Procrastination. Wow, if you wanted to talk about what has been my Achilles’ heel since college (and even before then)… it’s probably this. I’ve been doing a lot of research lately in trying to figure out a fix for my procrastination. And what I’ve come to find is that there is indeed a reason for why we procrastinate. In a nutshell, the following video by Vik Nithy shows the psychological reasoning behind why we do it:
If that description is too analytical for you, then you can find a drawn out and very relatable version here.
The Gist of Why We Procrastinate
The smart one, which holds your personality and all of your good intentions, is telling you that you have something that needs to be done.
However, the dumb one, well, all it wants to do is just surf the web, play video games, or go screw around outside. Funny enough, part of it is in charge of decision making, play, and panicking.
It also doesn’t help that the dumb one also stores the factory of Dopamine. And let me tell you something about it… Dopamine is a hell of a drug. Gaming to me in the past might almost be as good as cocaine. (For more info on why people do cocaine: Cocaine stimulating Dopamine release.)
So, obviously, the fight between the smart part of your brain vs the dumb part is actually kind of won before it even starts if our brain is more receptive to short term rewards than long term ones.
In short, the more you’ve given in to short term rewards in the past, the more your brain is literally addicted to their effects – whether or not you had long term goals or not.
Three Steps We Can Use to Effectively Battle Procrastination
In the video above, Vik talks about 6 key things you must do to battle procrastination:
- Plan Goals
- Plan Time
- Plan Resources
- Plan the Process
- Plan for Distractions
- Plan for Failure
I’m going to kind of theme them together in three steps so that it’s something you do a little more automatically when you’re trying to avoid procrastination when starting a new project.
You want to do something? First, you need to research the hell out of it. What do top experts say in doing that? What does it look like when you’re done? Is it worth your time in pursuing it? This is how you start planning your process. The dumb part of your brain should have no difficulty looking this stuff up – especially if it’s something you have a passion to do. (If it does, you might need to plan this phase out too.)
As part of your process planning, figure out what you have and don’t have to get the job done. Are you trying to learn a new language? A new skill? Do some inventory checking and get those missing things of what you’re going to need. (It might be as simple as downloading an app!)
Effective Journaling and Planning Your Week takes care of goals and time. However, as you’re planning out your week to work on a project or your months to work on a new skill, I’d plan for almost twice as long to get the thing accomplished. You’re going to run into some bumps in the road (failures and distractions). Either the dogs will want to go out three times during your project or the kids might want for you to go watch them at their baseball game in the 2nd week of your training. But when you’re done with those distractions, you’ll come back and be able to get right back on track because you’ll have your goals written down.
So the next time you’re wanting to do something, be it recording a podcast, or even learning how to ride a bike at the age of 34, I want you to see if you can set yourself up from inception to completion: Research, plan and journal your activities. Come back and let me know how it works out for you! Or, if you’ve already implemented it, drop a comment below.
Extra Points: Identify what kind of procrastinator you are here. If it doesn’t exist, name it and let us know why you came up with that name.
Life would be so much awesomer if we only did what our hearts and emotions wanted us to do each moment of the day. Unfortunately, there’s lots of little pieces in doing things that many times that we don’t want to do. Just this week I forced myself to learn how to use Logic Pro X for the upcoming podcast. I wanted to do better than what Garageband enables me to do. But Logic Pro looks so scary and detailed in comparison. But you know, if I want to eventually have professional sounding podcasts (which I’m pretty happy with my results thus far), then I know I need to put in the time to learn how to get it done.
So… what did I tell myself?
1. Just Do It!
Now if you can’t get done by simply following Shia’s advice, here are a few more pointers that might help you tackle your own project that you’ve been putting off.
2. Don’t just think about why you need to do this. MEDITATE on it.
Clear your mind and don’t think of anything else but this task. Don’t think about the phone call you’re going to get in a couple minutes. Don’t think about what you have to do with your friends in a few hours. Don’t think about what you’re going to feed the family when you get home.
