I’ve had an enlightening 24 hours about procrastinating. I started listening to Ari Meisel podcast (which by the way is very interesting). One of his guests was Tim Pychul who specialises in researching Procrastination. I listened and read lot of his stuff and I’ve had a lightbulb experience.
I’ve always been hard on myself about procrastinating – telling myself I do it a lot and then beating myself up for doing it. I had already had an insight that when I did procrastinate, I actually felt bad in moment (even though I thought I would feel better because now I am reading, or surfing the internet, which I wanted to do). And then I felt bad later too, when I rememberd I had procrastinated. And then still felt bad a few more times when I saw that “to do” the next day, and then the procrastinating cycle starts again. I found out this is called cognitive dissonance – whenever you realize that you should be doing something but that you aren’t .
Here are my top thoughts from Tim’s work
- Tim says procrastinators want short-term mood repair – I want to eliminate the negative mood or emotions now, so I give in to feel good. I give in to the impulse to put off the task until another time. But for me, I only feel better for a moment, and then the self beating up starts and I don’t enjoy my distraction.
- Becoming very friendly with my future self. I distance ourself from my future self and forget that my future self won’t want to do the “to do” either,so I imagine myself tonight or tomorrow, or next week with that thing done.
- Mindfulness – be with the feeling of uncomfort, boredom, fear that is coming up as I face a task I don’t want to do. I am gentle with myself and say “not wanting to do something is not necessarily a reason not to do it”. What am I saying to myself to justify my procrastination?
- Just get started. It’s not usually as bad as I think. Just do 5 minutes.
- Change the task and see if I can make it interesting – see how fast I can get it done, or other trick. Or, can I add a sweetener, like listening to a podcast while I do it eg. hang out clothes
- What’s the next step – often tasks are too big – classic example write a book. Break down big tasks into small steps.
- Use a timer. I love my timer. I think Flylady got me onto it a few years ago with “you can do anything for 15 minutes”. Now with the timer on my iphone it is easy. I set a limit on how long I am going to work on something and do it. I have a spreadsheet, divided into 15 minute segments and each day I do my to do list and then slot it into a 15 minute slot. It really keeps me on track.
- Don’t let perfect, get in the way of getting it done. This is a sneaky one or me – I think I tell myself I’ll be able to do a “better” job tomorrow, next week etc. Just get it done, even though not perfect – this blogpost is a classic example. In the past I would have tried to find the perfect picture, and made the whole thing perfect. Now I think – just get it posted.
- Stay away from surfing internet – I don’t think I need to elaborate!
The fact that I’ve written and published my second blog – after procrastinating for more than a month says it all for me.