Post written by Leo Babauta
Procrastination is one of those topics that, it seems, I can’t write enough about. There isn’t a person among us who doesn’t procrastinate, and that’s a fact of life.
It’s deep within us. We think we’re going to do something later, or read that classic novel later, or learn French later. But we always overestimate how much we can do later, and we overestimate the ability of our later selves to beat procrastination.
If our current self can’t beat procrastination, why will our future self do it?
I thought I should cover some of the best procrastination-beating strategies, in light of my recent book, focus. People seem to want ways to beat procrastination, so they can actually get down to focusing.
Here’s a quick guide.
Why We Procrastinate
Let’s take a quick look at what makes us procrastinate. There are several reasons, which are related in various ways:
1. We want instant gratification. Resting on the couch is thought of as nicer, right now, than going on a run. Reading blogs is easier, right now, than reading a classic novel. Checking email or Facebook is easier, now, than doing that project you’ve been putting off. Eating chocolate cake is tastier, right now, than eating veggies.
2. We fear/dread something. We might not write that chapter in our book because there are problems with the writing that we haven’t figured out (often because we haven’t thought it through). Or we might be afraid we’re going to fail, or look ignorant or stupid. We’re most often afraid of the unknown, which has more power because we don’t examine this fear — it just lurks in the back of our minds. Dreading or fearing something makes us want to put it off, to postpone even thinking about it, and to do something easy and safe instead.
3. It’s easy – no negative consequences right now. When we were in school and had a teacher looking over our shoulders and scolding us if we didn’t do our work, we tended to do the work (until some of us learned that we could tune out the scolding, that is). But when we got home, sometimes no one would be looking over our shoulders … so there wasn’t any immediate negative consequence to watching TV or playing games instead. Sure, we’d get a bad grade tomorrow, but that’s not right now. The same is true of using the Internet or doing other kinds of procrastination tasks — we’ll pay for it later, but right now, no one is getting mad at us.
4. We overestimate our future self. We often have a long list of things we plan to do, because we think we can do a lot in the future. The reality is usually a little worse than we expected, but that doesn’t stop us from thinking the future will be different yet again. For the same reason, we think it’s OK to procrastinate, because we’re going to do it later, for sure. Our future self will be incredibly productive and focused! Except, our future self is also lazy, and doesn’t do it either. Damn future self.
Four Powerful Solutions
Now that we know the problems, the solutions aren’t that hard to figure out. Just don’t put them off, OK? To find out what they are click here: http://zenhabits.net/procrastination/