Mind clear? Now, just take 5 or 10 minutes and think about why you want to do this task that you want to do. What will this task help accomplish? Who is it helping? Dig deeper and find the good that doing this task will be doing in the world. Every little job that is out there is going to mean more than you think it will. Even if it’s doing laundry. Doing the laundry will give you clean clothes so that you won’t be working in dirty ones next week.
3. Knockout the fear.
Chances are the biggest thing that’s keeping you back from what you’re wanting to do is fear. What will happen if I fail at the task? What will happen if someone finds out? What will happen if? Well, have you ever thought about what would happen if you don’t? I’m sure you have. That’s why you’re thinking about doing it in the first place! So embrace fear and just know that it’s part of the process. Hell, even when we learned to ride a bike we had fear. Now we look back on bike riding as one of those things we have to learn to do!
4. Embrace the Suck.
Very similar to fear, is knowing that something that you have to do is going to suck. It’s the elephant in the room. Just like learning a new piece of software or even cleaning out the garage. You know it’s going to be awhile before you see any fruit come of it. So what? Hard things suck, but in the end it will be worth it.
5. Letting Go of Perfection.
Man, I really struggle with this one. In college (and I can almost blame school in general for making me this way), I never wanted to do anything until I knew exactly how to do it. That I didn’t want to turn anything in until it was perfect. The truth is that nothing in life is perfect. Your living condition is never perfect. Your friends and family aren’t perfect. So why would you expect yourself to be? So let go of the fantasy, the ideal, the expectation of yourself. This task before you, it needs to get done. Shoot for the A-.
6. Focus on the Intention, not the Results.
So even if you shot for the A-, you might just completely fail altogether. This happens too. Prepare for the worst case scenario, but don’t expect it. If you fail, think about why you did it in the first place. Was your heart or mind in the right place? Yes? Great! Knowing that is half the battle! However, don’t quit there. Learn from the outcome. What could you have done better to have a better result? Failing is never really failing unless you don’t learn something from it.
7. Do a Little and Stop
Mini-breaks are key. So, let’s say that you have to write up a report for some presentation you’re going to give. Ok, it’s hard enough that you got to make the presentation, right? Well, what’s the best way to do all of this? Storyboarding it! Or if you remember back to high school, write an outline first!
Now, take a break – actually get up and get a drink of water or do some push ups. Actually take a mental break.
Now, go back to your outline and look at the first section – can that be divided even more? Yes? Make your sub points. No? Then write your first paragraph.
Take another break to get free. Go stretch, play with the dog for 5 minutes and come back.
Rinse and repeat. You’ll eventually find yourself in the flow and find that taking a break is actually starting to become annoying.
8. Give Yourself Constraints
This solution is somewhat the same but totally clutch. Totally kills procrastination for me. So you know when you have clean out a room (or the garage in my case) and you keep putting it off? Well, here’s a great way to get it done. Do the work according to a time frame. Do it for 20 minutes (or 10 minutes if it’s on the computer) and then regardless of where you’re at, just come to a complete stop. More than likely you’ll find it hard to do so and keep going until you find a point where you can. Best part is that after the break you take, you’ll find it easier to start because your mind will be like “Oh, I’ve already started on that and it wasn’t so bad!” Every little part helps. If you find yourself needing additional help, ask someone to hold you accountable.
9. Express Gratitude (maybe even in a journal form?)
The job that’s keeping you from doing the stuff you actually enjoy will probably result in great things. In my case, I was putting off learning the software, but now that I got it down, I have a template that I’ll be able to use to get things future podcasts done quicker. Changing things as I go, but at least I’ll have one, two, five sessions out there soon!
Like wise, if you find yourself going to a job you dislike, just appreciate the fact that you have one. You have money to buy food and keep a roof over your head! At least you can even do the job! Can you imagine that if you didn’t have sight how much that might set you back in doing it? Imagine life sucking even more and then try feeling sorry for yourself. That will give you a boost. “Well at least I’m not…” is always a great motivator for myself.
