Our brain has become very sneaky in finding ways to delay starting the work or find ways to delay the delivery. Sometimes procrastination is obvious, for instance when we get distracted by social media. Sometimes however it can be rather disguised as legit work and we might not be aware that we are procrastinating.
Here are 5 sources/behaviors that are very common.
- Seeking entertainment, most notably social media. The usual suspect and obvious #1 procrastination trigger
- Keeping adding choices, people’s opinions and information prior to “shipping” or making a decision
- Structuring things before getting started.
- Reviewing other people’s stuff and putting their agenda first
- Prioritizing inevitable but less relevant work, like chores and administrative tasks
The above points will help you to become more mindful of the present situation and identify procrastination on the spot so that you can get back on track. But in order to minimize procrastination (we might actually not be able to eliminate it entirely), we need to set ourselves compelling goals. We need to ask ourselves how bad we really want something.
We will face less procrastination, if we manage to set goals in a way that makes us utterly excited about the possible success and outcome of our efforts. A state where we actually do not worry when something that is scheduled is not getting done, but worry about not getting closer to our goal.
VIDEO TRANSCRIPT AND QUOTES:
What is the number one killer of your time management? Exactly, it’s not doing the things that are relevant to you, those things that you actually wanted to do, the things that move you forward, also known as procrastination.
You have so many things to do. You have a wonderful and clear plan. You have a beautifully designed to-do list. And still you end up doing things that you didn’t want to do in the first place. Then all those things that are relevant get squeezed towards the end of the deadline and you get all stressed out. Of course, life on top adds new things, because life goes on, right? And you get stressed out even more because more things get squeezed out toward the end of the deadline.
Procrastination is basically the science of not doing what you should be doing. I was thinking about it because, of course, as you are, I’m not immune to this. I’m a victim of procrastination as well and I’m fighting it all the time.
I was thinking about those situations that actually make us procrastinate or where we find ourselves procrastinating. I wanted to share those with you because I find if we are aware of the situations where we are procrastinating, we can basically stop it and overcome it.
Five things for you that hopefully will resonate with you.
Number one is an obvious one and I’m not going to dwell too much into this. Number one is about entertainment. Of course, I’m talking about social media here and I’m talking about rather choosing to go out with friends than doing the work that you actually needed to do. That’s an obvious one and it’s about the fact that the brain will always choose entertainment over anything else that is feeling like work.
Number two, the second trap is around adding things. Let’s take the example of shopping. Have you found yourself in a situation where you wanted to shop something, and you brought it down to two or three choices? And when you were almost there to decide what you wanted to buy, you added another choice. And you said, “You know what? Why don’t we look at this printer here? Why don’t we look at this fridge here? Hey look, this freezer can do this on top, we never considered that.” And then you keep delaying everything.
Another way of “adding things” that makes you procrastinate is about adding people’s opinions. You might have asked your parents or you might have asked your siblings, or you might have asked your spouse and significant other. And then you said, “Let me ask this person as well. Let me ask this friend as well. Let me ask this expert as well.” And so you keep adding people’s opinion that again is not helping you move forward anything.
The third thing that is falling into the same category of “adding things” is adding information. I’ve tackled this in another post about perfectionism (watch the video here, if you haven’t already), where you never feel that whatever you create is good enough, so you keep adding and adding information.
You say, “You know what? Let me Google this one more time or let me read another article, or let me read another blog post, etc.” So you add things. That’s my number two trap of procrastination, is about adding things, it’s about choices, it’s about people’s opinions, and information.
Number three is about structuring things before you get actually started. What do I mean by that? That is something that I find myself doing very often. Before I started blogging, I thought, “Okay, let me first structure all the ideas that I have for blogging. Let me put my notes in alphabetical order. Let me transfer my handwritten notes into Word documents. Let me export my Word documents into PDF files.” You will always find something that you could be doing in order to avoid the actual work. It’s about structuring. And it feels good because you actually feel like doing something, but it’s not something that is relevant. It’s not actually needed in order to do the things that you wanted to do.
Number four is about reviewing other people’s stuff. I bring this up because it’s something important. It was something that I realized was quite detrimental for me, in the early days of my career.
When I first started in big corporate, I was of course less confident than I am now with what I’m supposed to do and about my capabilities and competencies. I was very often distracted by people coming to me and saying, “Hey Tasso, can you please review this? I did this detail aid, I did this document. I did this …” whatever it was. And I was of course happily doing this because it was always easier to look at other people’s stuff than doing your own thing.
Reviewing other people’s stuff is a big, big trap of procrastination. And again, we use it as an excuse to say, “But we help other people moving forward their things.” Yes, and it’s true but it’s helping people moving forward with their agendas, and then the question is, “Who helps you moving forward with your agenda?” There has to be a balance and you need to be aware of this trap in order to move your thing forward.
