Have you ever procrastinated? I guarantee you have because Netflix exists. Instagram, Netflix, and the internet, these are the ultimate procrastination temptations. In this article, we are going to discuss why we procrastinate and tips to stop.
Why do we procrastinate? Because humans are simple! We seek pleasure and avoid pain. And...our emotions rule our species. Most of us would rather the joy of ice cream than the torture of working out. The same goes for any other painful task, such as studying for a test. Most humans are wired to avoid studying until the point we have to cram. Welcome to the college experience. On the other hand, there is a minority of people who are wired differently. These are the straight-A students, goodie two shoes, just like my wife. Right after the teacher gave the test date, she would start studying. CRAZY RIGHT! I thought the same thing. Who does that? Study right away and have only a little fun.
For the majority of us, we put studying off until the last minute. Most of us lose every drop of motivation until we are within days of the test, and then a switch happens. The pain of failing out of school starts to outweigh the pleasure of having fun, and we cram for the test.
This is procrastination, also known as human DNA. It is builtin into our human DNA - phosphate, sugar, and procrastination.
The other reason humans procrastinate is that we are more emotional than rational. We do things when we feel like doing them rather than when we need to do them. I don't know about you, but my brain believes there is going to be this magical moment when I will feel motivated and excited to stop procrastinating and do the work. When I look on the calendar, that day is always tomorrow. It's never today! There is a lot of danger in waiting to be in the mood to do work because the only mood we are in is to relax. We have to stop it.
Here are tips to decrease your procrastination.
Make a decision. Decide to be proactive rather than procrastinate. If you decide you are going to work out tomorrow, then I am confident you are going to do what you decide to do. The key is to make a decision quickly. It's similar to approaching someone you're attracted to at a bar. The four people on the planet that still do this will understand what I am talking about. If you think about talking to that person, you are probably never going to speak to them. However, if you make a quick decision and "just do it," then you are a lot more likely to talk to them. Don't underestimate the power of a decision when it comes to fighting procrastination.
Go public with your goal. When I ran a marathon, I told everyone I knew. Embarrassment motivated me to run because every time I spoke with someone, they would ask how training was going. I didn't want to say I wasn't doing anything, so that got me off the couch. This strategy doesn't work for everyone, but it can be a powerful force if you want to save face.
Schedule a deadline or find an important person to deliver your results. If you are exercising, sign up for a race that will provide you with a deadline. If you are working on a project, find someone important at your company and tell them you would like to present your research, findings, suggestions to them on XYZ date. Having someone to deliver to will inspire you to get started rather than thinking about getting started.
Just do the work for 5 minutes. Commit to starting for 5 mins and if you quit after 5 minutes, then no worries. Starting is the most challenging part, and after a few minutes, you will likely keep the momentum going. My mom played this trick on me when it came to going to parties as a kid. I didn't want to go, and she would say, "you have to go for 5 minutes, and if you are not having fun, you can leave." Every single time I stayed because after 5 mins it was easier. Set a timer and do the work for 5 minutes no matter what it is. Remember, just do it and stop waiting for the feeling to do it.
Fall in love with the pain of high-quality practice. Read stories about people who have accomplished great things, and you'll find they put in the time. In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell states that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. He tells incredible stories about the Beatles and Bill Gates. To achieve success, you must choose accomplishment over comfort. P.S. It's not just about getting to 10,000 hours, but it's how you practice. You must keep pushing yourself to do more challenging things. Therefore, the quality of the practice is incredibly important.
Study the best. Find friends, co-workers, or colleagues who never procrastinate. Interview them and ask them their secrets. Uncover how their brain looks at procrastination. Are they motivated by fear? Pleasure? What are their secrets, and what can you borrow from them?
Break large tasks into small steps. For example, if your goal is to write a book, then refrain from writing one single broad goal on your to-do list, such as 'write a book.' Instead, break your to-do list into baby steps such as write 500 words today, edit 300 words tomorrow, interview four book editors. Breaking the task into baby steps makes it easier to tackle the giant task and minimize feeling overwhelmed. If we are overwhelmed, we will procrastinate and do nothing.
Discipline breeds discipline. Card mechanic Richard Turner from the documentary Dealt is impressive. He can do things with cards no one else on the planet can do. He has his black belt, and he has worked out every single day for 45 straight years. Richard says, "discipline breeds discipline." What he means is if you are in the habit of working out, then it is a lot easier to work out. Get the momentum going, and then procrastinating becomes harder than doing the work.
Focus on a single keystone habit. In the book, The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg says there are keystone habits. These are habits where if implement this one habit, then other great habits will fall into place. A great example of a keystone habit is working out. If you work out, what else will fall in place? You eat well, sleep well, are more clear-minded, and you feel more confident—keystone habits cascade and influence other habits.
Change your environment. Your environment is massively influential. If we live in a house with video games, junk food, tv, or a lazy roommate, then procrastination is going to be tough to overcome. However, if you live with a focused, hard-working roommate, then you are likely to be proactive rather than procrastinate. For example, at night, I never want to floss, and of course, goody two-shoes, my wife, pulls out the floss. I think, "I better do that to so my teeth don't rot." As much as I hate flossing, living with her helps spiral me up, but don't worry. I bring her down by eating junk food. Your environment can help you spiral up or down and can be a significant influence on whether you procrastinate or not. Here is a terrible roommate.
These are a few tips to fight procrastination. I always love to ask, 'what does everybody else do, and what can I do differently?" Almost everybody procrastinates, and very few people don't procrastinate. If you can figure out how to stop procrastinating and be proactive, then you are going to separate yourself from the pack personally and professionally. Proactive action will drive your career, relationships, bank account, and more. You are capable of overcoming procrastination if you want to. Pick the strategies that work for you and ditch the rest.