Procrastination is the simple act of delaying things. Its a disconnect between intention and implementation.
Honestly, I procrastinate quite a lot!
Here are few things that I procrastinate on:
– In paying my credit card bills. I know I need to set up a direct debit on these cards, but I always fail to do so, even though I always end up paying late payment charges.
-I know I need to get a hair cut every month, but it always seems to get delayed!
-I am late on my car service every time
-Doing legal stuff for my company, like delaying my meetings with my CA! I am sure he hates me by now.
-Many other things which I find to be monotonous and somewhat boring!
Does this worry me? Not really. Are these things important for me? Probably. Paying late payment charges, looking shabby with long uncut hair is not something that anyone would want!
Now, lets look at things that I hardly procrastinate on:
– My workouts: I have not missed a single workout in the last few years. One of the reasons is that I only workout 2 to 3 times a week which is enough to optimize my gene expression. [Please note, in addition to my workouts, I walk 10,000 steps daily and stand and work on my standing desk at least 50 percent of the time] – Eating 110-130g of high quality protein everyday
– Writing at least 1000 words daily
– Planning my next day and setting my priorities
-Meditating (and taking lot of deep breathes throughout the day)
-Doing specific things to build my company Fabulous Body Inc.
Why is there a difference in things that I procrastinate on?
Because my time is limited and so is my will power—I would rather work hard and prioritize things that I know I can be really good at and which gets my creative juices flowing. For some people, taking their car to a service centre and spending an entire Sunday there might be pleasurable to them, not me. No pun intended.
WAIT A MINUTE, there is a third category—things that can be extremely beneficial for us but we still procrastinate on it:
– For a student, studying and passing his exam (and getting good grades ) is more or less a compulsion, even if she likes it or not!
-For someone like me, who wants to reach millions of people around the world, learning on becoming a good orater and probably give a TEDx talk would be a prized moment for me (given that I stammered from the age of 5 up until now..coupled that with being an introvert).
For an overweight person, dragging themselves to the gym every morning, could be very challenging.
– Asking boss for raise in pay, because you know you deserve it, but somehow cannot summon up the courage to do so.
– Not asking that gorgeous girl out, because of you fear that she will say no.
Basically, this category has tasks which most of us would find uncomfortable and actively delay or simply avoid doing it.
For simplicity sake, lets call this Category C.
So why do we do procrastinate especially with tasks in Category C?
You see our brain is WIRED to seek comfort. So where there is pain or fear of unknown we usually run away from it. Bigger the fear, more we delay those tasks.
“In your biggest fear/struggle lies your biggest opportunity.” ~Unknown
I am not sure where I read this quote, but its certainly rings true for me and many others I know and its a topic for some other day.
For now, let look at eight effective ways you can overcome fear/pain and stop (or literally minimize) procrastinating (especially on tasks in Category C):
1) Practice the action habit: Action precedes action. Its law of nature. Use mechanical force to start your mind engine. Get into the act. A wise man once said: 50% of the work is just showing up. Not feel like working out? Simply wear your shoes and show up, I promise your gym attendance will improve. Plan on writing a book, just wake up every morning, open your laptop and start writing. I can assure you, you will become better over time. A rough draft is better than an empty page!
2) First things first: Your will power is highest in the morning hours but is limited. Selecting the most important task that needs to be done, first thing in the morning. For example when I am writing this answer, its 7:15am and everyone is asleep. No doorbells, no TV, no phone ringing (actually my phone is out of my sight, and is on silent). Its just me, my Mac, some birds chirping outside and my cup of coffee. Pure Bliss:) Find out what those important tasks are for you and annihilate them first!
3) Minimise distraction: And it starts by deleting social media apps from your phone. I know most of you will not do it. But here me out: According to author Nir Eyal of “Hooked” we check our phone at least 150 times on a daily basis! An article on CBSnews, Walker-Smith says we’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970’s to as many as 5,000 a day today. According to Wikipedia, average attention span for human is between 5 minutes to 20 minutes. After which they need a break and re-focus their energies back to the task.
With that kind of attention span and with thousands of advertisers vying for your attention, how can you focus and spend time on a task that is potentially beneficial for you? YOU CANT! Once something distracts you and breaks your concentration its very tough to get the flow back and thats why you delay it. The day I deleted Facebook and Twitter apps from my iphone, I could clearly see a visible change in my focus and my productivity has literally gone through the roof!
4) Practice the 3 time rule: You will be distracted no matter how hard you try, all you can do is minimise those distractions. Whenever I get distracted from an important tasks I practice the “3-time rule” (this is my own creation:))
Say I am writing this answer and my phone rings and my best friend calls me to invite me for a night out. We talk and discuss the details. Now, I get excited and start thinking about few things— Dropping my kids to his grand-parents house, what will I wear, who all will be there and so on and so forth. Suddenly my mind wanders back to the question I was writing. My flow is broken by a phone call by a friend and now I am struggling to get the creative juices flowing to write this answer. What do I do?
Procrastinate— Delay it until tomorrow morning?. Promise myself that I will finish it after dinner? Or I can practice the 3-time rule. This states that I have to work hard to re-focus my energies and thoughts back to the task I was doing three times before I abandon it for that day. I meditate, I make myself another cup of coffee, I do whatever it takes to get the flow back. Hey, it doesn’t work all the time, but I give myself three opportunities to work back into the task and most of the time it works.
5) Believe in the power of less: Focus on ONE major task that needs to be done everyday. Make sure you decide beforehand what this task is (this will depend on your short, long term goals etc). This task should take at least few hours of your time for that day.
Focus on the task until you are satisfied that you have annihilated it! In a month’s time, you will have completed 30 such important tasks. Imagine your state of mind after 6 months, or after an year! Remember this quote by Gary Keller author of The ONE thing: “You need to be doing fewer things for MORE EFFECT instead of doing MORE THINGS with side effects”
6) Keep the end feeling in mind: If you finish a particular task, how will that make you feel? How will it affect your life and others? I highly recommend to give intention before you begin any task. For example,
if I am writing this answer and it’s taking forever (some of the answer that I have created have taken 15 to 20 hours). But I know potentially thousands of people will be reading this and even ONE of them implement just a single idea from MY ENTIRE WRITING PORTFOLIO, that may potentially change his/her life I would be delighted. This end feeling enables me to get excited and complete the tasks.
7) Reward yourself: Don’t be too harsh on yourself and promise yourself a reward every time you complete a task. Rewards can depend upon the complexity of the task. Bigger the task, bigger the reward:)
8) Take frequent breaks: As I mentioned before that humans have an attention span of 5 to 20 minutes. But say in your case you have worked hard to minimize distraction and can concentrate upto 50 minutes! (Trust me thats awesome). Now, unless you are mad scientists trying to discover a new element in the periodic table, your mind will tell you take a break after an hour of intense work. By a break, I don’t mean switching on the TV or browse Facebook— these are mind draining activities that will tire you even further.
Instead listen to soothing and powerful music, take a nap, or simply meditate. Working in chunks like this will take your productivity through the roof! Please note that the break should be no more than 5-15 minutes. On such popular technique is Pomodoro Technique.
I allow myself to be highly selective in things that I indulge in. Procrastinating on things could be a sign that we may be working on the wrong things and this may require to take a step back, reassess and prioritize. I personally remove items from my to-do list if it has been on it for too long.
What about you? What do you procrastinate on? Let me know in the comments below!