I write a heck of a lot about procrastination in my articles. But that’s because it’s a destructive habit that I struggle the most with. I will go as far as to say that I consider it the single biggest quality that is preventing me from achieving my goals.
Instead of working my way toward becoming a better version of myslef, I spend my time on numerous meaningless activities and I’m sure most of you can relate to that. But why do we do this? It seems so idle and counterproductive and yet so many of us put off important work and do it last minute. We can avoid the guilt and the pressure of the deadline but we don’t. Why?
I recently came upon an interview with Steven Kotler – author, journalist, and researcher on the flow state. Flow is the reason why extreme- sport athletes can perform gravity-defying tricks. It’s a state of optimal performance where the brain locks in on the task at hand and everything else seems to fade away. Steven studied human brain performance for years and discovered that there are two reasons for procrastination.
The challenge is either: too boring or too hard.
It is extremely important to determine which cause applies to your situation as each has a different solution.
If the challenge is too boring you have to find a way to make it more entertaining. That’s some hard-hitting truism right here. Think about the activities you actually like to do and figure out why that is the case. Listen to a podcast while doing the dishes or play some smooth jazz when working. Or maybe, instead of spending another night rereading the textbook, invite your friends for a little study session, when you can spend time with and quiz each other.
On the other hand, if the challenge is too hard, break it down into a couple of smaller tasks. Instead of writing ”complete the project” on your to-do list – write ”plan the project” or ”draft the introduction”. Also, ask yourself why the task is too much for you. Why is it so scary that you prefer to make yourself guilty and miserable instead of just getting it done? Whatever the answer may be – figure out how to make it a little less scary for yourself.
And there is one more thing about facing the task you’re procrastinating on.
It’s all in the naming. It’s all about what you consider work or a chore. We can put something off for days because we think it’s going to be a very unpleasant experience, only to realize that it was actually very easy to accomplish when we finally do it. It all really does depend on the mindset. So instead of developing a complicated technique to fight procrastination or adjusting your environment – start by shifting your mindset and start calling the task differently. For example, instead of thinking ”I have to do my laundry” you could think ” I’m going to play a game where I sort my clothes, by colors – it’s just like Candy Crush!”. Who wouldn’t like to play a real-life game? Notice also that by using the form ”I’m going to” you remove the optionality of doing the errand.
Fighting procrastination is hard but remember that it’s only hard in the beginning. By figuring out its cause you can adjust the task and get it over with. And the great thing about overcoming procrastination is that you can then enjoy a well-deserved break and do all the activities you did when procrastinating, but do them guilt-free.