Does Procrastination Cause Stress? Or Vice Versa?

By Joanne Elliot

A typical bad day: I wake up and my first thought is of the next five things I have to do in order to just get to my desk. That makes me want to go back to sleep. But no, I must get to work on my novel.

I sleepwalk through those five steps.

As I’m getting ready to work I keep thinking I’m not going to have enough time to get this done as well as my blogs and all the chores I’ve got on my list for today. I need to get those chores done because I didn’t do them earlier in the week.

Now I’m feeling time-pressured and I haven’t gotten any writing done yet.

I look at the clock. An hour has already passed in my time allotted for writing. I edit a few paragraphs, but because I’m anxious I’m not thinking clearly so I decide I’d better get moving on other things.

By now I’m even more frazzled and upset that I didn’t get my set amount of pages edited. Maybe I’ll do more later.

Later comes and I’m exhausted and anxious over not having gotten everything done on my list, including the writing. I can’t deal with it anymore so I call it a day and spend the evening watching the ball game. I don’t enjoy the game much because I’m still upset over my day.

This is a very stressful and unhappy way to live, which is why I’ve turned to blogs like the Procrastinating Writers blog and have read and worked with Jennifer’s eBook, Butt-in-Chair.

I’ve discovered that being stressed is what is partly causing me to procrastinate.

Here are some ways I’ve devised to help myself calm down and therefore not feel like putting things off. I hope these will be helpful to you, too.

Change Your Perception of Time
Time doesn’t have to be a source of stress. It’s all in how you perceive it.

Faced with a deadline we may feel overwhelmed, thinking, “Am I going to have enough time to complete this project?”

Slow down.

Ask yourself why you feel rushed: Do you have too many things on your plate already? The more tasks you set for yourself the more you perceive time as running out.

Try shortening your to-do list on a day-by-day basis. Break down those projects into smaller chunks.

Instead of trying to get five things accomplished today, try three.

Three’s not so bad, you think. Suddenly you feel spacious, relaxed and more willing to work. When calm, you’ll find you can accomplish more and may even do five things that day. It’s all in your perception.

Stop Thinking and Be in the Moment
Sometimes just thinking about those three things on your list can cause you stress. Stop thinking so much and just do.

Take one thing at a time and just begin to work, and then take the next and the next. Don’t think beyond what you’re working on. Keep focused, stay in the present and you’ll find you’re getting things done.

Practice Calm
The other ways I mentioned to cope with stress can help you get calm, but a regular centering practice can help you remain calm despite what is going on in your life. You can learn to stay centered and avoid becoming anxious.

Sometimes a crisis will happen. When you remain calm you can think clearly and can get yourself out of trouble.

Take some time out of every day to practice centering. Meditation is the best way I know to help one stay centered.

There are many types of meditation. Check out your local library or bookstore for books that can help guide you or search the Net. Meditating can make a difference in all areas of your life.

Stress is a Part of Life
I see procrastination as a symptom of too much stress. We can’t avoid stress all together, nor would we want to, but we can learn to not cause ourselves unnecessary amounts of it.

If you can learn to approach your life and your writing with calm, you will more readily dive in and get the writing done. You can be sure you’ll have fewer of those bad days if you slow down and tame your mind. Give it a try.

How do you cope with the stress of life and how it affects your writing?

About the Author: Joanne Elliott is a writer and poet. Currently she is working on a contemporary fantasy novel and encouraging her muse with a weekly poetry salon she puts on in her living room. You can find samples of her work on her blog. Being a writer she is fascinated by words and how we use them to create realities. Find out what she’s discovered so far here on her fiction blog.  Basically she’s your friendly neighborhood weaver of worlds and realities.

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