What If Procrastination Didn’t Exist? Here’s How You Can Banish It Forever
The real truth about procrastination and laziness
How much could you accomplish if you never procrastinated?
Gosh, I know this is a cliché question. I’ve heard it many times and often used it as my mobile wallpaper. In fact, I asked myself this question while I conveniently resumed my YouTube video or Netflix episode!
We all know how procrastination works. You decide to work on something. And then your brain starts to find excuses as to why the task is not as urgent as it seems. “I can do it in a half-hour after I fold my laundry while watching a video,” you think. Of course, it’s never a half-hour.
90 minutes later you sit to work and you hear a sound — *Ding! *It’s your phone. You start thinking if it’s an important notification; what if it’s an emergency? 5 minutes is all you can resist the temptation to check your phone for. As it turns out it was a spam message. But to double-check no one needs you, you take a quick look at WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Slack, and Email.
It’s been hours since you sat down to work. And now the task seems even more formidable. As you swim in the ocean of self-pity, you switch on Netflix to make you feel better. After all, the next episode of Money Heist is important. Before you know it, the day is gone and you accomplished nothing.
Does It Always Have to Be Like This?
Not at all! Contrary to popular thought, procrastination is not a personality trait. Saying “I’m a procrastinator” is a mere result of ignorance — ignorance of your brain and how it works.
In most cases, procrastination is the brain’s natural tendency. Let’s look at Jean, a university student who has a mid-term due on Monday. At 4 pm on Thursday, she resolves to study the crap out of her textbook lest she feels guilty later.
You can guess what happened. She ended up giving in to one of the myriad distractions in her environment — social media, TV, Netflix, web surfing, and the like.
**Why did she procrastinate? **Because she didn’t have a good enough plan and not because she’s a “procrastinator.”
The brain, you see, is good at coming up with a plan and achieving the goal. However, it doesn’t motivate you when it seems that the plan will not work.
If you were a caveman, and decide to attack the mammoth single-handedly, the brain will not release the right chemicals to motivate you. But if you gather your tribe for the attach with the right strategy, it will have no problem with it.
Similarly, if saying “I’ll study the crap out of my textbook” is not a good plan. Jean’s brain knows she’ll not learning anything by reading the textbook and will only waste time. Thus, she doesn’t feel motivated to study.
Procrastination is mere feedback to let you know that your plan sucks.
How to Get the Brain on Your Side
Cal Newport suggests a way to banish procrastination and get the brain on your side by answering these three questions:
How am I going to work?
How long am I going to work?
How do I know that this plan makes sense?
So if Jean says something like — “I’m going to memorize and repeat the concepts every morning from 8 to 10 am till Sunday. Once I’m done I’ll wind up the material by Sunday afternoon to get a full night’s sleep and wake up refreshed for the test. I know this works because this is how I excelled in my previous semester.” — the brain is on her side.
This simple trick stands on the principle that resistance can be overcome by simplifying the task and making the objectives crystal clear.
Here are two of the many ways in which I apply it in my life.
Recently I was tasked with making a Google ad strategy for my company to ger more leads. It seems like a daunting task given that I had a total experience of 2 hours with Google ads. I procrastinated for some time on it before using this technique.
I said to myself — “I’ll work for 15 minutes to note down all the different types of ads we can run along with the landing pages we’ll need. I can’t possibly fail at this step!”
When I was done with that, I went ahead and learned about each type of campaign and how to optimize it. I explained it to my team and voila! We had a strategy that I wanted in the first place.
Take writing as another example. I know that sitting with a blank page is the best way to procrastinate. This is why I always keep my ideas and the structure of the article ready before I write a single word. Once you know what you want to write about, the brain doesn’t have a single problem with it.
That’s it. Overcoming procrastination is that simple. Make a plan that doesn’t suck, simplify the task as much as you can, and get started. Before you know you’ll be done and dusted, enjoying all the other beautiful things in life, knowing that everything is taken care of!