Is there a half-baked idea you’ve been sitting on? Someplace you’ve been longing to visit? Some piece of work you’ve been trying to finish? Thinking that you will get to it, assuming that there is ample time?
Everyone procrastinates – it is a common weakness of human nature!
However, there’s so much we can learn by simply observing when and why we procrastinate. In my experience, I have noticed certain patterns in the tasks we tend to procrastinate:
1. The task causes physical discomfort (think of exercising or cleaning your room),
2. The task requires mental focus (say finishing a project, sending out an e-mail, updating your resume), and
3. You get easily distracted from the task
Observe how these affect us in that present moment and overpower our senses with an availability bias. This bias makes most of us switch to a less rigorous task.
Good news is that we know we should not procrastinate, we’ve heard it so many times now and have also witnessed consequences of procrastination. The bad news is that we only know. A mere acknowledgment of not doing something doesn’t keep us from acting on it. We either overlook the essence of why we procrastinate or actively choose to ignore it. I agree there’s a difference between waiting-it-out and procrastination. The wait-and-watch strategy works well in many situations. However, making procrastination a habit is not very rewarding.
The bright side, though, is that we are not incapable of fighting procrastination – we’re just unwilling! That’s where the solution lies –
a) show a willingness to begin the task (even pretense works!), and
Persisting through this 2-step solution, no matter how uncomfortable, will induce and inspire real willingness to continue.
I’d like to close by quoting a paragraph from one of my favorite books, ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’ by Adam Smith. It’s a beautifully articulated piece themed on the principle of approbation of virtues and ties in seamlessly with the topic in discussion:
“When for the sake of the present, therefore, we sacrifice the future, our conduct appears to him (the spectator) absurd and extravagant in the highest degree, and he cannot enter into the principles which influence it. On the contrary, when we abstain from present pleasure, in order to secure greater pleasure to come, when we act as if the remote object interested us as much as that which immediately presses upon the senses, as our affections exactly correspond with his own, he cannot fail to approve of our behavior: and as he knows from experience, how few are capable of this self-command, he looks upon our conduct with an eminent esteem with which all men naturally regard a steady perseverance in the practice of frugality, industry, and application, though directed to no other purpose than the acquisition of fortune. The resolute firmness of the person who acts in this manner, and to obtain a great though remote advantage, not only gives up all present pleasures but endures the greatest labor both of mind and body, necessarily commands our approbation. That view of his interest and happiness which appears to regulate his conduct exactly tallies with the idea which we naturally form of it. There is a perfect correspondence between his sentiments and our own, and at the same time, from our experience of the weakness of human nature, it is a correspondence which we could not reasonably have expected.”
I wish you an active week!
Originally published on www.linkedin.com