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Pro 4For the last three weeks, I’ve been posting on Procrastination. These are not my words – I downloaded this PDF years ago, and there is no identifying info on it, so I have to go with ‘author unknown’. Here’s number four…

Is Fear and Anxiety at the Root of Your Procrastination?

Procrastination can manifest itself in many forms and for many reasons. It’s primarily the avoidance of a task or project that needs to be done usually within a certain timeframe. Few of us have escaped the clutches of procrastination at one time or another in our life because it’s so easy to succumb to its seductive ways. Procrastination has many disguises: television, internet, email, books, household chores, telephone, sleep and even the excuse of helping a friend. Procrastinators seldom do nothing, but what they do is hardly useful. For many the underlying root problem of your procrastination is fear and anxiety. You feel anxious about a task so you choose to ignore it. This is a serious problem for students who have many deadlines to meet but it’s also a growing problem for those in the home and workplace. Fear and anxiety over not completing a task or project leads to procrastination and this in turn causes more fear of failure. Failure fear is common but some fear success. They feel if they complete the task successfully it will set the bar too high for future projects. Students are overwhelmed with an assignment and fear getting a failing grade. They substitute worry for studying but feel if they fail because of procrastination they’ll be perceived as lacking in effort and this is more acceptable than lacking in ability. They fear looking stupid. An interesting side note: College students who procrastinate are usually more prone to drinking, smoking, insomnia and sickness such as colds and flu. Psychologists say the drinking and smoking are to ease the pain of fear and anxiety caused by procrastination, which leads to health problems. We delay finishing a task because we fear criticism, disapproval and negative feedback. We had rather procrastinate than suffer the fear of shame and embarrassment of unreal expectations. This expands into fear and anxiety of possible rejection, being criticized and making mistakes. Some even fear losing freedom and put off committing to a project. Fears are sometimes unconscious and people deny they suffer from them. There are many ways to combat fear, anxiety and its offspring procrastination. Realize you have a choice to succeed or not to succeed. Set realistic goals in small increments and cultivate a sense of self worth. Don’t focus on weaknesses. Most fears are unfounded and irrational. Realize you’re working against yourself, analyze them and move on. Ask yourself the real reason you’re afraid. Be brutally honest. For some, exercise and deep breathing help. There is no perfect time to begin. Mark Twain said, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do day after tomorrow.” The important thing is to start. Learn as much as you can about your task, take one step at a time, reward yourself and soon fear and anxiety will disappear.

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Another Dr Lee story for you today.

Well, here I was doing something I never thought I would do… Again! My ‘safe’ and predictable way of life was becoming a distant memory the more I worked with Dr Lee.

I don’t remember how we got onto the subject, but we were talking about going out for coffee when he asked, ‘Where do you usually sit?’

‘At the back, against the wall.’

‘Why?’

I shrugged. ‘It’s the safest place. I can see everyone and if there’s any trouble, I’ll know about it.’

‘Have you ever sat at a table out on the sidewalk?’

‘No,’ I said, surprised. ‘Why would I do that?’

He was silent for a moment. ‘Do you know that in some European countries the price of coffee depends on where you sit? To have coffee on the sidewalk is more expensive than sitting inside at the back of the cafe. The sidewalk is actually highly sought after.’ He reached for an appointment card and started filling it in. Suddenly he stopped and looked at me with a smile. ‘I’ve just had a great idea. Why don’t we have our next session at a coffee shop in Cottesloe? We can sit out on the sidewalk and have coffee.’ I thought it was a terrible idea!

A week later, there I was sitting at a table out on the sidewalk with Dr Lee and our coffees. My heart was hammering as I looked around nervously. I felt utterly exposed and so vulnerable.

‘What are you thinking?’ he asked.

‘I don’t understand why people would want to put themselves on display like this.’

A smile tugged at the edges of his mouth and he asked what my anxiety level was. I told him it was about 8 out of 10, and I handed over my diary and homework. I still couldn’t believe that we were actually going to do this session sitting out on the footpath in full public view!

napoleon-street-01While he read through everything, occasionally going back to one page or another, I began to look further afield. There was a bakery across the road. The longer we sat there, the more curious I became about my surroundings. During the next half hour, we discussed my homework and every once in a while he would ask what my anxiety level was. To my amazement, it was coming down. On the way home, he asked what I thought of the morning and I told him that I didn’t think I would do it again.

But… Here I am almost 10 years later, sitting out on the sidewalk having coffee – and enjoying it. Thank you, Dr Lee.

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