Do You Keep Putting Things Off?
Is Procrastination Good, or Should we Look Deeper…
Well, I try to always look through the lens of Functional Medicine…Always Looking Deeper.
It seems Procrastination is “voluntarily delaying an intended course of action, despite expecting to be worse off because of the delay, and is it common…”
So, why do we procrastinate, and What does it relate to our Health?
According to JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), in January, 2023, there was a study of 3525 Swedish university students, studying procrastination.
The study showed procrastination to be associated with mental health, depression, anxiety and other stress symptoms, having disabling pain in upper and lower extremities, neck, upper back and lower back, poor sleep and physical inactivity.
Their conclusion was that the study suggested procrastination may be associated with a range of health outcomes.
Well. That didn’t conclude to very much, to me.
So. Is procrastination a sign of being lazy? I doubt it, since sometimes it causes us to work extra hard and long to get things done at the last minute just before a deadline.
Some people say they do better when they are on a quick deadline, and under pressure. Or that they simply like “the rush” of the deadline. This stance is probably incorrect, since—when did they actually do it differently—like, making a plan, implementing it, reviewing it, etc. —before the deadline.
One thing for sure, procrastination can be hard on us. Look at the anxiety and stress that pressure causes, the tiredness from pushing to get it all done at the last moment. The disappointment of completing a task that is probably below the individual’s own standard, or maybe they’re having to put their life “on hold” to complete the project just before the deadline. And that’s not taking into consideration the increased chances of errors, or something going wrong—computer problems, etc., which would certainly have the ability to cause more stress.
So it seems procrastination would actually make our chances of doing our tasks in an excellent way, much harder.
So is poor time management skills the culprit? Probably not that, on its own.
What about procrastination being a Self-Protection Strategy? If this is so, you would always have a “Reason” of “not having enough time”, just in case you don’t get things done…this would leave your personal sense of ability intact.
So could our reasons for delaying what we do, be rooted in fear or anxiety of doing poorly? Or of doing too well? Or of looking bad? Of being “judged”? And procrastination protects us from that? Then, if we do succeed, we would feel great?
I used to procrastinate. It’s been a long time ago. I procrastinated at home, and I did the same at my work. I would just “put off” what I didn’t want to to—“I didn’t have time”. Well. I really was really busy. I did this for lots of years.
I changed jobs, and kept the same trait. I can remember one day at work, with one of my things I had “put off”, being exposed as something that I should have done. I was not criticized—nothing bad happened. But I distinctly remember thinking, “I CAN do better than this.”
I have no idea why I had this trait of putting things off. I don’t know where it came from. And I don’t really know how it went away. I do know, I decided I could do better. But not many changes come instantly. And I know that one didn’t. But over the years, I made one of my major goals to: “Be Efficient”. I had never been efficient—always haphazard with everything; always late—no time, you know. Busy, Busy, Busy. But through the years I did become more efficient, to the point that it became a game with myself—to see how much more efficient I could be. And the result was: I don’t put things off anymore. And it has made my life much more relaxed and enjoyable.
Princeton University, The McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, says Procrastination is linked to a Self-Regulatory Failure. Their studies suggest that it is associated with symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress as well as loneliness and reduced life satisfaction; and that it is also associated with prevalent general physical health problems, cardiovascular disease, and unhealthy lifestyle behaviors. Now that doesn’t sound very good at all.
So, if this is so, how can we overcome it??
1. We have to understand why we do it, and how it serves us in our life, in order to come up with a solution. (Most problems can be overcome by being aware enough of ourselves, and knowledgeable enough about our own selves, to figure this out.)
a. If you can see how procrastination protects you from feeling like you are “not able enough”, just watch yourself closely for seeing yourself falling into those words of “I’m too busy”, or familiar thoughts of unproductive, procrastinating habits.
b. Psychology Today had an article “Mind Games Procrastinators Play” that could be helpful in understanding the hidden roots.
c. From what I can discover, knowing our true reasons for putting things off makes it easier to stop it.
2. Time Management techniques are evidently a big piece of the puzzle, but these alone will not be enough by themselves.
a. It seems there are time management techniques that are good, and others that can make it worse. According to Princeton University, The McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, the techniques that reduce anxiety and fear, and emphasize the satisfaction and rewards of completing tasks, work best.
b. For instance, making a huge list of “things to do” or scheduling every minute of your day, would probably increase your stress and your procrastination. So alternatively, you could set reasonable goals, and a manageable list (the things you could realistically get done, and you could break big tasks or projects down into tasks you could get done—one by one.
c. And also, very important, allot time for things you enjoy.
3. Motivation. What are some productive reasons for those tasks? You need to stay motivated in order to stay productive.
a. Your reasons for achieving need to lead to positive, satisfying feelings. If in the past you’ve worked toward your tasks out of fear of failing, or not measuring up, when you are more relaxed and naturally motivated, you will be more likely to be thinking about questions to ask yourself or others, and think about new and innovative ways to do things, or to reach even higher in your goals. And Improve Your Life.
b. Look for what you can find that is appealing about the task. What’s good about getting that done?
c. So set your Goals. Focus there. Write down your personal reasons for wanting that, or reasons you want your life to run a certain way (smoothly). Focus on the reasons for your goals.
d. And also realize, other people’s goals for you, are not your goals…if you choose to do them, they’re obligations.
