Mastering Procrastination

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Being Aware of Your own Procrastination

I procrastinate a lot. It usually goes like this: I wake up in the morning with this idea fixed in my mind that today I am going to be super productive and get a lot of important stuff done. I will skip breakfast (I like to fast in the morning to burn through some excessive bodyfat), inject a well-brewed Aeropress coffee into my system and kick off my work – in THEORY.

In reality, instead of being proactive and start working on my project, I will my autopilot program take over for me. I turn my attention to the PC and start answering emails, check out other blogs, drift away in Youtube videos, check the weather, see how Roger Federer played and on and on and on – the list can get pretty long. I will do anything which feels pleasant and will prevent me start working on the MOST IMPORTANT stuff for the day. Eventually however, a feeling of guilt kicks in as I realise that I still haven’t started working  and I finally manage to get going. But till then I may have wasted up to one hour of valuable productivity time in the morning. In hindsight, I sometimes hate myself for this kind of lazy procrastinating ass.

 

Gaining Momentum by Just Starting

Of course, not every day runs according to this poorly written script described above. There will be days, especially when deadlines are closing in on me, where I skip the procrastinating chunk and get right down to work. At the end of the day, it’s a most wonderful feeling knowing that today I won the fight against my own procrastination and was able to manage my time in a more meaningful and efficient way.

I have noticed one common experience when it comes to mastering my procrastination. Usually, when I am able to ignore all of the distractions surrounding me and remind myself why I need to be productive at this particular moment, I will most often make a plan of action and start implementing it right away. Without exception, once I delve into the work and experience the ecstasy of a working flow, I go crazy productive. It feels like I have just gained enough momentum to keep the ball rolling down the hill.

Trying to understand how I overcame my procrastination always fascinates me because: „Just a few moments ago I felt like turning on the PC and doing mindless unproductive shit on the internet.“ But surprisingly once I surmount the temptation of procrastination and expose myself to my work, my mind seems to click into productivity mode instantly and suddenly I am more than happy to remain productive (and feel good about myself later).

 

Screw Lunch Time – Take Short Breaks

This is just one tactic that helps me to eliminate the procrastinating part in me. Another tool that I often employ is taking short breaks (5-10 min) after working for a time block of no more than 40 min. There is neuroscientific research suggesting that working in chunks of 30-40 min interspersed with short, refreshing breaks (e.g. stretching, breathing, exercising, meditating) of roughly 5 min allows a person to learn more effectively and stay more productive. Many people do exactly the opposite by engaging their mind constantly for 3-4 hours, taking an hour break, and then returning for another 3-4 hours of low productivity time in the afternoon. My experience is that the risk for procrastination during these hour-long blocks of work seems pretty damn high for me personally. If I fall into the trap of following this never-ending time schedule, I tend to burn myself out quite fast doing this regimen for a few weeks straight. Therefore, take short but meaningful breaks while trying to minimise technology distractions.

 

Timing Your Procrastination

However, procrastination per se is not evil. Quite the contrary, procrastination can be a very helpful biohacking tool as well. Everybody knows that you can’t stay productive and mentally sharp for an entire day, week or month working like a humanoid machine without wishing for some form of procratinating activity. Procrastination definitely has its place as it allows your mind/body to switch off from the all productivity. The human mind likes to wander around and just engage in random shit. In my opinion, not doing or thinking anything for some periods is a very important aspect of „Off-Time“ which is often neglected. I mean, how productive are you when you are sleeping?

Nevertheless, actively procrastinating needs to occur at the right times. Procrastinating at the end of the day after finishing your work and being proud of it, who cares – go ahead and procrastinate: watch those stupid cat videos on YouTube for hours if it makes you happy. Or watch your favourite series on TV if you feel like you need your daily dose. Whatever!! Each one of us is an expert at finding procrastinating activities.

My point is, everybody needs a healthy balance between productive times and procrastinating times. As you long as your day isn’t dominated by one or the other, things are fine (I guess).

 

Learning from the Expert: Scott H Young

I have just shared my experience of being aware of my own procrastination and my strategies of overcoming it. For the past three years, I have been following fellow blogger, Scott H Young, and been able to learn a lot from him. Just to give you an idea of this guy’s wit – most recently it took him less than ONE YEAR to successfully complete all the courses covered in the equivalent 4-year MIT BSc of „Computer Science“ by applying his innovative learning techniques and time management strategies.

Check out the video for Scott’s valuable insight about getting more work done in less time. Also HERE and HERE two of his articles on conquering procrastination.

Anybody got some smart tactics in their arsenal to kill procrastination?

Please, share them in the comments.

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  • Gökhan Çiftçi

    Thanks for the post I will try to implement your points into my system and see how it goes. I have been trying to deal with procrastination myself: I think it boils down to self experimentation, what works for me might not work for you specifically. That being said here’s what I do.

    1. I Don’t keep a too rigid schedule anymore, I used to schedule every hour, it just doesn’t work for me. Now I just look at what projects I need to. Select the one with the most priority and push it till I get bored, then switch to another project or go eat something.(I will start doing burst of 40 min+break and see how it goes).
    Nassim N. Taleb also emphasizes this FBR: I think humans in general are not made for a too rigid schedule, it induces stress, we need some randomness i.e. stop trying to control everything. I think the Scott might be an exception though.

    2. When I am working sometimes the urge to go Facebook YouTube comes up automatically, when I realize I am drifting it’s somewhat hard to not finish watching the video, and another, and another. Therefore I have installed the free software k9 web protection. I think parents use it to block there kids from watching porn. I use to block myself from, news sites social media, YouTube When I go to a website it says put in password: This reminds: do you really want to visit this site? Then I usually go back to work.

    3. I Don’t follow the news. Most of the time it really is not important. It all just noise, noise and more noise. Whenever something significant happens. I will hear it from people around me. It saves time to do more productive stuff. Research shows that people who watch the news are actually less informed. Go figure.

    4. I use to get mad at myself for being lazy. But I don’t anymore. I realized this pattern: Ahh damn I’ve just lost an whole hour, makes me feel bad: then waist another hour: feel worse. So know I think OK: whats the right thing to do. Because I have been wrong and I will be wrong. But that does not matter, even not doing the wrong thing does not matter. All that matters is doing the right thing. It helps me remove guilt about procrastination and just go back to work.

    Actually the right thing now would be to go back to work.
    Cheers.

    • Stephan R

      Gökhan,

      first of all: thank you too for writing up your valuable experience.

      To your points:

      1. Just reading Taleb’s „Fooled by Randomness“ – so learning his ideas. Personally, I like to schedule my activities into hours as I have found that I dont drift away so easily when I do it. That said though, most of the time I will schedule the hours from 9:00 – 15:00 and use the later afternoon hours for fun and more loose work.

      2. „Restriction Software“ like yours works for some, but not for me. I just need to develop the mental attitude not to want to visit these sites. It’s kind of the same with choosing not to eat the bad foods – it takes time and the right mental conviction to say NO without having a craving.

      3. News are a complete waste of time. The headlines always follow the same scheme. I have written about here:

      http://biohacks.net/news-biggest-time-waster/

      4. Very thoughtful point here. Learning to accept that we have been wrong and WILL be wrong in the future would save many people a lot of unnecessary worries and sleepless nights. Again, I think it’s about developing the right mindset that will put you back on the right track again, no matter what.

      Leo Babauta from zenhabits.net talks about „Just Accepting“ a lot in his articles. People have those illusions in their heads where sometimes they willingly try to block the present situation, i.e. living in past experiences.

      I am planning to write about embracing failure which presents itself to each one of us as an inevitable challenge every day.