Procrastination – a term we are all familiar with and something that hits everyone! Even the most famous people out there have things they put off so if you think you’re the only one, you’re not.
I have been a major procrastinator all of my life, I still am and over time I’ve read all the articles and listened to all the podcasts about procrastination. I’ve tried all the tricks — including literally trying to trick myself. Some of these tricks were able to give me the kick I needed but it wasn’t long before I was back in the state I started from.
The truth is, there are two aspects when it comes to overcoming procrastination:
- Mindset: Understanding why we procrastinate in the first place
- Skill: The action we need to perform to deal with the why
Why we procrastinate
A lot of people associate procrastination with laziness but these are two separate things.
Procrastination is when you choose to do something else instead of the task you know you should be doing. In contrast, laziness is total inactivity and unwillingness to do any task for that matter.
Procrastination usually involves ignoring an unpleasant, but likely more important task, in favor of one that is more enjoyable or easier.
Basically, we want to avoid the uncomfortable feeling associated with the work and rather spend time on mood-enhancing activities. Yeah sure, this does lift the mood in the short run but putting things off only increases negative feelings later on. This sounds very simple and inevitable. We all know it deep inside that sooner or later we have to do the work, yet we put it off until we have absolutely no choice.
Why? Research shows that our brains are actually wired to think about our present and future selves as two separate people. That’s why we’re able to prioritize our present mood at the expense of our future well-being even though it’s an irrational choice in the long-term.
So what can we do about it?
Break your tasks into the smallest actions conceivable
To sum up, we procrastinate because our brains are wired to care more about our present comfort than our future happiness. Keeping this in mind, make whatever you’re procrastinating on feel less uncomfortable and break it down into smaller, more specific tasks that you know you can do easily.
Let me give you my own example. Two months ago, I decided to create my first ever online course and I gave myself a deadline to finish it in a month. Although this seems like a pretty actionable task but still in the first two days, I got overwhelmed with how much there was to do.
I then decided to modify it, making it hyper, hyper-specific, and instead of planning for a month, I started planning by the week.
- Week 1: Every day, write down the content for just one lecture in the course. One lecture per day and not more. By the end of the first week, I had a rough layout written down for all 8 lectures in my course.
- Week 2: Every day, do audio and video recordings of just one lecture. It took me 2 hours each day which was much more realistic and seemed doable. One of these days after I was done with the lecture, I felt so good that I recorded another one on the same day.
- Week 3: Edit one lecture per day that I recorded in the week before.
- Week 4: Publish and share the course on one platform per day i.e Udemy, Skillshare, etc.
Remember being productive does not mean you have to work the entire day (which is humanly impossible).
So make the hurdle, make the success threshold really, really low. And you will feel successful because you’ve checked your box for success, and then very often you will exceed that for extra credit. You’ll be like oh I have already done my task for the day but I feel good so why not start the next task as well while I’m at it.
It also prevents you from feeling like a failure. This is very, very important. That is what derails a lot of people and makes the task intimidating, leading to procrastination.
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