And number five is when you are actually prioritizing those things, that “need to get done as well”. Instead of doing the thing that is moving you forward, the thing that you’re maybe most afraid of, you say, “Oh, you know what? Let me clean up my fridge” or “let me go for shopping, because you know, we need to eat as well, so let me go and shop in the supermarket.” Or you say, “Let me clean up the house because it’s a mess.”
It’s similar to the point about overly structuring, where it was related to the work you were doing, and you wanted to structure information before getting started. This point is about is rather doing those things that also need to be done but maybe it’s not the right time to do them.
In a summary, number one was around entertainment; social media is a big distraction. Number two was around adding new things, so basically delaying the actual decision and adding opinion of people, adding information and adding choices. Number three was around structuring before you get started and using that as an excuse. Number four was about reviewing other people’s things and putting other people’s agenda first. And number five was prioritizing those things that also need to get done, but maybe not at that particular moment.
These are the five areas that I figured out are apparent and are present for me when I procrastinate, and I am very, very conscious of these things. When I find myself in these situations, I am quickly trying to get out of this in order to move forward the projects that are relevant to me.
If however procrastination is the science of not doing something, then I think in order to understand a little bit better the procrastination theme, we should ask ourselves the question, “Why do we do something in the first place?”
The five elements that I mentioned above, were for you to become aware when you procrastinate. To be more conscious and mindful about the present moment. But it doesn’t answer the question, “How do I overcome procrastination, or what is procrastination coming from?”
If we would ask ourselves the question, “Why do we do things in the first place?” Then I think it boils down to two basic answers.
One is we do things because we are afraid of something happening. In big corporate world, you do something because you’re afraid of what your boss might think or you’re afraid of being fired, if we take one extreme. Or you are afraid of what people might think of you.
In private life for instance, a very common example is when you take an insurance, whether it’s your car insurance, or your house insurance, life insurance, death insurance…there’s are many things. All these insurance people work with fear. They make you do things because you’re afraid of something happening. And as you can imagine, if you do something because you’re afraid of something happening, it never leaves you happy. It will always make you feel ripped off and screwed because it is something that you didn’t want to do. You make it for other reasons.
The opposite of of doing something because you’re afraid, is doing something because you want to do it.
But even if you do something that you want to do – Let’s take an example that you want to live a healthier life, and you are looking into exercising and into nutrition, and into healthy living – then still you find yourself procrastinating and not doing whatever is needed to get there. Like hiring a coach or finding a gym, or putting together a health plan, a nutrition plan. Even then, you get to procrastinate.
I was asking myself the question, “Why is it that even for those things that we actually want to do, we still procrastinate?”
And there was a recent incident that I wanted to share with you that helped me get to the bottom of it. I was talking to a friend of mine on the phone, and he’s a doctor and he was doing his second specialty. He’s already in internal medicine and he wanted to add another specialty to this. I was talking to him and I was asking why he does what he does. This discussion had come up because he was procrastinating, and was not motivated to actually learn for the exam that is coming up.
Going through this, I identified actually through the discussion that; yes, this is something he wanted to do, yes, this is something he needed to do in order to move forward.
But the question was, how bad did he want it? It dawned upon me that this person, this guy would not be happy even if he succeeded with what he wanted to do. You see, we set ourselves goals that are relevant, that are important, that we we want to do and we need to do, but we never make sure that these goals are also compelling enough.
How bad do you want it? How bad do you want it? How happy and excited are you in the case you’re successful? This is something that we rarely think about.
My suggestion is that, in order to beat procrastination, we need to put ourselves in a state where we’re excited about the outcome of our efforts, where we’re excited about the situation if we are successful. In this case, we should not worry if we don’t get something done in a day, if we procrastinate, but we should actually worry not moving closer to that goal.
If we get to that state that we actually are not worried about not getting something done but not getting closer to that goal, that goal is so compelling and exciting enough that it will help us beat procrastination and move forward.
When people talk about what gets you out of bed in the morning, this is what they talk about. It’s something that is so exciting. You see yourself. It’s what people sometimes refer to as vision. Whether it is a goal about yourself, somebody you want to become, whether it is a new skill you want to acquire or you want to prove something to yourself, whether it is about wealth because you want to become rich. There’s nothing good or bad about these things.
It’s really about what gets you excited. You must be excited about the outcome and you must ask yourself honestly the question, “How happy would I be if actually I’m successful with what I’m about to do?”
This is something that I wanted to share with you. This was an insight that struck me and I felt is an important thing. It’s not about only setting the goals, it’s also making sure that these goals are so compelling that they’re putting you in a state of excitement, just you thinking about being successful with whatever you want to do.
I hope this helped you. I hope it served you. I hope it was a nice idea to make you think and to reconsider your goals.
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Until the next post, I wish you a wonderful, wonderful day.