How to avoid procrastination

In this post, you’ll find a few tips on how to avoid procrastination.

The standards of today are much higher than they once were. One proof of that Is the amount of work one has to do today to succeed. When in the past all it took for one to be and feel successful was for one to find a good job. Today, although the same strategy can be effective, we are in a time in which more and more is required from you. Starting a business, for example, is the new path to success. So more and more people work harder than our ancestors did just to be average.

Having that said, it’s also true that there is less and less tolerance for procrastination. In sports, for example, all it takes for an athlete to come second is often no more than a few milliseconds. So you can imagine how a single day of procrastination can do to your dreams. This is ignoring the fact that procrastination has its own momentum. Each day of procrastination makes the next more likely, and before you see it the mountain of pain is now so big that the only remedy is to close your eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist.

How to avoid procrastination

The problem of procrastination has been around for a while. Before we started working in communities, and the search for meaning wasn’t a problem, survival was our only interest. Those who didn’t have their survival as a priority perished sooner or later for nature favors only the ones who are fit or at least try to be.

Now for most countries, the problem of survival has been mostly solved. Suddenly not being able to earn a living is no longer a problem and men find themselves with plenty of health, nutrition, and time. The extra time needs to be filled with something and with this abundance also comes the false sense that the time is infinite. This illusion in addition to the need for meaning can be said to be at the root of procrastination. Thus it follows that if you find yourself constantly procrastinating on a given task, chances are that maybe you shouldn’t be doing it at all.

We all know that life is more than just doing the things we want to do. Often enough it’s the case that we have to do the things we don’t want to and below are a few tips on how.

Get used to the discomforts

At the root of procrastination is the discomfort of some kind. Why else would we spend so much time avoiding the task in the first place?

The discomfort can take different faces depending on the activity. Sometimes it might come in the form of boredom, while other times in the form of anxiety. Either way, the impulse is to distract ourselves by doing something else.

One way to get over procrastination is by facing this fear of discomfort. If you expect the task ahead to be boring or difficult the tip is to immerse yourself in the boredom or difficulty. The idea is to show the mind that nothing bad will happen when you take on the task.

I realized this curious fact a while ago. I realized that when I was willing to immerse myself in the discomfort of the task this expected discomfort suddenly disappeared. Almost in the same way that a child becomes more courageous when we show her that what she thinks of as a monster actually is nothing more than a doll and that the darkroom is just as empty when we turn the lights on.

Getting used to discomfort is no easy task, but it can be done. The trick is to be mindful of it. To push your boredom to the extreme, and see what happens. Once you emotionally realize that the feeling of boredom will not kill you, boredom is no longer as much of a problem as it once was.

The same applies to difficulty. If the reason why you won’t start the task is that you expect it to be difficult, you might be surprised when you find it was actually easier than you thought. In fact, this is likely to be the case since humans are notorious for being bad estimators. We consistently overestimate/underestimate the duration and effort required to get something done. This happens so often that now it’s common advice on any project to add extra time to whatever time you think will be enough to complete the project.

Look for momentum

The next tip on how to avoid procrastination is momentum. The reason for this is that momentum and its close cousin progress are among the most powerful natural motivators known to men. One reason why we procrastinate is also that we might think that the next hour of work will move us no closer than we currently are to the big picture goal. We feel it might be a waste of time to do the work.

Constant and measurable progress is one solution. When you make progress on a regular basis, especially if every single day there is much less room for procrastination. You know for a fact that the time you put in will result in measurable progress, and this feeling of certainty of victory then serves as motivation for work.

The future is at large a mystery. All it takes is one small and inconsequential decision for it to take a completely different way. Consistent progress gives us a glimpse at a future in which we end up victorious which can be somewhat as intoxicating as having God himself telling you that you’re destined to great things.

Take advantage of the 80-20 rule

One thing I learned a while ago changed the way I think about procrastination especially when the reason is that I have too much work to do ahead. The advice came from the Ex-Navy seal David Goggins were while running he says the following words: “You have to sometimes let mediocrity think you’re giving into it. So I said you know what? Instead of going for a 20 miler let’s go out for an easy 6 our 7…the second you get to mile 2 guess what happens? Greatness pulls mediocrity in the f****ng mud.” The idea here is that often the amount of work or difficulty of the task is the reason why procrastinate. The trick is to do less than what you’re supposed to completely guild free. The effect is two-fold. The first is that you finally manage to get to work and the second that after a while it’s much easier to continue working. Chances are that once you get to work, you won’t quit as early as you expected.

Take this idea combined with the 80-20 rule. The 80-20 rule tells us that 80% of the results will likely come from 20% of the effort. So, you not only give yourself a pass for doing less, but you’re also more thoughtful about the things you chose to do. You pick the set of tasks that will have the most impact. That way if you do really less than expected, the little you did will have a greater impact.

This is kind of the idea presented in the book The one thing, where the author advises us to pick the one action that will have the greatest impact in our lives and goals and commit to that action alone for the timeframe i.e month/day/hour/etc.

Watch what you eat

Among the set of things people often talk about on the subject of personal development diet is perhaps one of the most underrated. We tend to think that the drive to do things will come only from within and our passion for the task in question. While this is true in some sense, it’s also true that our desire to do the work is also affected by outside influences and one of the most powerful is food. Just pay attention to how you feel just after a meal. Do you feel more energetic as you’re supposed to or do you feel lethargic? How much more interested are you in your passions when your only desire is to sleep? Not much right? And that’s the point of this tip. The point is to help you recognize that food does have an impact on how you feel and as a result also in your tendency to procrastinate.

The idea is to look for the kinds of food that not only make you more energetic but also allow you to work for hours on end without having to refuel.

I had my first experience of the kind a few years back when my motivation and focus to do the work would be more like a roller coaster than a straight line. Eventually, I made the connection between what I had for lunch and my productivity for the rest of the day, finally managed to gain more control over my energy levels and motivation.

Sources:

The one thing by Gary Keller

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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