At certain points in life, many of us find ourselves in positions where we “have to” do things we don’t entirely want to do. When faced with such circumstances, we engage in procrastination as a passive aggressive response to being in this less than desirable position. Have you ever thought deeply about procrastination? I’d venture to guess that if you have thought deeply about this human tendency, you’ve become borderline amused by how silly it is. Let’s unpack that last statement… So you find yourself having to do something you don’t want to do. You know that the sooner you get doing, the sooner you can cross that annoying item off your to-do list. Moreover, you also know that the more you procrastinate, the more stress you will eventually feel as the due date for said task approaches. All that considered, you somehow still keep putting off the task until you’re under the proverbial gun, with a side order of intense stress. Yep… I’m with you… this pattern of behavior doesn’t make much logical sense. Let’s delve a bit deeper to understand why many of us tend to get caught up in this vicious cycle.
Why do we procrastinate?
The answer to this one is simple (in my mind anyway). The reason why most people procrastinate is because they are doing things that aren’t in line with their base nature. Think about it for a second… have you ever heard of anyone procrastinating when they are horny and an opportunity to have sex with their super attractive significant other presents itself? Have you ever heard of anyone procrastinating when they are hungry and an opportunity to eat a tasty nutritious meal presents itself? Have you ever heard of anyone procrastinating when they need to run away from a mountain lion that is chasing them with sinister intent? Granted, I can’t see the entire world from my perch in northern California but I’m pretty sure your answers to the above questions are the same as mine: a resounding NO.
It follows therefore, that the more we fill our days with stuff we actually like to do, the less we will tend to procrastinate in general. This is why it is so important to get in touch with who you really are, rather than wasting your time internalizing what other people think you should be. Now while it is true that you can’t feed your family by having a bunch of sex, eating a ton of food, or running away from a mountain lion, you’d be much better poised to serve society if you followed your natural inclination to become a novelist rather than if you conformed to outside noise and became a nurse. Please note that I’m not saying there is anything wrong with being a nurse… that would be to miss the point. The point is to note that trying to fit into a round hole when you are in fact a square peg, will make you much more likely to engage in procrastination.
What steps can we take to avoid procrastination?
Excellent question. I’ve got a few ideas… If you have any more to add to what we say here, be bold and leave your suggestions in the comment section.
- Find your true calling and get to work
- Get comfortable with the idea of outsourcing
- Make a to-do list
- Attack things in little chunks
- Be patient with yourself
As mentioned above, you’ll be much less likely to procrastinate if you find your unique inclination/talent and work to improve it. As you work on your special talent, you’ll continue to get better. As you get better, practice will become easier which will encourage you to practice more. You’ll eventually reach a point where people will happily pay you for your services so that they can have a sliver of your brilliance through a product you created, or a service you render. The combination of the joy you will experience from doing work you love to do, and the monetary rewards you are likely to receive for said work will dampen your tendency to procrastinate.
This article might be helpful if you are interested in learning more about this subject.
You should know that even if you are doing something you love to do, there will probably be parts of it that you can’t stand. As an example, I’m a visual artist who loves to create things, but hates making copies of them and packaging them for shipping. To get around this, I pay other people to do those things that I don’t like doing so that I can focus on what I’m best at which is creating paintings, illustrations, murals, etc. You for instance might be an excellent writer who doesn’t have the artistic talent to make the illustrations for your upcoming book. In this case, you’d be best served to find a good commissioned artist to do the work for you instead of struggling to do something you aren’t cut out for.
For some weird reason, I find that people are more likely to do things if they write them down first. This was something that I discovered in graduate school and I still don’t know why it works this way. You can block time off on your electronic calendar and explicitly name each block with items that you’d like to accomplish for each day. If you’re a paper and pencil kind of girl or guy, feel free to make a physical to-do list and carry it around in your wallet. Spend some time looking at your to-do list each day and I’m fairly confident that you’ll get a lot more done.
I had a conversation with my mom about this the other day when we were chatting about why many of us don’t follow through on things we know we should be doing. We both agreed that the major reason is because people tend to get overwhelmed by what they think they have to do before they even start. In my view, people tend to get overwhelmed by tasks they would like to accomplish because they tend to think about things in their totality from the very beginning. Think about it for a second… Let’s say you’ve decided to lose a bit of weight or get fit so you decide to go sign up for a gym membership. When you get to the gym, you see some furiously fit lady scampering along at an 8.0 mph pace on mile 3 of her 5 mile treadmill run. The average human being would probably get super discouraged by this. However, what most people fail to recognize is that this super fit lady probably started with small baby steps and eventually worked her way all the way up to “super fit jedi master”. So if you want to learn how to play the guitar for example, don’t allow yourself to think you can match John Mayer’s skill level in a few weeks. It is much more prudent to take the first step, which can be as simple as spending 30 minutes each day doing research for a good starter guitar to purchase. Once you’ve found a good guitar to start with, you can move to the next phase which may look like spending 30 minutes each day looking for a music teacher. I hope you see where this is going… break any monumental task down into little “bite sized” chunks that are a lot less intimidating, and it will be way easier for you to actually follow through.
All the strategies listed above work. That being said, it is rarely wise to attempt making too many changes in your life all at once. So if I may, let me suggest that you pick just one of the above items and try to master that one over the next 3 months. When you’ve gained mastery over one strategy, you can consider adding another. Keep going until you’ve mastered them all and perhaps you can add even more strategies from your own additional research.
I have often wondered how much potential each of us leave on the proverbial table because of our respective procrastination habits. It is impossible to know just how much potential has been wasted because of procrastination, but if I were to venture a guess, probably a whole lot. We hope this article inspires you to procrastinate less and do more because your contribution to the world could very well prove to be of incalculable importance in the lives of many. From all of us here at chubaoyolu.org, please take care of yourselves and each other.
Oyolu B.C. Ph.D.
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2 thoughts on “How to avoid procrastination”
It was Ellen Degeneres who once said, “let’s procrastinate now”. 😉
I can’t say I agree with that, but to each their own.