Do you fall into one of these procrastination traps?
Leave tasks till the last minute?
Get engrossed reading a book or surfing the internet instead of writing that article?
You don’t feel like starting that project?
You pick up your phone and start scrolling through instead of doing the next thing on your to-do list?
I know how you feel when you procrastinate again – you beat yourself up.
“Why can’t I face each task and get it done at the right time?”
You learn that the monster you’re battling with is called Procrastination.
Then you search the web, looking up some advice that will help you deal with it once and for all.
And while you’re searching, you know that you’re still doing this one thing – procrastinating.
“Prepare for the presentation”, sits next, on your to-do list. But you just don’t feel like doing it, because you don’t know where to start.
So, the spirit of research, or Bible reading, or social media surfing falls on you – at that moment. Doing the first two makes you pat your back with thoughts of, “I’m still doing something productive.”
But the inner you can’t simply swallow down that lie. You feel guilty, ashamed, and sick of yourself for being seduced, once again, by procrastination.
Procrastination Is Not The Problem
You’ve pointed the gun at procrastination over and over, for messing with your activities and life.
Procrastination isn’t the culprit.
Okay. This is what really happens:
▪️You’re faced with a task.
▪️You’re plagued with negative emotions about it –
“I don’t know where to start…”
“This is hard…”
“I’m not in the mood…” etc.
▪️You switch to something else to feel better – clean up your space, scroll through your phone, read unimportant articles, search Google to find out the price of that wristwatch — procrastination.
▪️And as you repeat this again and again, it becomes habitual. Your brain does it on autopilot, without thinking.
The authors of the book Deprocrastination calls this ‘the procrastination cycle’.
You see, procrastination gets dragged to the scene by that guy in the middle – negative emotions.
The difference between procrastination and getting-to-work-now is your relationship with that guy.
Procrastination And The Guys In Your Brain
Tim Urban wrote an interesting analogy of what happens in the brain of procrastinators.
In the brain of both non-procrastinators and procrastinators sits the Rational Decision Maker (RDM), who, as its name implies, helps you make rational decisions.
“It seems the Rational Decision-Maker in the procrastinator’s brain is coexisting with a pet — the Instant Gratification Monkey (IGM).
This would be fine — cute, even — if the Rational Decision-Maker knew the first thing about how to own a monkey. But unfortunately, it wasn’t a part of his training and he’s left completely helpless as the monkey makes it impossible for him to do his job”, Tim wrote.
Here’s an interaction between them:
RDM: It’s time for you to prepare the speech you’ll deliver at the meeting tomorrow.
IGM: Oh… But my mind is not settled to write now. Let me just prep my mind by watching some other speeches on Youtube.
And from watching one speech halfway, he slides to the latest movie trailer, mediavine gist and motivational videos …
Three hours later, you look at the time … “Wow! It’s 5:00pm. Can I still write this now?”
IGM: I doubt. You should be in church by 6:00pm. What will you be able to write within one hour? Let’s do it at night.
And at night – let’s do it tomorrow.
The meeting is scheduled for 1:00 pm.
And as minutes tick away, drawing 1:00pm closer, something happens. Another guy shows up.
Tim calls him The Panic Monster.
“The Panic Monster is dormant most of the time, but he suddenly wakes up when a deadline gets too close or when there’s danger of public embarrassment, a career disaster, or some other scary consequence.”
This guy scares Instant Gratification Monkey to death. It jumps down from the head of Rational Decision Maker and tucks its tail in shame between its legs.
Adrenaline spikes and sets you into hyper action. You prepare the speech quickly, within an hour – even though you’ve been busier today and have eaten nothing.
You finally present the speech, and yes you were cheered, but deep within, you know you can do better than this … if only you learn to deal with procrastination – by dealing with that Instant Gratification Monkey.
As Jim Rohn said, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.”
Beat Procrastination With These Three Tips
You’ve seen the wreck procrastination brings.
In these days of increased distractions from social media, there’s no better time to deal with this than now.
Here are three tips that will help you:
- Examine your to-do lists: Hoping you have one (if not, procrastination just enjoys a smooth ride without opposition), you need to check for things like –
- Is the list overloaded and hence overwhelming? Don’t try to do 10 things a day and end up doing none. It’s best you pick 3 or 5 or 6 major tasks and get them done.
- What is my WHY for each task? When you have a strong WHY for doing something, you’ll be driven to do it against all odd. So, identify your whys – what you gain for doing it, and what you’ll lose if you don’t.
- Are the tasks important? Most times, we spend time doing the urgent but unimportant things. This is mostly true for procrastinators – being very busy but unproductive. Hence, pushing that task away or doing it at the last minute comes with no dire consequences, because its not important in the first place.
If your daily tasks have no deep value and structure, it will be easy for Instant Gratification Monkey to distract you from it with cheap rewards.
- Be aware of negative emotions and practice how to respond to them: We can’t rule out the negative feelings and talk that greet our mind when we’re faced with work. We just need to learn how to put them in their place.
These emotions crave instant gratification. So, starve them of it. Yes, it’s not going to be easy. But remember what Jim Rohn said about the pain of discipline vs the pain of regret.
When emotion says, “I don’t know where to start in writing this article. Let me just relax and reply my chats first.”
Tell it to sit down, open your writing pad and place your fingers on the keyboard. The words will flow… Just how it “suddenly” flows when The Panic Monster scares IGM away 30 minutes to submission time.
And when we’re done writing, dear brain, we’ll both happily relax, without the guilt of substandard work messing with our fun. We all love rewards, but rewards come after work not before work.
- Repeat the above actions – like a ritual – till it becomes a habit: Procrastination is habitual. You don’t erase a habit in a day. Don’t beat yourself so hard when you succumb to one IGM bait by procrastinating. On the other hand, don’t surrender helplessly to it.
Like every old habit you want to break, replacing it with a new one, you need to intentionally repeat it.
Set reminders in your phone or around you that helps keep you in check, telling you to do it now than later. And remember to reward yourself for the wins.
As you keep it on, you’ll gradually create a new pathway in your brain that automatically responds to IGM, keeping it by the corner, and strengthening Rational Decision Maker to take the lead.
“I (you) can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
I’ll love to read from you! What’s your struggle with procrastination like? And how are you dealing with it?
What’s your best take away from the post? Share your lessons with us…
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