My Procrastination Habit…

Adam Fearnall
4 min readMay 1, 2022

I’m reading Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Show How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind by Dr. Judson Brewer. I love reading it. It’s written in a simple, chatty, and example-laden way and it works well with the way that I learn. I’m savouring the last couple of chapters. I could be done, but I’d rather give the book another day or two to marinate. Plus, I take a small amount of joy in every moment that I get to use a bookmark (when you get a bookmark or think of something that could be a bookmark but really nothing else, don’t you get a little zing from actually using it as a bookmark?).

Anyway, there’s an idea from the book whirring around inside me right now, so I thought I’d share.

This morning I’m interested in what Dr. Jud describes as his “procrastination habit loop.” It goes like this (for him):

Trigger: Deadline for writing a paper

Behaviour: Check the New York Times website

Result: Feel up on the news, behind on the work

(One of the things that Dr. Jud recommends for working with anxiety is to map out your habit loops. He gives a three category framework for doing this: trigger, behaviour, result/reward.)

He goes on to describe how he realized that checking the New York Times was generally preceded by a “white -hot twisting ball of contracting dread” in his stomach. It took him time, but he noticed that a lot of the stomach pain comes from “not knowing the subject matter well enough to know what to write.” Checking the Times presented a better offer for his brain than sitting in the stomach pain (and not knowing), so he’d check the Times rather than keep writing. Eventually, he came to discover that doing research before sitting down to write, combined with having real-life experience with a topic helped him to write more and scroll less.

Dr. Jud describes a new understanding of how to write that goes like this: interest + knowledge + experience = enjoyment in writing = flow.

Now with that setup, here’s how this relates to my writing practice. Here’s how things often go for me.

Trigger: Get excited about writing something.

Adam Fearnall

Human, Organizer, Baseball Fan, Singer/Songwriter for @bethechase