By Kristy Gargano, LSW
When I was in high school, I was a procrastinator. Sometimes it was so bad that I wouldn’t do assignments at all. At that time I just thought it was “normal” teenage stuff; lack of motivation…blah blah blah. Maybe that was only part of it.
I think my struggle in high school impacted me so much that when I found myself in college a bit later than my peers, the exact opposite happened. I found myself getting assignments, big and small, done as early as possible. Not only that, but I was a perfectionist (I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still working on this). Even through grad school in my late 20’s I struggled with not slowing down. I wanted assignments done, because anything left undone for too long had me feeling so uncomfortable that the anxiety would sometimes be unbearable.
While all my procrastinator people out there might see “getting things done quickly” as a good thing, it is still anxiety driven, and can have negative ramifications.
But “What is PRE-crastination” you ask? Pre-crastination was a term that David Rosenbaum, Lanyun Gong, and Cory Adam Potts at Penn State came up when conducting a study on how humans and animals perform tasks. If you do a quick Google search of pre-crastination, you’ll find articles right away, but I’ll let you look more into this on your own. Simply put, procrastination is putting things off and pre-crastination is getting things done very quickly.
Although pre-crastination sounds ideal, it has its pitfalls.
When you get a disgruntled text from a friend or family member, do you respond to it right away?
Responding to someone hastily can lead to more problems by not pausing to think of the outcome. Getting things done too quickly may also lead to putting in more effort than necessary. If left with too much time to complete a school assignment or work project, you might spend more hours working on the task, possibly even finishing it and then going back later to modify an already great outcome.
Whether you are a procrastinator or a pre-crastinator, the goal is to pace yourself with tasks in order to manage anxiety and not get too overwhelmed.
5 practical ways to manage anxiety
(with tasks and projects)
Know your anxiety triggers: First and foremost, know when your anxiety is in the driver seat. Anxiety is intended to protect us, and keep us alert, but when it comes to getting tasks done, anxiety is our nemesis.
Manage anxiety: deep breathing to lower your heart rate, listen to calming music, do a body scan meditation to get that tension in check.
Create a task list: Break big tasks into smaller ones and put a reasonable limit on how much time is spent on each task (procrastinators may put in less time and pre-crastinators more time, so keep this in mind). This will help you pace yourself and act as a reminder that the task will end, especially if it’s something less than enjoyable.
When possible, find a work environment that is relaxed and less distracting: I don’t know about you, but when my house is a mess, so is my brain. I can be realllllly good at the “I should really clean before doing a, b and c”. Finding a space free of clutter, or even leaving the house will help stay focused on the task.
Schedule, schedule, schedule! : If your schedule is a very busy one, this makes getting tasks done a bit easier, at least in my mind, because your time has already been limited for you. With too much down time, it can be easier to put things off until the last minute, OR use all the time in the world to get something done. Again, set a reasonable schedule for your week. You might find yourself more productive than you thought! If you’re a pre-crastinator, schedule time to do something relaxing, because it can be terribly hard to slow down. Perhaps just sit and enjoy some tea or coffee.