A pang of guilt, mixed with dread, mixed with fear shoots through your stomach. You have so many things you should be doing in this moment, but you sit frozen on your couch, staring at your phone instead. You just don’t know which thing to start with. You push away the anxious thoughts that tug at your brain by scrolling through some old photos on facebook. The nagging continues though, so you wander to the kitchen, eat a cookie and stare blankly at your fridge magnets. You open the fridge and stare blankly some more. What were you looking for in here again? You feel so confused. You let the fridge slam shut, take a deep breath that catches in your throat, and makes the weight that sits on your chest even heavier. You try to deep breathe again. Nope. Still no relief. You scurry around the house, find a notebook and pen, start scribbling down a to-do list. For some reason this reminds you that you are out of cheese, and really need some for tonight’s dinner. You abandon your list and rush out the door. The to-do list can wait another day. It has waited this long, after all. You’ll get it done. Tomorrow.
It’s a vicious cycle: Avoiding something because it makes you uncomfortably anxious, getting more worried as time goes on because you haven’t done it yet, putting it off some more. Procrastination. Sometimes it just seems so hard to force yourself to get stuff done. Here are a few ideas to help you escape the Procrastination Chains of Immobilization:
5 Strategies For Overcoming Anxiety Induced Procrastination:
1.) Think of a reward/condition for each to-do list item:
When anxious thoughts of all the things you need to do start haunting you, write them down immediately. Don’t stop there though. Include a bribe for yourself, or even a threat for each item. Maybe as soon as you make that doctor appointment, you’ll reward yourself with a latte from Starbucks. Maybe you won’t allow yourself to watch your favourite T.V show until you pay that parking ticket. Whatever you decide, follow through with the rewards. Overcoming a fear ( it is NOT laziness, in my opinion) is worthy of celebration. Make sure your list is posted where it’s visible. If you see it often, you will be reminded to complete it often.
2.) Tell someone else you need to do it:
Force yourself to be more accountable by sharing your to-do list with someone you trust. Ask this person to give you gentle reminders, or to push you hard to do it, whichever you think will be most effective. Anxiety/procrastination can be a tough battle, and like any battle, it’s better if you don’t have to fight it alone.
3.) Feel less overwhelmed. Spread the items out on the calendar:
It’s extremely overwhelming to look at a list of 20 important things that kind of scare you, but also really need to get done. Grab a calendar and try spreading things out over a week or so instead. Write no more than 2-3 items per day. Looking at the calendar will still be intimidating, I know. Investing in a flip calendar might be a good idea for this. The expression “take it one day at a time” is an important one to remember here. Pretend the only day that exists is today. Try hard to focus on nothing else. Get those 2-3 things done, and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.
4.) Make it a game: channel your anxious energy.
If you suffer anxiety, you’ve likely got a ton of nervous energy travelling through your body at any given moment. I would bet much of this energy ends up getting wasted, through fidgeting, pacing, inefficient completion of tasks. You just can’t sit still, but ironically you can’t seem to get anything done either. What you need is a bit of focus. Okay, maybe a lot of focus. Choose an item on your to-do list. Set a timer. Make it a goal to get it done before the time runs out. Channel your energy into completing the task. Tell yourself to focus and don’t stop telling yourself to focus until it’s done. After, if you still have anxious energy coursing through your veins, jump up and down in celebration.
5.) Try using fear to motivate you:
If the dose is right, fear can be an effective motivator. Choose the one thing you most urgently need to complete. Think of the worst case scenario if you don’t get it done. Don’t worry about any other item on your list. Give yourself permission to actually obsess about the most urgent thing until it pushes you into action. You could even try writing the worst case scenario down on a piece of paper and holding it in front of your face until you do it. It’s worth a try.
Procrastination affects everyone from time to time, but it’s especially frequent in those who have anxiety. I hope these ideas help you.
Now, I must get going. I’ve got an appointment to make, library books to return, a parking ticket to pay, phone calls to make ….. I need to take some of my own advice and stop putting things off.
Thank you for reading.
Be Brave, and Talk