Balance August 2018 - 22


a daily basis. Which is why, after almost
succumbing to another Netflix binge, we
got round to putting together this guide
to overcoming it for good. Best not put off
reading it. Unless you've got something
more pressing to do...



This is where things get complicated. The
number of potential triggers could be even
longer than your to-do list. But Dr Sirois' work
shows procrastinators often avoid tasks due
to negative emotions tied-up in the processes.
Fear of failure, for example, or fear of
judgement. You might think you're distracted
because finishing your presentation is tedious,
when in fact you're subconsciously scared of
your boss' beady eye.
"We're wired to avoid pain and seek out
pleasure," says Sirois. "When you procrastinate
and do something that makes you feel
momentarily good, you get a reward. The
problem is you never get to the source of the
negative emotions that cause you to avoid the
task in the first place." That's why we distract
ourselves with TV, daydreaming, social media
and WhatsApp chats.



The more you avoid
tasks, the more stressed
you become. The more
stressed you are, the
more you avoid. If you
think of your future self
more, you'll improve

Phones don't help matters. Psychologists
refer to the little dopamine hits you get
from distractions like technology as 'social
temptations'. These are like mini sirens luring
you off course, sinking productivity. Instagram
scrolling is a vibrant neurochemical win when
a stultifying task has been taking the colour out
of your day. Your brain has no chance.
What happens then is a mental trade off.
"Procrastinators have difficulty thinking of
their future selves," says Sirois. "You think: I'm
having a hard time, but next week me will be
brilliant, will have all the ideas and willpower."

Setting up a reward for
completing a task is
Instead, don't think
about the outcome,
which could be linked to
a fear of failure. Think
about breaking down the
task and what you'll learn
from each step

Engaging in an enjoyable
activity before you take
on your task can
increase willpower, but it
shouldn't be a hedonic
activity. Instead do
something emotionally
rewarding, like swimming

BA LA N CE August 2018

This underpins the procrastinator's mindset.
"The more psychologically different we feel
from our temporal selves - whether it's a past
self we keep remembering or a future self we're
imagining - the more we see ourselves as not
alike, and the more they feel less real," says
Sirois. "It's easier to do that to a stranger."
"People who are future-oriented tend to
associate with positive feelings - the broad
and abstract. You're not in that state when
you're stressed," begins Sirois. "Imagining a
positive outcome or reward can actually be
less motivating. Your brain convinces itself
it's done, which makes it harder to get around
to starting. You end up daydreaming about
success instead of achieving it."
Ultimately it comes down to no longer
kidding yourself there's a superhuman
version of you who'll swoop in to save the day.
Reconnect with the task at hand and exercise
willpower like a muscle. And if you make only
one change today, put 'Place my phone in
the other room' at the top of your to-do list.
Without removing today's social temptations,
you'll never connect with tomorrow's self. B


It could be any mix of myriad emotional and
behavioural issues getting in the way of getting
sh*t done. A distinction needs to be made clear
from the outset, and crystally so: to put off
work from time to time is normal. It's when you
procrastinate a lot, or indeed all the time, as
the case may be, that you fall into the category
of chronic procrastinator.
"A lot of people think procrastination is
just delaying things. But a colleague of mine
explains it best: all procrastination is delay,
but not all delay is procrastination," says Dr
Fuschia Sirois, a researcher at the University
of Sheffield who specialises in the psychology
of health, with a particular focus on the role
procrastination plays on wellbeing.
"There's strategic, sagacious task-delay
(re-prioritising for efficiency or reacting
to a change in workflow) and that's not
procrastination," says Sirois. "True,
procrastination is deciding to avoid a task
that's necessary, something that you really
intended to do - like writing a paper or
finishing the gardening. It's also a task that's
important to you, not something trivial. The
last part of the definition, as we see it, is you
procrastinate despite knowing you'll be worse
off; despite knowing there will be negative
consequences for you or others."


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Balance August 2018

Balance August 2018 - 1
Balance August 2018 - 2
Balance August 2018 - 3
Balance August 2018 - 4
Balance August 2018 - 5
Balance August 2018 - 6
Balance August 2018 - 7
Balance August 2018 - 8
Balance August 2018 - 9
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