How To Give Up Trying To Avoid The Inevitable
We All Do It
You need to write this essay. You know it is due soon – you know exactly when. You know it is inevitable and you need to do it eventually (sadly nobody else will). So why the hell are you still on Facebook? Stop procrastinating!
Procrastination is a human phenomenon, in all of us – so relax – you are normal!
The thing is procrastination can place a significant roadblock towards becoming a high achiever and we want to get rid of it, right? We want to be able to focus, be consistent, do it now and get it done.
The Cycle Of Procrastination
Psychologists explain procrastination based on a concept called ‘Instant Gratification’, which is our brain’s preference for short-term or immediate rewards over long-term future rewards; we cannot fight the short-term satisfaction of a delicious-tasting sweet chocolate over waiting for the unreachable beach body, hmm?
Why? Because we want the sweet, sweet chocolatey goodness NOW. We predict our future feelings based on the present and do not make a choice for our future selves – a typical example is to fill up the plate much more because we feel we are hungry at present.
Ehrm…Who Wouldn’t Want A Chocolate Bath?
When we procrastinate, we relieve some pressure and stress which makes us feel satisfied in the moment. Next thing you notice is the guilt and remorse down the line.
We therefore prefer to do something that makes us feel more comfortable in the moment over the tedious task. But why is it so uncomfortable in the first place?
What Initiates The Cycle?
We put things off because we focus on the hassle of having to get them done. This creates a ‘Negative Association’ towards the must-do activity. The longer we put it off, the stronger this association becomes.
As a logical reaction, your brain seeks to alleviate that feeling with some other task that gives you pleasure. Therefore, you become extremely productive in other activities (which are not the priority at that time).
Your brain stores must-do activity as painful and seeks more distractions or a logical reason to explain why you postponed.
At that moment your brain shoots all kinds of excuses at you: “Aw, I will do it tomorrow” and “I’ll definitely do it tomorrow” and “Tomorrow. 100%. Got this. Gonna Happen” and soooo on.
The Vortex Of Procrastination – where ideas go to die.
When you come back to remember that pending task that you procrastinated in the first place, it generates guilt and you return to the starting point, which is putting it off again. Once we have done this a few times, we build up the task so much that our brain perceives it to be too overwhelming and we talk ourselves into deferring it even later when we hope we are better able to deal with this, however, this will just shed…..time…!
Our Doggy-Poo Pattern
We reinforce procrastination with these five distinct processes. Recognize any?
- False security: you convince yourself you have time, so you don’t do it.
- Laziness: you convince yourself the task is boring and your thought of being lazy wins, so you don’t do it.
- Excuses: you convince yourself that other tasks or objects needs attention, so you don’t do it.
- Denial: you convince yourself that you will manage and do it quickly and easily regardless of what stands in the way (nah – coffee will do!). Again, you don’t do it.
- Crisis: you convince yourself this is the biggest problem you have and start panicking, but
You. Still. Don’t. Do. It.
And then let us repeat the whole thing! And because it was so much fun, another round! Yeah!
The 3 Top Strategies To Stop Procrastinating NOW!
So what next? Do not let your inner child dictate your actions. Observe yourself and identify which of these three distinct processes you are using and how they affect you. Over time, you might be able to stop once you notice them. The best way to solve that problem is to break the cycle from the beginning. And these top 3 strategies tell you how to do this.
1. Be Like Odysseus –
Minimize Distractions And Temptations
Do you know Homer’s Odyssey (ehm…yeah!!)? He is a great example of how to avoid temptations. When crossing the Ocean, Odysseus gets warned about the danger of the irresistible song of the Sirens that hypnotise everybody who hears it (before murdering them). What did he do? He plugged his mens’ ears with beeswax to avoid exposure to the dangerous temptation, and tied himself to the mast, to prevent himself giving in to the temptation.
Distractions tend to decrease our productivity, but more so for a chronic procrastinator. Especially the easily reachable ones such as reaching Facebook with a push of a button – so phone away, no tabs open of anything else than what you should be focusing on. Change the environment if needed.
Get this useful Facebook blocker app if you need parental control.
2. Getting Started Is Half The Battle –
The 321 Technique
“The beginning seems to be more than half of the whole” – Aristotle
Initiating the behaviour is often what prevents us from taking action at all; starting the task is often more effort than doing the actual task. Be smart and use a killer strategy to get into the habit of starting tasks instantly.
A useful technique is to count 3-2-1 and go, stopping everything you are doing right at the moment (if the tasks allows to). The most important is to build the habit of doing this to increase resistance.
Forming a habit can take up to 21 days (new studies from UCL show actually 66 days), but you will see that after a few days, you will find it easier to get going.
This technique is great because you can easily customise it. “Ready-steady-go!” – use your own words that make sense to you to get you started when you want to stop procrastinating.
3. Eat The Elephant!
And Eat it Early In The Day!
Eat the elephant? How?!
You can do it – but only in small pieces and with breaks for digestion. Procrastination often stems from focusing on the mammoth task (geddit?), which leads to confusion about what you are trying to achieve, where to start and hence clarity seems to be an important aspect in personal productivity and being able to break tasks down. Be specific in what your tasks should be within the bigger goal. Break down your overwhelming duty into smaller manageable ones and give yourself a little reward, such as a break within limits, after each little task.
Why early in the day? Because if you start your most important task at 12, you’ll be concerned that it’s almost lunch time. After lunch, you’d feel worried that most of the day has gone and start to feel stressed and or guilty.
Instead you should get it out of the way, first thing, and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that it was probably the worst thing you needed to do all day. Successful people don’t try to do everything. They learn to focus on the most important tasks and make sure they get these done. So learn how to prioritise and how to tackle these challenging tasks by breaking them down.
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Found this useful? Check out our other blog post on Personal Tutor vs. Personal Trainer and other Revision Hacks and use other strategies to stop procrastinating!