Pacifier or dummy… the language you use is up to you. Either way the primary purpose of a pacifier is to sooth. You’d be correct in thinking that traditionally pacifiers are for babies, but what if I told you there are adults using pacifiers all the time? The pacifier’s adults use aren’t your usual ‘dummy’… they’re things like phones, Facebook and Netflix - things that pacify and sooth the discomfort of emotions, thoughts and tasks that might be uncomfortable or challenging. Don’t get me wrong, in the absolute right context this can be a useful psychological tool of distraction, but let’s be honest with ourselves… mindless procrastination on social media in particular is a daily, harmful and unnecessary occurrence for many – leaving people feeling guilty, unsatisfied and unaccomplished.
Are you guilty? I am. I might be a life coach but I’m still human. Think about it… it’s easier to switch off your brain with social media rather than focusing on the real issue or necessary task at hand.
A bit of a heads up…
This is a bit of a longer blog than I’d usually write because this is such a huge topic that effects a lot of my life coaching clients and I wanted to cover it from a few different angles. If you want to learn more about why you might procrastinate on social media and how you can overcome it then hang around and keep reading!
Comfort over discomfort
It’s human nature to choose things we think will bring us comfort over discomfort. We’re incredibly evasive human beings when we want to be. The catch of course is that a life time of choosing comfort over discomfort means we don’t actually ever achieve anything worthwhile. You’ve got to get uncomfortable to grow, we all know that at some level… So, I’m glad you’re reading this blog now because that means that at least a small part of you is ready to kick yourself into gear and be rid of mindless procrastination.
Let’s talk about social media’s addictive role in procrastination
Don’t get me wrong I agree with most that Facebook (for example) has it’s place. It’s excellent for keeping up to date with long distance family and friends and for keeping across current events, and it’s great for groups and chats. The issue comes as new research tells us that social media platforms such as Facebook are actually designed to be addictive, and why wouldn’t they be? Ultimately, they’re businesses making their shareholders a lot of money. Addiction, as subtle as it may be, comes with the exhilaration of that dopamine rush when ‘friends’ (please note that I use that term loosely…) ‘like’ and ‘react’ to your posts. It makes you hungry for more, more, MORE! More of what thought? More validation, more external gratification, more evidence that people accept you – all very soothing things to someone who’s trying to avoid doing, feeling or experiencing something that makes them uncomfortable. I even remember reading somewhere (sorry for the lack of a source) that once Facebook loads there’s an intentional delay in the timing that notification alerts appear in order to simulate the sensation of winning the pokies – there’s that rush of dopamine again. Social media is working against us in more subtle ways than we realise and we’re losing our lives to the procrastination that it causes when it has it’s hooks in us.
Procrastination equals unfulfilled potential
It’s not all Facebook’s fault, it’s just a highly relatable example. Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and even Netflix are all forms of adult pacifiers. We lose ourselves, our mindfulness and even our sense of time, all because we’re naturally inclined to choose pleasure over discomfort. We find ourselves preferring to scroll through Instagram instead of tackling that next challenging step towards achieving the days goals. No wonder so many of us feel we’re not living up to our potential… Procrastination (aka avoidance of what needs to be felt or done) robs us of action which deflates our self-esteem and self-confidence because we’re not achieving our goals – however big or small they may be. Ouch. Mindless procrastination really can be a downward spiral if we don’t do something about it…
Take back control of your life again
If you want to eradicate addictive and mindless procrastination on social media then you’re going to need to put your big girl (or boy) panties on and change your mindset in order to change your behaviour.
At risk of sounding a bit hippy dippy… you really do need to start by getting connected to your true emotions and your true self. Endeavour to understand what you’re feeling and then make a conscious decision as to what you’re going to do with that information instead of immediately and mindlessly reaching for whatever your pacifier might be. You may find you need to feel sad for a minute or two to allow the emotion to pass, or you might need to get off your butt and pull on your sneakers – even if it’s raining. That little bit of discomfort will pay off when you run your first 10km.
To rewire your brain you’re going to need to change your mindset and allow some discomfort back into your life in order to grow. It’s going to be a positive upward spiral once you’ve embedded and formed new habits of a positive ‘can-do’ mindset.
When you’re mindful and intentional about challenging your procrastination habits then you’ll procrastinate less, achieve more, increase your sense of peace, boost your self-worth and increase your confidence. Most importantly you’ll be in charge of your life again.
Create a new mindset
When you put in the hard work to rewire your brain and create a new mindset you’ll be less inclined to reach for a pacifier as you develop your self-awareness and resilience. If you find yourself feeling stuck, or that you’re telling yourself something is too hard and then all of a sudden become painfully aware that you’re knee deep in cat memes… STOP. Take a little moment to pause and observe the emotions and thoughts being experienced before you reached for your phone, laptop or remote. Was there something you were trying to numb or avoid? Often for me it’s a task that seems too big or too hard, but now that I know that I have a strategy to overcome any procrastination that might ensue by breaking it down into clear baby steps.
Awareness is key
Be honest with yourself about what you’re numbing, avoiding or attempting to sooth. Once you’re aware you can change your behaviour. Whatever it is and however you choose to intentionally respond, every time you choose not to procrastinate you’re strengthening a mental muscle that says ‘I can focus’, ‘I can do what needs to be done’, ‘I am resilient’ and ‘I’m a doer’ and you’ll be rewarded for it. It all begins with awareness. Treat yourself with patience and kindness. The progress may be slow, but kicking procrastination to the curb will certainly improve your life.
Does this mean you can’t use social media any more?
Ok, just in case you were worried this change means you won’t get any down time any more, then rest assured that you will have more quality down time. How?! Well, when you do sit down to an episode on Netflix or check in on social media (if that’s still what you want to do – you might decide a book or a walk is better) then you’ll be doing it with intention – it won’t be mindless procrastination that riddles you with guilt, it’ll be an intentional behaviour you’ve chosen to do, and the power comes from the fact that it’s on your terms. It’s mindful over mindless use of social media – putting you back in control. As soon as whatever you’re doing for downtime becomes a tool for avoidance then you’ll know and you can re-route your behaviour. You’re 100% in control. In all honesty, you’ll probably experience true down time for the first time in a long while.
How to really break free
Procrastination looks different for everyone and working with a life coach like myself can be a powerful tool to help you discover the core reasons why you procrastinate. Coaching helps clients to generate insightful strategies tailored to them, allowing them to increase their self-awareness and kick procrastination to the curb for good. If you’re serious about dealing with the hold procrastination has over you then you can contact me directly via email and we can have a chat about how coaching can help.
Steph Edmunds is SESC's incredibly passionate, well experienced Certified Professional Life Coach based in Launceston, Tasmania - coaching across Australia and the world. You can contact Steph directly to make coaching inquiries or follow SESC on Facebook for regular doses of personal success insights and motivation.