It could be Facebook, a computer game, or cleaning the bathroom: they all induce intense anxiety.
My Superhero John H made an insightful observation the other day, and it made a lightbulb go off in my mind.
Procrastination feeds anxiety, which feeds procrastination, which feeds anxiety, which… well, you get the idea.
I kinda knew this already, but hadn’t connected all the dots.
When I’m procrastinating, I choose something that gives me a short-term burst of pleasure – like a “quick” look at Facebook or “five minutes” on a computer game, or something “virtuous” like cleaning the bathroom.
Only it’s not “just five minutes” and it’s not virtuous, either. It’s procrastination, and it sucks.
Because five minutes comes and goes, and my scrolling, playing, or cleaning gets more and more frantic, and my heart rate increases and my skin starts prickling and I start hearing a faint ringing in my ears.
Then, because I’m on the verge of panic, I can’t possibly start the task I was going to start, so I keep procrastinating.
And my anxiety gradually smothers me.
This used to happen every day.
Every. Single. Day.
Not a great way to live, I think you’ll agree. And definitely not a good way to run a business.
Now, thankfully, it happens only rarely… but it still happens every now and then. Like last week.
I don’t reach for Facebook anymore because I can’t get to Facebook on my laptop during working hours and I took the app off my phone. I deleted all my games. And the bathroom was clean.
So I organised my bookshelves instead.
And round and round the procrastinanxiety goes, just like Ouroboros, the snake that eats itself for eternity.
I have a technique now; a plan for when I can feel myself about to sabotage my day. I set a timer for five minutes, and say: “I will write for five minutes, then I can do the thing my brain is reaching for.”
Of course, five minutes later I’m absorbed in writing and everything’s fine. I’m getting a double dopamine hit from the smugness of not procrastinating and also because I love writing. As Sir Terry Pratchett said, it’s the most fun you can have by yourself.
Next time you find yourself eyeing your goals for the day with horror and reaching for a distraction, instead set a timer for five minutes and just start. Do your task.
Everyone can manage five minutes… and that’s usually all you need to finish.
About the Author
Please do share any articles from this site in part or in full — as long as you leave all links intact, give credit to the author, and include a link to this website and the following bio. Vicky is a gin-quaffing, pole-dancing, trapeze-swinging copywriter who writes about the perils and joys of writing, velociraptor training, and running a small business. She writes this stuff on her websites vickyfraser.com and cookiesforbreakfast.co.uk. She’s the author of one book (with two more in utero) and teaches small business owners how to write copy that sells, and how to be more fecking interesting. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
PS Procrastination is also caused by a lack of clarity. Do you know what you’re doing, how to do it? And do you know why?
My procrastinanxiety problem all but disappeared after I realised what my purpose was last year: helping business owners write books.
What’s your purpose? Are you clear?
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