How to tackle procrastination problems

- Every year taxes are due in mid-April, but do you find yourself waiting until he last minute to get those forms in? It's called procrastination, and whatever you're putting off in life, it's a tough habit to break. 

Taxes may be top of mind, but there are many things in life we put off. When we procrastinate we engage in something called an approach avoidance conflict. It's what happens to our brains when we commit to something, but as we get closer to the event, we back away. 

"The closer you get to it, the more you start thinking about it; the more those thoughts start to generate anxiety. It reaches a crescendo, and then we're motivated to avoid - and that avoidance, tension is reduced in our brain, that feels really good - and the next time we're in that situation we're inclined to do the same thing," says Dr. Scott Bea from Cleveland Clinic. 

And here's the problem, avoiding or cancelling feels pretty good. Temporarily. 

Dr. Bea says that the problem that procrastination presents is that it can give us the false notion that we accomplish tasks better when we're under the gun. But really, he says that our tendency to 'put off today what can be done tomorrow ' has more to do with our unwillingness to allow some discomfort into our lives. 

Dr. Bea says that many times we procrastinate out of habit, and because the feeling of not dealing with something we don't want to do can feel good, it can become habit to always put things on the back burner. 

He says it can take up to 63 days to create a new habit, which can seem daunting, but if we're able to change our relationship with discomfort, it can work. Using taxes as the example, make a goal and then a reward. 

"Create a pre-determined deadline, a scheduling of when I'm going to get to taxes and what day and what time frame, and as I say, dangle a carrot as I get through my taxes, then I'm going to treat myself to the movie I wanted to go to, or some treat, even with your family; create an incentive that is worthwhile moving toward," he says. 

He reminds us that when we keep putting something off, it's not as though we're escaping it. Avoidance can create internal consequences, feelings of shame, guilt and anxiety. He says that getting a task in your rearview mirror is always better than having to keep looking at it.
 

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