Instead of continuing to beat your head against the procrastination wall, how about trying something new, suggests Greater Good Science Center’s Fuchsia Sirois, author of Procrastination: What It Is, Why It’s a Problem, and What You Can Do About It. In fact, she offers an alternative way of responding to difficulties that science suggests can reduce distress and increase motivation to persist in the face of obstacles: self-compassion, as opposed to self-criticism.

If mistakes are made along the journey to a goal, we often believe that the only way to correct them is a swift and often harsh cracking of the whip of self-criticism. But self-criticism is problematic when you’re trying to avoid procrastination.

If you have a mindset that includes negative scripts about yourself, you’re more likely to react negatively to any challenges you face when working on a task. The way we view difficulties on the path toward a goal is a reflection of how we see ourselves. You might think, “Everyone can do this task so much more easily than me;” you may have a hard time accepting your imperfections and the fact that, like everyone, you can and do make mistakes.

The other problem with using self-criticism to motivate yourself is that it often backfires. For example, say you tend to procrastinate exercising. But instead of examining why you have difficulty maintaining a regular running routine, you berate yourself.

This response will generate even more negative feelings toward exercising, and make you want to get relief from these feelings by procrastinating. And when your focus is on managing your emotions so you don’t feel so bad, you will be less focused on finding a solution (like getting a running partner). You might start to judge yourself harshly for not being able to run alone. Lots of other people can run alone, so why can’t I?

That kind of self-criticism can lead to further negative thoughts that generate negative feelings that are demotivating rather than motivating, and thus lead to further avoidance.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, scientific evidence has shown that self-compassion can both help reduce procrastination and help us achieve our goals.

If you procrastinate and respond with self-compassion, you will be less likely to continue to procrastinate or engage in ways of thinking that make you feel worse about yourself and thus maintain a procrastination habit. Self-compassion can help defuse the negative feelings and judgments that can make us want to avoid or abandon a challenging task.