although it is optional. If you fail to reach your goals, your money is donated to a charity you do not like.
If you feel uncomfortable with the publicity, you can try and do the same experiment with a friend.
One more problem with procrastination is that it can be learned in the family, and it can be an act of rebellion especially in children. In this case, they often turn to friends that can even foster procrastination. So you can either be a good role model to your children, or further support procrastination.
Procrastination is half the battle. You need to understand that you alone are responsible for your health. If you keep procrastinating about important moments and things in your life, you are going against yourself and your happiness. It’s a battle, but everyone can win.
How do you deal with procrastination?
Share with us in the comments.