We’re hard-wired to procrastinate, and this is somewhat a comforting fact.
Humans are designed to avoid discomfort.
Unfortunately оr fortunately for us, discomfort is what makes us grow.
I can’t stop procrastinating!
Procrastination can take many forms, the most obvious ones being delaying, watching movies, playing games, and scrolling on social media when you have a deadline or something you need to do. I know that my procrastination looks like doing things I enjoy to avoid the things I’d rather not do, particularly when I’m suffering from the dreaded brain fog.
The most poisonous type of procrastination is procrastination disguised as productivity. You know, the one which has you wondering what on earth you achieved at the end of the day. It’s procrastinating by doing tasks that could be considered productive at first glance but in reality, are in no way efficient.
Common procrastinating tasks
Tasks that are procrastination disguised as productivity include answering emails, making a list of what you need to do instead of doing it, spending time in pointless meetings, organising your desk, and so on.
These tasks by themselves are not malicious. The question I ask myself is, “when do I actually choose to perform these tasks?”
Getting a lot done is one thing, but, as I mentioned earlier, you find yourself wondering if you’ve actually made progress on what’s important.
The thing that I continue to learn is that we need to find the fundamental drivers of progress that are the most important and deliver the most impact. What does this mean?
Ask yourself. Are you doing something because it’s moving your closer to your goal, or are you doing it because it can be seen as productive, but it’s actually just the path of least resistance in comparison to the hard task you need to do? I know that I often go for the latter because, well, it feels more comfortable at that immediate point in time.
Two Essentials For The Fight Against Procrastination
Procrastination is the perfect example of hard-wired behaviour, a habit that needs to be broken. Obviously it’s not going to be an instantaneous thing, changing a habit requires rewiring the brain, but consistency and flexing those brain muscles into a different way of thinking will have you reaching more goals and wasting less time. There are usually no more than two essential things that will bring most of the change.
There needs to be a sense of urgency in order for you to win the battle against resistance. I’ve always been a big believer in that the less amount of time you have to achieve a goal (or meet a deadline), the less you procrastinate. I look back to all of the times I’ve had a deadline at university or work and it’s obvious that when I had a lot of time, I pretty much faffed about because I had ‘all the time in the world.’ But when I left things to the last minute or with a small window of time, I was ultra focused and productive and produced some of my best work.
It’s important to create urgency by simply thinking about where your time goes.
The reality is that we will spend one third of your life sleeping, so there’s that.
Another thing is you don’t really know how much time you have left on this earth.
Humans are fragile beings, and sometimes it doesn’t take much to take us out of the game.
Caught in the tangle of our lives, we forget how easy it is for our life to come to an abrupt ending.
Time is running by, and the longer we put off the important tasks, the longer it’s going to take to reach our goal.
You don’t have forever.
‘’If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.’’
Why do you do what you do? What are you trying to achieve?
What you’re doing right now, is it moving you closer to your goal, or is it drawing you further from it?
These are all questions we need to ask ourselves throughout the day.
Think again why it’s important for you to get through with this specific task.
Think about how delaying this task will push back achieving your goals with a week, maybe a month, maybe years.
Think about the long-term detriments of procrastination being a habit and a constant weakness that looms upon you.
Don’t rationalise and justify it because everyone is doing it.
That’s because not everyone has what it takes.
Do what everyone else is doing, get everyone else’s results.
How To Set Yourself Up For Success
The truth is, beating procrastination becomes easier when you’ve built enough friction between you and the things that distract you and make you procrastinate.
We need to set ourselves up for deep work and make procrastination hard.
To do this, you need to first identify your most notable procrastination triggers and habits.
Everyone is different, but to give an example, these are the kinds of things you would be looking for:
- Is your Facebook feed open while you’re working?
- Is your phone constantly next to you?
- Is the TV always on for background noise?
- Is the next binge on Netflix too enticing?
Things like this send us on the slippery ride down the procrastination slope.
Look for them.
Once you’ve found them try to think of ways that you can make it harder for yourself to slip.
Put your phone in the other room while working.
Turn off the TV.
Make it hard to procrastinate.
That’s the difference between the top performers and the rest.
The top performers’ engineer environments and habits that promote working.
They make it easy to start working and make it harder to procrastinate.
Once you’re all set up and you’ve removed all possible triggers and distractions, all you need to do is just go.
But beyond making it hard to procrastinate, you may also consider making it easy not to. Fuschia Sirois of Bishop’s University in Canada believes that if you find something positive or worthwhile in the task itself, some personal meaning, digging a little deeper can eliminate the need to procrastinate.
If you find yourself saying, “I can’t stop procrastinating” all the time, don’t worry. We all do it from time to time!
I’m sure some of these tips have helped at least one person who’s struggled in the past.
Don’t give up on yourself and keep trying new ways to deal with your problem until you find something that works for YOU!