Stopping procrastination, at tax time and year round

Putting things off comes from avoiding discomfort, becomes a habit

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Monday, April 16, 2018
Why do we procrastinate?
Why do we procrastinate? Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 5pm on April 16, 2018.

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WPVI) -- Tomorrow is tax day.

Many people find themselves waiting until the last minute to finish their forms.

But it's not the only time we procrastinate.

Psychologist Scott Bea, Psy.D., of the Cleveland Clinic says many times we put things off out of habit, and because we simply want to avoid discomfort.

"The closer you get to it, the more you start thinking about it; the more those thoughts start to generate anxiety, it reaches a crescendo, and then we're motivated to avoid - and that avoidance, tension is reduced in our brain, that feels really good - and the next time we're in that situation we're inclined to do the same thing," says Dr. Bea.

And he says that gives us the false notion that we can accomplish things better when under the gun.

The procrastination habit is hard to break.

Dr. Bea says it can take up to 63 days to create that new habit, and procrastination is difficult to change, even when we know there are consequences for not getting the job done.

"Create a pre-determined deadline, a scheduling of when I'm going to get to taxes and what day and what time frame, and as I say, dangle a carrot - as I get through my taxes, then I'm going to treat myself to the movie I wanted to go to, or some treat, even with your family; create an incentive that is worthwhile moving toward," says Dr. Bea.

But with planning, it can be done, and then those uncomfortable feelings don't stick around too long.