Alternatively, if you’re in a career you love, but you still find it hard to get out of bed, realize that you’re in a gifted position. Sometimes it’s easy to take things for granted, but realize that you could be in a job you hate or weren’t meant for. Go do what you’re great at and learn from it.
Having problems with expressing gratitude regularly? Look into the 5 Minute Journal. Expressing gratitude is no small matter. People who are highly successful use just this one thing to get TONS of things done.
10. Don’t overthink things.
Truth is, we can sit there thinking about doing a task… until we sit there and talk ourselves out of it. Realize that you can over think things. Don’t. Just realize that it might start happening, call it for what it is when you see it and restart your thoughts. “Damnit, I’m over thinking it!” is probably one of my most favorite release phrases I use now.
11. Learn and Grow
Just as I previously mentioned with riding a bike, we all can remember things that we’re glad we did when we were younger. Draw on that feeling to realize that what you’re about to do is going to be worth it. Realize that having this opportunity is a good thing in the end. It’s a learning opportunity. And frankly, spending your time learning is probably one of the best ways to spend your time.
How Do You Get ‘Er Done?
Below in the comments, share about how you use any of the above tactics to get things done. Is there any tips that you can give that might help someone break their procrastination? Chime in below with your procrastination hacks!
What do you want, when do you want it? That’s often a question I ask people as I’m starting to work with them. It’s a very simple question, but many times very hard to answer. The main reason for this is simply the fact that people in today’s world have so many distractions that they lose focus on what they really want. Simple time management practices are key in getting any long term projects done. But even with knowledge of these principles, at times things don’t get done.
In his book, the Magic of Thinking Big, Dr. David J. Schwartz suggested that there are three key diseases that affect effective time management. It is as true today as it was 50 years ago when he wrote about it:
The first disease, Excusitis, is simply the disease of having what seems to be valid reasons for not achieving a particular goal. For example, say you’re looking to increase your income by searching for a higher paying job. A person suffering from excusitis might blame the economy, or suggest that the person who is in The White House is the sole reason they have not been succeeding. When you focus on areas that you have absolutely no control over, you might as it’s like suggesting that it’s not the team’s fault they lost the game, it was yours for not watching. There’s two questions that you can ask yourself. Think, “What does this really have to do with the current state of my current situation?” Are the economy and politics a factor? Absolutely. Are they the deciding factor to the success of whether you get that next opportunity? Absolutely Not. Focus on the solutions, nothing else.
The second disease, Detailitis, is I think definitely the trickiest of the three diseases. I know I have problems with this one myself and I always have. Detailitis infects those people who get frozen on making decisions because they don’t feel they have enough information. Me being a very analytical type person, the more information I have about a given subject, the easier it is for me to make that decision. However, if you feel like the information is trickling in or if you’re waiting for all your ducks to line up in a row, sometimes a mental paralysis occurs that will get stronger over time. Uncertainty turns into frustration which eventually turns into fear. Action is what cures fear, not more and more information. Get the vital pieces to make a sound decision and then move forward. Let action, not indecisiveness control your results.
The third and possibly the most powerful of these diseases is Procrastination – aka “Why do it today when you can do it tomorrow?-itis”. I covered this disease in the initial post for NI, but I’ll mention it here again. This is a major killer of getting things done. When poor time management and lack of knowledge come to a head, this is the ugly outcome. Again, if you hear yourself say this, tell yourself: “What am I saying? Today’s as good a day as any to get this done! It won’t take forever. Plus, I can have a break if it starts taking too long.” Personally, I relate it to this statement: “When do you tell your parents you appreciate them? Before it’s too late and you can’t anymore.” The catch is this: if you want to position yourself for continued success in the future, you need to learn how to gain control over your time management by avoiding these 3 failure diseases. The future is yours. Grab ahold of it today!
So What Do You Think? Are there any other failure diseases that you can think of that get in your way of achieving your goals?