Trouble persuading yourself to do the things you should do or would like to do.
When you procrastinate, instead of working on important, meaningful tasks, you find yourself performing trivial activities.
- = (lat.) belonging to tomorrow
- = putting things off intentionally or habitually
A brief history of putting things off
Since the dawn of time, people have suffered from procrastination. Even the classic Greek poet Hesiod tackled this problem in his poem Works and Days:
“Do not postpone for tomorrow or the day after tomorrow;
barns are not filled by those who postpone and waste time in aimlessness.
Work prospers with care; he who postpones wrestles with ruin.”
"Those who postpone and waste time in aimlessness" — you could easily describe today's procrastinator this way.
Seneca, the Roman philosopher, wrote:
“While we waste our time hesitating and postponing, life is slipping away.”
This quote precisely reveals the main reason why learning to overcome procrastination is so important.
If you want to learn more about procrastination, why don't you read all about it in the book The End of Procrastination? Discover why the procrastination phenomenon keeps us from living our lives to the fullest.
Why fight procrastination?
Procrastination is one of the main barriers blocking you from getting up, making the right decisions and living the dream life you've thought of.
Recent studies have shown that people regret more the things they haven't done than the things they have done. In addition, feelings of regret and guilt resulting from missed opportunities tend to stay with people much longer.
Sometimes all our opportunities seem to be on our fingertips, but we can't seem to reach them. When you procrastinate, you waste time that you could be investing in something meaningful. If you can overcome this fierce enemy, you will be able to accomplish more and in doing so better utilize the potential that life has to offer.
We now know that the world today is conducive to procrastinating and learning how to overcome it is, therefore, one of the most important skills you can learn.
If you are interested to know more, but you are not much of a reader, listen to the audiobook so you can run or even be gardening while learning to live your life the way you always dreamed about.
Why do people procrastinate?
Willpower is often perceived to be the leading cause of procrastination, but it is mainly our intrinsic motivation that helps us to overcome the habit of putting things off on daily basis.
The number of opportunities that today's world offers is staggering. Modern society idolizes individual liberty in the belief that the freer people are, the happier they will be. So then why aren't people today significantly happier than in the past? Because with more freedom to make our own decisions and to perform our actions, we have become easily confused about what is a priority, what is essential and what is not, and with what is right and wrong, and therefore we have become demotivated to do anything at all.
We need to set straight our values and personal visions and to cultivate our positive habits. This is the essential thing that can help us overcome not only procrastination but also all the other obstacles that life brings.
Ignoring The Value of Time
We were all born and unfortunately at some point will all die too. The time we spend on Earth is both limited and finite. In light of these facts, time is the most valuable commodity you have. It’s not money; unlike time, you can borrow money, save, or earn more. You can’t do that with time. Every single second you waste is gone forever.
The mere realization that life is finite leads people to begin managing their time more carefully. It makes you think about how you would ideally like to spend your time on Earth.
Lack of self-discipline
You can imagine self-discipline or self-control as a moment when you give yourself orders, but you are having a hard time following them. It is not the primary cause of procrastination, but an important compound. To be disciplined, you need to have the correct type of motivation and learn to maintain and work on positive habits.
Types of motivation and why setting goals will never work
- Extrinsic motivation
Rewards and punishments or carrots and sticks were developed to force people into performing actions they would never consider on their own. But when people do things they don’t want to do, they are less happy, and their brains release less dopamine. Many studies have confirmed that using extrinsic motivation lowers performance in activities that require even a little brainwork and creativity.
- Goal-based motivation
This motivation drives people forward, causing them to work hard for their goals, which means that sooner or later, they will indeed achieve them. And when that finally does happen, a one-time dose of dopamine is released, resulting in an intense emotion of joy. The problem is that what follows next is a phenomenon known as hedonic adaptation. This causes people to get accustomed to their accomplished goals unexpectedly. A few minutes, hours, or, at most, days upon reaching a goal, positive feelings will disappear.
- Intrinsic motivation
Meaning and vision provide long-lasting and satisfying motivation. When people see the purpose in their actions, particularly when they actually want to perform these actions, one of the strongest forms of motivation arises, it is called the intrinsic journey-based motivation. This type of motivation is based on the concept of having a personal vision. Unlike chasing goals, a personal vision is an expression of something lasting. It answers the question of how you would most like to spend your time in life. It focuses on actions, not results. It focuses on the journey, not the destination.
What procrastination is not
Procrastination is not laziness
Procrastinators often put off doing things, leave them to the very last moment or sometimes even spend their time staring at the wall. However be careful, procrastination is not a synonym for lazy.
Lazy people, simply don’t do anything and are just fine with it. Procrastinators, on the other hand, have the desire to actually do something but can’t force themselves to start.
It's a good idea to start using the word procrastination instead of using the terms laziness or putting things off. It provides a much more accurate description of your situation. Only by giving the right name to your problem can you begin working on it.
Relaxation is not procrastination
Don’t confuse procrastination with relaxation either. Relaxing recharges you with energy. In stark contrast, procrastination drain it from you. The less energy you have, the more stressed or even depressed you might have become and the higher the chances of you putting off your responsibilities are.
So the opposite of procrastination is actually getting things done, and being able to relax, deal with your workload well and be happy in the long term.
Myth: We Work Better under Pressure
A lot of the times we hear the excuse that people often love leaving things to the last minute. They justify their actions by claiming that they are most productive under pressure.
However, scientific studies show that the opposite is true. Putting things off until the very last moment creates fertile ground for stress, guilt, and ineffectiveness.
“Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today”
This old saying really hits the nail on the head.
Video: What is procrastination and why fight it?
How to stop procrastinating
You can learn as much as you want about self-discipline, motivation, planning and time management, but unless you make what you learn part of your daily routine, your habits, your thinking patterns and your mental models, it will be only useless information stored in your memory without ever helping you.
Any book, article or video can give you tools, but it is up to you to actually use them.
So, what tools can help you stop procrastinating?
1) Personal vision
The personal vision is one of the core tools, it helps you understand your skills and priorities, and by creating one, you will never feel lost in what is it that you want to do with your life. The personal vision as well helps you to focus your effort on the right activities and set priorities to avoid continually switching between actions. Understand what motivates you, and you will be able to maintain your discipline and make the most out of each day.
2) To-Do today
Long to-do lists tend to pile on, and this leads to procrastination. Seeing the long list of tasks can frustrate us so much that we have tendencies to give up on them completely. The To-Do Today method is there to help you get the most important and urgent tasks done every day, while also helping you prioritize the work on your schedule and limit new tasks. With its help, you will be able to manage much more in a day, with less stress and tiredness.
3) Habit list
Learning new habits is one of the basic elements of personal development. If we make a habit of doing something, its implementation requires less mental energy to do it. Learning new habits is, therefore, very important. But there are several myths about what is working and what is not in learning new habits. The Habit-list is based on scientific research about proper planning, learning habits, and its tracking, which then motivates us even further.
4) Meeting With Myself
This tool will help to guide you through your own "Meeting With Yourself" a time allocated just for you! During your meetings, you can focus on long-term planning and the overall retrospective of your personal growth. It is designed to make you ask yourself how far you have moved forward recently. To consider which direction you would like to head in life and to think about what you can improve even further.
Further reading about procrastination
Continue learning how to overcome procrastination
We recommend reading the free chapter of the Ludwig’s bestseller The End of Procrastination.
“Every single second you waste is gone forever.”
-- Petr Ludwig