Fighting Procrastination with Dr. Farb

How to combat anxiety-driven avoidance.

As deadlines creep closer and closer with no one to hold you accountable, it can be easy to let laziness get the upper hand. Fighting the inner resistance to meet your goals can be exceptionally difficult, but fortunately for us, EvCC’s Dr. Beverly Farb of the Communication and Social Sciences Division has suggestions and steps we can take to start heading in the right direction.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that while there are steps you can take to change and beat the habit of procrastination, they are not a substitute for the help that may be needed if you are dealing with a compromised function such as Clinical depression or addiction. No matter the case, taking steps towards self-improvement is always beneficial. 

Everyone puts things off sometimes. But a person who truly ‘procrastinates’ is putting things off even when there’s a terrible price to pay for it,” says Dr. Farb. “Ironically, the more terrible the price for not completing the task, the more likely the person will avoid it and for as long as possible.” Procrastination can be caused by a multitude of things, but these tips will be focused on anxiety-driven avoidance. 

“Procrastinating is motivated by anxiety. While a person is procrastinating, they find relief in distracting themselves with other activities, but in the background they are still feeling stress, guilt and a sense of impending doom,” says Dr.Farb. She expresses how suffering the consequences may be enough to snap you out of your current habit of procrastination, but also warns us that the opposite may take place as well. “For many others, such a harsh lesson only increases their dread of the next task and thus increases their procrastination even more than before.”

Courtesy photo from Dr. Beverly Farb.

Dr. Farb has three main suggestions for finding a better way to approach a task so you to avoid the dangerous path of procrastination: 

1) Chop up the scary task into small, easy pieces.

Making a schedule you will actually enjoy is a huge help, and having a good work to reward ratio and solidified deadlines are assets to pushing yourself to get tasks done. Remember, you’re not a slave to your schedule. You should be able to look at it and agree that it fits an ideal and enjoyable way to spend your day. 

2) Reward yourself for each small victory.

Farb suggests that, “You can set up a system of rewards for yourself. For example, if you get your math homework done early, you get to watch one stand up comic on Youtube before you have to go on with the next task. Word of caution — some rewards are costly. For example, if you give yourself a sugary treat each time you complete a school assignment, that could have some unhappy consequences.”

3) Forgive yourself for the past. The weight of guilt can be paralyzing. Shed it.

We must remember that we are all going to mess up. Sometimes things don’t go the way we had planned for them to, and that’s okay. You have to make sure to be your biggest supporter and not your biggest bully.
Making time to self-reflect and finding a way that works best for you is essential in the process of overcoming procrastination. “Finding the best way to stay motivated is a matter of trial and error. Experiment with different combinations of rewards and helpers,” says Farb.