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Tomorrow, then, later, after a while … and everything that resembles it, are expressions that we use just before we turn around what we have to do and postpone it for some future time – often undefined.
This procrastination habit is officially known as procrastination .
Stopping procrastination has been on my personal goal list for a long time… And I say this without the slightest intention of sounding ironic.
I am absolutely convinced that I would live happier if I managed to get rid of my bad habit of procrastinating, the simple and the complicated. It would save me a lot of anxiety, worry, and bad temper.
I already lost count of how many times I have promised myself not to arrive at the next delivery date with the water up to my neck.
I often know months in advance the exact day I have to give a lecture, lead a workshop, prepare a class, or deliver an article. I invariably make a plan to have everything ready a week in advance and work quietly a little each day. That is my intention.
What actually happens is very different. Time escapes me in every corner. And the closer I am to the critical date, the greater my desire to fix a drawer, clean clothes, read a book -even if it is quantum physics-, have a coffee, think that it will be the life of Phoebe Buffay from series of “Friends” , go out to ride a bike or sit and watch “nothing”.
In the end … “I kick the boat” until the alarm signal goes off, I panic and have no choice but to do what I have to do.
I have learned some very interesting things on the subject of procrastination.
The first is that procrastination is a coping mechanism and not a form of laziness or carelessness. From the outset this reassures me.
Researcher Timothy Pychyl has found that the reason behind procrastination is to avoid stress and not work, as we generally think. It is the subconscious desire to feel good “in this moment”, to have a rewarding moment right now.
We procrastinate because we feel stressed about the big things – money, family conflict, illness, or life in general – and not necessarily because of the immediate task or work we have to do.
When we avoid something that seems difficult to us, we feel some relief. And if we also do something we like, like checking our messages on the phone, our brain injects us with dopamine. This feels good, so we repeat it and make it a habit.
The thing is that in time, what we put off accumulates thus creating more stress in our lives. It is a vicious circle.
With the above, I understand that one way to combat procrastination is to manage and attend to stress in our lives in general. Another thing I learned is how the mind of a procrastinator works. It seems that the world is divided into two: those who procrastinate and those who don’t.
Those who do their tasks with enough time and in an organized way do not understand what goes through the minds of those of us who leave everything for later.
My mom packs a trip days in advance; I do it two hours before I leave my house, no matter where or for how long I go. When my mom sees me stressed, repelling, searching, thinking and guessing what I need, the first thing she asks is… and why didn’t you do it before? Instead of attending to some physical discomfort with a doctor, I let the days go by imagining thousands of catastrophic possibilities. When I finally decide to go for a consultation, the doctor’s obligatory question is … why didn’t you come before?
In his lecture “Inside the Mind of a Professional Procrastinator” , Tim Urban brilliantly explains how this phenomenon works. If you have 15 minutes available, I recommend that you spend them watching the video.
According to Tim, the procrastinator system is made up of three characters: the rational decision maker, the instant gratification monkey, and the panic monster. How do they work and relate to each other? Suppose we have to deliver a proposal for a very important project in 2 months.
The rational decision maker knows that it is a good idea to start working now. You have to gather the necessary information, read, analyze, think about the structure, sit in front of the computer, write, review, and so on. You project into the future and the last thing you want is to feel rushed and time burdened.
The monkey of instant gratification says “NO.” Better let’s see what’s happening on Facebook, let’s walk the dog or get something to eat, let’s investigate if they have discovered life on Mars. The monkey persists until he manages to hijack the good intentions of the rational decision maker and deviates him from the path. The monkey is only interested in the easy, the fun and the present moment.
When the delivery deadline gets close enough, the panic monster appears. The monkey of instant gratification is terrified of this creature, as soon as it sees it, it runs at full speed and disappears.
Without the presence of the monkey, the rational decision maker manages to sit down to work at full speed to meet the objectives.
The panic monster seems to be key in the process of completing tasks as it drives away the monkey. But watch out here … for the monster to appear there has to be a deadline. From this comes an important reflection …
Tim explains, that when the goals or tasks that we have to do have a completion or delivery date, then the procrastination is contained in a delimited range of time. But … What happens for all that we want to do that does not have a specific delivery date?
Start a business, write a book, get to know Australia, make yourself the courage to pursue your dreams. See your family, meet your friends, send a thank you message, eat healthy, exercise.
Then I call him, then I look for him, then I do it, then I start, then we see each other, then …
In these intentions or wishes without expiration date there is no monster of panic, therefore, the effects of procrastination are not contained and travel in time. We leave life for later.
Postponing plans, dreams, personal projects is a breeding ground for emotions that make us less happy: boredom, boredom, guilt, apathy, anger, resentment, regret.
How to remedy this type of procrastination?
Some questions that could be useful to reflect on this issue or find the motivation to start are: What would you do if you knew that you have 6 months to live? What is it that you absolutely want to do? Who should you contact? What would you like to say? Where do you want to go? What project would you like to complete? What dream would you have to achieve?
We do not want to leave this world with a backpack loaded with “would haves”.
We have to start TODAY.