Tomorrow, then later, after a while … and all that resembles it are terms we use just before we reverse what we need to do and postpone it to a future moment – often undefined.
This habit of leaving everything for “later” is officially known under the name put off.
Stopping procrastination has long been on my personal target list … And I say this without the slightest intention of sounding ironic.
I firmly believe that if I managed to get rid of my bad habit of procrastinating, the simple and the complicated, I would live happier. It would save me a lot of fear, worry, and a bad mood.
I’ve already stopped counting the number of times I’ve sworn not to get the water up to my neck on the next delivery date.
I often know months in advance on which day I will give a presentation, lead a workshop, prepare a course or deliver an article. Without exception, I make a plan to have everything ready a week in advance and to work a little in peace every day. That is my intention.
What actually happens is very different. I miss the time in every corner. And the closer I get to the critical date, the more I want to fix a drawer, clean clothes, read a book – even if it’s quantum physics – have a coffee, think it’s the life of Phoebe Buffay will be from the series by “Friends”, Ride a bike or sit and see “nothing”.
In the end … “I’m kicking the boat” until the alarm goes off, I panic and have no choice but to do what I have to do.
I learned some very interesting things about procrastination.
The first is that procrastination is a coping mechanism, not a form of laziness or carelessness. That calms me down from the start.
Researcher Timothy Pychyl found that the reason for procrastination is to avoid stress and not work as we commonly think. It is the unconscious desire to be comfortable “in this moment”, to have a worthwhile moment right now.
We hesitate because we feel stressed about the big things – money, family conflicts, illness, or life in general – and not necessarily about the immediate task or work we have to do.
When we avoid something that seems difficult to us, we feel some relief. And when we do something we like, like checking our messages on the phone, our brains inject dopamine with us. This feels good so let’s repeat it and make it a habit.
The thing is, what we put off builds up over time, creating more stress in our lives. It is a doom-loop.
With the above, I understand that one way to combat procrastination is to manage and manage stress in our lives in general. Another thing I learned is how the mind of procrastination works. It seems that the world is divided into two parts: those who hesitate and those who don’t.
Those who do their tasks with enough time and in an organized manner do not understand what goes through our heads, who give everything up for later.
My mother packs a trip days in advance; I do this two hours before I leave my house, no matter where I go or how long I go. When my mother sees me stressed, repulsive, searching, thinking and guessing what I need, the first thing she asks is … and why haven’t you done it before? Instead of going through some physical ailments with a doctor, I let the days go by imagining thousands of disastrous possibilities. When I finally decide to have a consultation, the doctor’s obligatory question is … why didn’t you come earlier?
In his lecture “Inside the Mind of a Professional Procrastinator”, Tim Urban brilliantly explains how this phenomenon works. If you have 15 minutes, I recommend that you spend it watching the video.
According to Tim, the postponement system consists of three characters: the rational decision maker, the ape of instant gratification, and the panic monster. How do they work and how do they relate to each other? Suppose we have to come up with a proposal for a very important project in 2 months.
The rational decision maker knows that it is a good idea to start work now. You need to collect the necessary information, read, analyze, think about the structure, sit in front of the computer, write, review and so on. You are projecting into the future and the last thing you want is to feel rushed and time-consuming.
The instant gratification monkey says “NO”. Let’s see what’s happening on Facebook, let’s go for a walk with the dog or eat something, let’s see if they discovered life on Mars. The monkey persists until he succeeds in hijacking the good intentions of the rational decision maker and dissuading him from the path. The monkey is only interested in the easy, the fun, and the present moment.
When the delivery date gets close enough, the panic monster shows up. The monkey of instant gratification is afraid of this creature, as soon as it sees it, it runs at full speed and disappears.
Without the monkey’s presence, the rational decision maker manages to sit down to work at full speed to achieve the goals.
The panic monster seems to be the key to getting chores done as it drives away the monkey. But watch out here … for the monster to show up, there has to be a deadline. This gives rise to an important consideration …
Tim explains that if the goals or tasks we need to do have a completion or delivery date, then the deferral is included in a finite amount of time. But … what happens to everything we want to do that doesn’t have a specific delivery date?
Start a business, write a book, learn about Australia, encourage yourself to make your dreams come true. See your family, meet your friends, send a thank you message, eat healthy, exercise.
Then I call him, then I look for him, then I do it, then I start, then see you, then …
There is no monster of panic in these intentions or desires with no expiration dates, so the effects of procrastination are not included and travel in time. We leave life for later.
The postponement of plans, dreams, personal projects is a breeding ground for emotions that make us less happy: boredom, boredom, guilt, apathy, anger, resentment, remorse.
How can you fix this kind of procrastination?
Some questions that might be useful in thinking about this topic or in finding the motivation to start are: What would you do if you knew you had 6 months to live? What do you really want to do? Who should you contact? What do you want to say? Where do you want to go? Which project do you want to complete? Which dream do you have to realize?
We don’t want to leave this world with a backpack full of “wannabes”.
We have to start TODAY.