Procrastinate Much? Maybe You Should Read This Later…

Published October 1, 2009 in Psychology and Mind Hacks - 2 Comments

Original Picture by blakie

Yeah, I know, hilarious title. I worked on that one all day.
Moving on: Finding something entertaining and distracting to do is easier than ever and as a consequence of this, procrastination has become a wide-spread problem. As long as you have internet access, the next status-update, short message, puzzle-game, cute animal picture or dubious offer concerning the size of your private parts is never far away. In fact, certain applications seem to be specifically designed to increase access to distractions, instantly notifying you about updates on twitter, facebook, your e-mail inbox or any number of other sites and services. No wonder we don’t come around to doing productive things anymore. In today’s post, I will briefly outline one method you should try, if you find yourself putting things off a bit too frequently.

Defining the Culprit

In many ways, putting things off is essential and unavoidable if you want to be productive. For example, if I want to focus on finishing this blog post, I have to put off shopping for groceries to after this post is finished. Procrastination is not simply delaying action. There are at least two factors that distinguish problematic procrastination from planned delays:

  1. Putting things off indefinitely.
    A typical procrastination-trait is keeping a lot of tasks that should be done floating around without any clear idea of when they will be done. With the productive kind of delaying, you know exactly when you will complete an open task. With procrastination, “later” turns into “tomorrow”, turns into “next week”, turns into “when I come around to it”.
  2. Sacrificing important tasks in favour of quick distractions.
    So long as you are being productive, you won’t feel like you are procrastinating, no matter how many tasks you need to delay. Procrastination is when you realize that you’ve spent several hours twittering about what you found via StumbleUpon instead of working on whatever projects are important to you. If you are a procrastinator or procrastinatress (?), you will usually feel bad about it in the evening, when you realize that you’ve “wasted” another day. In other words: Your gut will tell you when you were procrastinating.

One Crucial Change

Unfortunately, changing from procrastination to productivity can be very difficult. There are methods that can help you kick the procrastination habit but, being a procrastinator, you probably won’t get around to applying them anytime soon…

All joking aside, procrastination, like any bad habit, can be hard to beat with conventional methods. Anything that relies on impulse control will be difficult to stick with. Let me offer you an unconventional reframe that will help you take the first step. Are you ready for this? Here’s what I want you to do:

Never procrastinate again.

Great, thanks a lot, Shane. Looks like a pretty crappy piece of advice, right?
How is anyone supposed to do that without resorting to disciplined impulse control? Answer: By committing to what you are doing. As I said, it’s only a reframe. You don’t have to change any actual habits (yet). Instead of thinking “I’ll get to that important thing later” while watching cute kitten videos and feeling guilty about it, commit to watching cute kitten videos now.

It comes down to honesty and self-acceptance. Don’t pretend that you’ll watch just a few more videos, play for just one more turn, check for messages just one more time and then get to that important stuff. Commit to playing that videogame for five hours straight. It can be difficult to do (even though the outcome is the same) and it can be an eye-opening experience. And instead of feeling guilty, accept that you are being unproductive. Remember: Accepting a circumstance does not mean you cannot or will not change it anymore. It simply means staring straight at the reality of the situation, seeing that there is room for improvement and at the same time realizing that your weaknesses don’t devalue you as a human being.

A Challenge and a Request

I challenge you to try this simple reframe for at least one week. Commit to your important tasks and commit to your entertainment and distractions just as much. See how that feels and see if it makes a difference for you. Once you’ve done this, I’ll present a method that you can use to build on this reframe in a future post.

And I also have a request: Please let me know what you think about this in the comments section. I know it’s an unusual approach and i would love to hear your take on it. I am currently doing some research into procrastination causes and treatments and will write about this again. Of course, I’m also testing different methods for myself. If you let me know what your experiences and challenges with procrastination are, it will help me tailor my future articles to better meet your needs.

So, any and all comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

This post is part of the procrastination series:
Part 1: Procrastinate Much? Maybe You Should Read This Later… (currently viewing)
Part 2: One Simple Method Every Procrastinator Should Try
Part 3: Beat It! (With Science)

  • Very interesting concept. Seems to go against the natural order of things but I’m always open. Looking forward to your later post on how to build on this new reframe.

    • Thanks for your comment! I know it can be hard to even try. Sometimes it’s more difficult to accept a weakness than to ignore it or try to fight it.