4. Staying Active in your work toward getting your tasks done is important.
a. If you feel boredom or confusion coming on, over-ride those feelings with choosing “one thing” to complete right now, and get it done.
b. And think “Why” do I want this done? (I’ll be further along toward my bigger goal?) (I’ll be closer to that time I have set aside for “me”, and I can feel good about that?)
5. Then…Decide if you really want to Change… It does take a commitment. When you write things down, only write down what you can fully commit to. I actually keep a notebook paper of ALL the things I want to do, but on my “Things to do” list, I only put the things I’m pretty sure I can do today. The big list, I only use as a reminder of things I “want to get done”. I can add those to my “to do list” any time.
Changing ANY habit takes time. And change from procrastination is a big change.
1. Be Realistic.
2. Be patient with yourself.
3. Make sure you schedule things you WANT for YOU.
4. Notice how you’re thinking and talking to yourself. Talk to yourself in a way that gives you courage and determination to keep a positive mindset about what needs to be done. (Instead of saying I have too much to do, or “I wish …”, Give yourself a new vocabulary and new thought process. I Will… And if you can’t get it done, go back to: Be Honest and Realistic about what goes on your list.
5. Unschedule. Your well-being may very well depend on it. Make your schedule unstructured, flexible, and write in only what’s necessary. Then, after the fact, write in exactly what you did do in the time that’s not firmly scheduled. So you can see how productive you are!
You might also read the book, Procrastination, by Yuen and Burka.
Laura Frontiero of Bio Radiant Health, Nurse Practitioner and Functional Health Consultant, says 20-25% of adults in the U.S. are considered procrastinators—habitually putting off “to-do’s” until the last minute—even simple things.
She suggests the problem may not be any of those things we’ve talked about, but that it could be a gut health issue. She suggests it’s an ENERGY issue. Both Physical and Invisible energy; that the invisible energy is what we don’t realize we are using—much like breathing, digesting, circulating blood, manufacturing hormones, and shuttling waste out of our bodies.
She says we find lots of “reasons” why we don’t start on tasks, even important ones:
Too tired Not in the Mood Headache
Too stressed Not enough Time Too Busy
Or that maybe we negotiate with ourselves (another form of “reason-making”):
I’ll work on that this weekend;
This will be my #1 priority after…;
I’ll get up early to focus on this (that sounds familiar to me!)
I’ll just finish this show/podcast, then I’ll start on it;
I’ll start this after …;
That’s just the way I am (this is completely giving up)
Ms. Frontiero says we actually do have control over our energy. And when we have more energy, excuses usually vanish, or become much less attractive. Procrastination starts to lose its grip. You start getting a lot more done, with much less effort.
So she believes the solutions to procrastination is actually through our gut microbiome. (This actually does make sense to me.)
Our gut acts as an engine for every other system in our body—including our brain. So when you feel tired, or mentally imbalanced, chances are the root cause could be your gut. It would mean the root cause of your low energy is in the cellular level within your mitochondria, usually caused by toxins and infections in your gut.
Metabolism is the name of the process in your body that turns your food and drink into both physical and invisible energy. The better quality food you put into your body, the better your energy levels will be.
If you support your mitochondria with micro nutrients (lots of green leafy vegetables, colorful vegetables and fruits) with toxin removal, you’ll likely create energy; you’ll want to be more productive.
Convenient foods, processed foods, sugary foods, and inflammatory foods aren’t used efficiently by your body—and some not used at all, and cause dips in energy.
Living without afternoon slumps, feeling tired when you wake up in the morning, using weekends for recovery instead of fun, relying on coffee and energy drinks to get through the day—that isn’t “normal”. You can actually feel totally the opposite. And you may notice procrastination actually won’t rule your life anymore.
So pay attention to the fuel you put into your body.
Family-institute.org (Kathleen Reardon, PhD) has some very good reading on the subject. It says research has not focused on treating procrastination, though many people have issues with it. Their site says it is a “Learned Helplessness”. Wow. That hits pretty deeply. They also say it has to do with perfectionism, (which I wrote about last week), and they connected it to mental health.
They say it can serve an important and logical function, to protect the person from feeling more stress. And that the solving of it is from that direction—changing the way we look at our “things to do”.
Their research suggests one of the most helpful treatments may be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), teaching individuals how to better manage their thoughts and behaviors to improve their mood and thinking.
The biggest hurdle to this type of therapy seems to be self judgment. Being too harsh of a taskmaster to yourself can make your experience worse.
Curiosity is a helpful asset, being curious in the moment about how you are thinking (and why), and noticing the urge to put something off. Mindfulness helps.
There are other opinions and articles on procrastination, but all this gives a pretty good representation of most of what’s out there.
So—it seems to be a mental issue, and a health issue. Taking all these things into consideration, it seems in a nutshell: improve your thinking about all the things you “need” to do; improve your diet; use your strengths of Curiosity figuring why you’re feeling this way, and Discipline. Then Imagination, and Discipline again. And it all takes the Desire to get it done. and Yes, absolutely that’s ‘way over simplified, but there are clues there to lead you to the right answers—which appear from all the info, to be within ourselves.
But again, with all this information we can see: It can be overcome. Whatever causes it for each of us, and whatever fixes it—it comes down to us.
If Procrastination is something you have trouble with, it looks like it’s just a Decision and some hard work away.
And WE CAN DO IT!
And Change is Good!
This has been a long read; if you’d like any specific help with changing eating habits, changing thinking patterns, or any other thing you might need help with, message me, and I will be very glad to help you.
Thank you for reading!
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