Moving Past Task Anxiety to stop “procrastinating”


Procrastination vs. Task Anxiety
Executive Functioning struggles redux

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Time & Task Management Series

Poor Organization & Task Completion

Most of us with Executive Functioning struggles have difficulty “putting it all together.”

Our cognitive deck of cards gets shuffled in the process of recording “awarenesses” into short term memory and consolidating for long-term storage.

That makes it harder to figure out which cards to pull when it comes time to play the game — making it difficult to respond appropriately, or to correctly evaluate consequences, outcomes and timing.

As a result, projects tend to be abandoned unfinished in our dissatisfaction with our lack of ability to play at a level that makes the game interesting rather than an exercise in frustration.  Before we know it, we’ve labeled ourselves chronic procrastinators — and so have most of our associates and loved ones.

It certainly may look like chronic procrastination to anyone looking on. And boy howdy do those onlookers love to sling that label around — as if they believed that merely pointing it out would launch us into activation!

I would like to suggest that what’s really going on here is Task Anxiety.

Task anxiety, just what it sounds like, is what science used to call a “limbic system” activator — where your brain and body are primed to fight, flight or freeze, NOT to get things done!

EVEN those who push through and force themselves to tackle the tasks on their To-Do lists are, according to the latest studies, up to 50% less effective than they would be if they handled the task anxiety FIRST.

  • According to scientific studies conducted in the past few years by Dr. David Rock and his team, and Emotional Regulation Research founder, Stanford’s Dr. James J. Gross:

The degree to which your “limbic system” is aroused is
the degree to which your PFC [prefrontal cortex] is deactivated.

  • Task completion is decision-dependent — and deciding depends on prefrontal cortex activation.
  • The PFC of “the ADD/EFD brain-style,” which includes all of us with Executive Functioning struggles, is already under-performing, relative to the neurotypical population — and the research above was NOT carried out using the ADD/EFD population!

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Madelyn’s 3-point Procrastination Primer

1. The greater the number of items to accomplish on the way to completing any particular task, the higher the likelihood of so-called “procrastination.

2. The higher the number of decisions to be made on the way to completing any particular task, the lower the probability that it will begin or end in a timely manner.

3. The more each item or decision depends on the completion of a prior step, the more likely it is to result in shut-down — and the greater the likelihood that the project will be tabled for another time.

Related Post: Procrastination — Activation vs. Motivation

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Here’s the GOOD news:

Simply identifying what’s going on, whether you actually DO anything about it or not, helps to bring the PFC back online somewhat.  And there is SO much more you can do!

Identifying these areas and naming the steps involved will go a long way toward intentionality.

Awareness is always the first step, and “naming” it is the second.

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