It’s Monday. If you are struggling with procrastinating, here is a good article on how to finally stop procrastinating for real this time. Basically in order to understand why you are procrastinating, you need to understand there are two parts of your brain that are influencing your behaviour. Knowing this can help you change. Here’s a key quote:
…there’s a part of the brain that accurately weighs the benefits of a behavior against its costs. This is your neocortex, and it’s one of the newest and shiniest parts of our brains. Very often, the neocortex comes to quite reasonable conclusions—that, for instance, the benefits of exercising outweigh the costs. But there’s another part of your brain that’s been around for millions of years—the limbic system—and it only seems to care about what’s happening right now. So if a behavior incurs more upfront hassles than upfront benefits, the limbic system isn’t interested in participating.
For more on this, read the article. It will help you get your neocortex and your limbic system working together. If you do that, you will definitely procrastinate less.
(Photo by Jason Strull on Unsplash )
I write a fair bit about procrastination because I tend to put things off more than I want. If you struggle with this problem too, I recommend you read this theory of ….Why Procrastinators Procrastinate — Wait But Why
I think there is more to it than this, but it is an interesting theory. Worth a read.
Let’s face it: Monday is a good day to deal with tasks you’ve been putting off. So you write them down, say: this week I will deal with these! And then….you don’t.
It’s ok. Procrastination is a complex thing. If you don’t believe me, read this:
‘Why Do I Spend Weeks Avoiding Tasks That Will Take Me 10 Minutes to Do?’
So much of our culture rewards us for meeting deadlines, so we are encouraged to do things at the last minute. That can encourage our use of procrastination. Likewise, many of us do not acknowledge we have ebbs and flows of energy as well as ebbs and flow of mood. If we were to acknowledge that, we would schedule tasks when we know we have energy and in a good mood.
Read the article and pick out the things that contribute to your putting things off (e.g. mood). Then schedule and do those things that have been on your todo list for so so long.
(Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash)
It’s not likely laziness. As LizAndMollie illustrates above, it’s likely due to
- feeling inadequate
- not knowing where to start
- being stretched too thin
- perfectionism (or for me, not wanting to mess up)
So give yourself a bit of a break when you feel you aren’t getting things done.
P.S. Follow LizAndMollie for more great illustrations to help you get through this pandemic and more.
If you have big projects that you have been struggling with, I recommend these two pieces:
Sometime you need to gain a big of perspective in the daunting face of what seems is an overwhelming effort. Those pieces can help you.
(Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash)
What, you say? That makes no sense. Procrastination is a thing to be avoided, not perfected.
But let’s face it: some of you — us! — will always be procrastinators. If it is something that will be always with us, why not make the best of it?
That’s what this piece argues. By structuring your procrastination, you can still get important things done…it just not the thing you really ought to be doing.
So take a lesson from that piece on structured procrastination and go do the second most important thing on your list. Or third. Whatever.
I’d like to add that if you do that, you might get some wind in your sails and find that after you’ve effectively procrastinated, you can go back and work on the thing that you really ought to be doing.
Procrastination: make it work for you.
P.S. Yes, I wrote this as a way to avoid some things I should be doing.
Alex Vermeer has a poster that might be the thing you need: How to Get Motivated: A Guide for Defeating Procrastination
Do you ever get stuck in this loop?
If so, then the Atlantic has an article for you. According to this article, The Procrastination Doom Loop—and How to Break It – The Atlantic,
Delaying hard work is all about your mood.
And it goes on to talk about how to defeat this.
Seven additional suggestions I have on defeating this doom loop:
- set a regular schedule of tackling difficult tasks and stick with it.
- dilute the difficulty by giving yourself a ridiculous amount of time to do it. If it will likely take 20 minutes, schedule 2 hours and just sit there and do nothing else until you get it done.
- set up a reward for getting it done.
- set up significant negative consequences for not getting it done. You might need help from a friend or coach here.
- log the positive feelings and thoughts you feel after you get it done. Review that often.
- log the negative feelings and thoughts you have before you do it. After you do it, analyse what you wrote and revisit your thinking and feeling. You will likely find it wasn’t as bad as you had expected.
- have a list of things you are procrastinating on. For example, if you have two things you are avoiding, try to avoid doing one of them by doing the other. It’s better to get one thing done than getting none done
I find myself on my smartphone too much. It’s too easy to fall into that trap, and afterwards I wish I did something else instead. Did something useful. Or made something beautiful. Austin Kleon feels the same way, based on this post of his: Read a book instead. He made a screen lock for his phone to remind him to read a book and get off his phone.
I decided I wanted something similar. In my case, I found a photo I liked and used the Over app on my iPhone to create this:
I then saved it as my LockScreen. Now when I pick up the phone to start doing something mindless, the phone reminds me to do something better.
You can do the same thing yourself. You don’t even need an app or drawing skills. Write a reminder on a piece of paper and then take a photo of it with your phone and save it as your Lock Screen. It could be just the nudge you need.
Thanks for reading this. I hope you found it useful. If you did, then time spent doing it instead of playing with stuff on my phone was worthwhile.