Procrastination is something we all deal with.
Even the ancient Greeks had a word for it: Akrasia. It’s the state of acting against your better judgment.
I’ve been putting off writing this newsletter issue for the past week.
So, I searched for tips and tricks to stop procrastinating, which, it turns out, is a form of procrastination.
Procrastination is simply the act of not doing the work we know we should be doing and filling that time with a different activity.
Some big reasons to procrastinate include:
- Fear of failure
- Lack of motivation
It can affect our personal and professional lives.
For me, I know I need to write this newsletter weekly. A lot of the time, I put it off until the last minute.
ClickUp will be sitting there, reminding me that the task is due, so I close ClickUp 😁
In the office setting of my 9 to 5, if the deadline for a task is a long way off, I’m not very likely to do that today.
Both of these examples might not seem like significant issues, but that’s because they’re isolated.
Now stack them up with other items you’ve been putting off, and you’ll be crushed under the weight of your to-do list.
Here are some stats that might surprise you:
- 20-25% of people procrastinate chronically.
- 88% of workers procrastinate for over 60 minutes daily on the job.
- 80-95% of college students procrastinate to some degree.
- 75% of people consider procrastination a personality trait/problem.
- Procrastination costs the US economy an estimated $70 billion per year.
The fact that procrastination is the highest among students is pretty telling. It could be because 80% of their work is geared towards passing exams instead of real-world application.
This week I watched the new Avatar film instead of writing. So, how do we overcome all this idleness when we know we should working?
Overcoming Procrastination Through Taking the Initial Step
Procrastination can be seen as a problem with getting started.
Think of Newton’s first law of inertia. If something is at rest, it will continue to stay at rest.
We need to give ourselves a nudge towards getting started.
Being at the gym is pretty easy. Getting to the gym is the hard bit.
So make it easy on yourself. Give yourself the goal of only needing to work out for 10 minutes. If you accomplish that, it’ll be classed as a success.
Once you’ve done 10 minutes, you can go home. But you’ll probably end up staying for longer.
Ali Abdul has three rules for getting started:
1. The 2-minute rule
If you have a pending task that can be done in less than 2 minutes, do it straight away.
2. The 10-minute rule
You only need to work for a small amount of time. Like the gym example above.
If you need to film a video for YouTube, give yourself just the intro to film. It’ll take 10 minutes, and you can be done.
But again, you’ll carry on filming because you’ve got that momentum.
3. The mind activation rule
This is energy-based. If you feel like you’re in a slump, like that haziness you get after a roast dinner, you need to do something to stimulate your mind.
If it’s in the morning, you could have a coffee. If it’s the evening, go for a walk or listen to Blink-182’s new album!
Pick something that will wake your mind up. Then, you’re ready to go and get to work on your task.
Finding The Motivation
Getting over that hump is all well and good. But what if we feel we need more motivation to do the task?
Intrinsic motivation is the key here.
Are you motivated to do the activity simply because you want to do the activity?
For me, that would be something like composing music. Nobody needs to encourage me to sit down and write a track.
It’s something I want to do for myself.
Intrinsically motivated tasks are the most sustainable. But if you don’t have intrinsic motivation because it’s something work-related or genuinely dull, give yourself some external motivation.
If we take the gym example again, get a trainer or a buddy to push you to go each week.
Putting together a proposal for a potential client has the external motivation of earning more money.
But also try to think about the long-term benefits of that project. This could be the new skills you’ll learn. Or the family holiday you’ll take with the income.
Just like with motivation, we have internal and external distractions.
External distractions are things like phone notifications and emails coming in.
But did you know they only account for 10% of our distractions? The other 90% are internal!
Internal triggers are these uncomfortable emotional states we want to stop or escape from.
This would suggest that most distractions are an emotional regulation problem.
In acceptance and commitment therapy, there’s a 10-minute rule. It says that you can give in to any distraction.
That could be smoking if you’re trying to quit, eating a chocolate bar if you’re trying to lose weight, or checking social media.
Whatever the distraction is, you can give in to it. But not right now. Give it 10 minutes.
Wait 10 minutes before giving in to the distraction.
What this does is put you in control. You’re not banning yourself from the thing you don’t want to do; you’re actually allowed to do it.
But you’re giving yourself control over the temptation and distraction.
Procrastination is something we all do. And students even more so!
To combat it, we can do the following:
- Do the task now if it’s going to take 2 minutes or less.
- Just start the task and say you only need to do it for 10 minutes.
- Reduce the friction of starting the task in the first place.
- Energise yourself if you’re in a slump.
- Understand that it’s okay to give in to a distraction. But in 10 minutes’ time.
There are many other things, like stopping notifications and turning your phone to greyscale, but none of those get to the root of the problem.
They’re all surface-level solutions and are never likely to stick. I wanted to give you some tips you may not have heard of.
And now we’re at the end of this newsletter, and I’ve written 1,000 words!
And you’ve read most of them which I’m incredibly grateful for. All because I opened up Obsidian and started writing for 10 minutes.
This newsletter issue is more of a reminder to myself to look back on every time I find myself procrastinating.
If you got value from it too, write back and let me know.
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