Going deeper - so it is easier...
Delay to avoid "pain" of doing...get "pain" of not doing
The thought barriers, reasons
The means to non-procrastination
It's all psychology, not time-based
The choice: create more misery, less misery, or no misery
Note: There are many excellent readings on procrastination, so google "procrastination" to see those and/or see the Resources at the end of this page. I'll
try not to repeat those here. In this piece, I want to have you gain the core understanding needed AND to have you be convinced to engage in the process of correcting the "causal chain" of this great damager of life!
"Procrastination is attitude's natural assassin. There is nothing so fatiguing as an uncompleted task."
Currently revising, to add a few things and do some editing, but there is value to be had by reading this...
GOING DEEPER...SO IT IS EASIER...
Procrastination, willpower, motivation, fear, lack of perspective - all are combined, intermixed - and part of the same problem.
The problem is "not getting done what is beneficial plus feeling 'emotional pain' while in the process of trying to get yourself to do something."
One level down below that surface question is some form of thought about what one is missing that one could do instead of the item we are "trying" to get ourselves to do - and battling with ourselves on, often losing the battle.
Not solving how to deal with this is a bit like hitting your head against the wall hoping it'll do some good - but it only makes it worse.
If we first understand the reality of what is going on in our lower brains, we can get some insight into what we are failing to work correctly with or address in a meaningful effective way. That understanding will allow you to broaden your perspective and the knowledge of how things work so that they are also applicable to many things in life. Thusly, we would call this an ESSENTIAL understanding, since it lies at the essence or the foundation of how things work and how to work them.
People choose unwisely to stop short of gaining that essential understanding and leave themselves with lives of unnecessary struggle and/or suffering.
I'm sorry, but there is no way to wave a magic want to cure yourself (of procrastination, weakness, poor willpower, lack of motivation, etc.), to leap over all that is necessary to learn so that one can be instantly powerful, with iron willpower and total self motivation without fear or doubt.
The first thing one must understand, although at first you might resist, is that we are strictly biomechanical creatures, with no magic or "ethereal" "stuff" out there in the world that will determine our lives - but with the unique ability in the universe to create something beyond the mere physical matter and energy.
Once you've got that foundational understanding, you can begin to understand that the physical body and the lower brains communicate not in actual thoughts per se but in chemicals and electricity, with very evolutionarily programmed actions to what is sensed, all toward mechanically surviving at a "higher level." We need only align with (actually just use what is really in existence) what the body is programmed with. We won't exceed it, though we can use our higher brains to devise clever strategies that will work to get it (the body/brain) to do what we want.
It is helpful if you read, part of the reading sequence in Reality:
THERE ARE TWO, NOT ONE, CAUSES
From this understanding and vantage point, we can deduce that procrastination has something to do with survival thoughts. We fear a consequence (such as not doing something rightly, criticism, lack of approval, etc.). We also, although conceptually similar, we make it up that if we do the thing we are supposed to do, we will be "missing out" on something else we could do with the time - and we must have at least some vague idea in our "mind" that what we are missing out on is better for survival.
In the latter, although it may seem far-fetched, I will not want to do maintenance things in my life because I think I will be missing out on doing more writing and that somehow this will get in the way of my saving the world or doing something else that I value. (I write this with a bit tongue in cheek since, as I write this I am in my higher mind and know I will not be the savior of the world.)
The problem lies in the "vagueness" about it all, as I vaguely think that "x" is better for my survival than what I am "forced" to do in terms of this maintenance thing "getting in the way" of what I really want to do. I need to be very clear that over time I will be just fine and that I choose to do this maintenance thing at the appropriate time because it will help produce the consequences I want.
But then if we conjure up lots of anxiety about something, we also have a survival mechanism that tries to get us back to functioning well and not being in a state of fear - the body needs to not be stuck in the fear response. If we are not well-trained in how the body/minds works mechanically and in better strategies to employ, we will use the primitive, simple, uninformed strategy of avoidance. We are avoiding the anxiety feelings, as those are, in a sense, threats to us, to our survival at a better level.
So, whenever I popped into doing Spider Solitaire instead of something I should do, I was using a distracter - plus a mini dopamine production system that gave me hits that I as a human responded to and was seeking - I just didn't "see" that I could get those from the boring task I needed to do. I was not "content" in my life at that moment, I did not see that all is well and that the right path would lead me to greater benefits. I was typically, if I look at when it occurred and the cues, a bit tired and needing amusement - in a kind of distraction mode to avoid the anxiety - which had no sound basis in terms of rationality but was simply the body/mind reacting in the way it mechanically does that.
To "win", we must employ "the forces" on our side. Develop habits and put them in place so that there is less "efforting" to do a desired activity. Develop substitute activities to respond to the cues - design a better more beneficial activity that meets the need or cue. We need to have a better sense of time and of life overall, with a sense of contentment yet still having desire (but not from a "this is missing" and "I am short of my expectations" point of view). [I understand this one sounds quite general, even ethereal, but I will take it down to the actual steps and sequence that is necessary to accomplish anything.]
DELAY TO AVOID "PAIN" OF DOING = GET "PAIN" OF NOT DOING
"Pain" = feel bad about self, though still have to do it, so nothing is saved,
and then add a possible negative consequence.
Decide if it is worth doing, and, if so, schedule it and do it unless there is a true emergency. Not feeling like it doesn't count. There is an illusion and a racket that one pulls on oneself by thinking "not feeling like it" is significant. The false payoff is that "I'll feel better not doing it", as you will actually feel better having done it and avoided the cost of thinking badly of yourself - and the cost of a habit that begets a form of lethargy that in turn begets one not getting what one wants in life.
"Resistance" to the reality of something always creates suffering and a loss of energy (just like if you had one hand pushing against another, nothing goes anywhere but there is energy uselessly use). Procrastination is related directly to the wish to be rescued and taken care of by the Big People, instead of being self responsible. It will tear you down, as you're probably already noticing. It is Victim behavior - which is not useful, at all! Procrastination appears to be a comforting (or discomfort avoiding) behavior but it never is, in total - it is just an illusion, a false belief that it is, for it begets, overall, discomfort and dissatisfaction, and virtually always self-deprecation. 'Tis best to just follow the path I call "Just Do It!" Learn why, by reading that section. There is no rescue (or the rescue isn't worth it). There is only loss by doing it. And the loss is bigger than the incidents all combined. What will have one attaining what one wants in life is only achieved through using Self-Determination - on purpose.
It's a good idea to stop doing this, now and forever and to do what is put forth in the two links above. No more sloppy thinking and downhill sliding. Happiness is at the other end of the tunnel!
Here I am just pointing to some basics that I think work and are understandable and very doable.
Procrastination is done for a reason or reasons.
We can choose to "cope" with it, by doing things that get around it. And since none of us is truly enlightened, we need to be able to do "coping" as best we can.
We'll not be perfect. Sometimes we will be in low energy, low mood. At those times we need something easy to access to get us back in gear. We would, for instance, go to our Reminders Notebook and look at any peptalk we've put in there. Or go to the instant references in Inspiration - very useful.
And/or we can solve the problem at its level of cause, rather than deal with the symptoms (recall that it is hard to solve "symptoms", since they are just results or effects of the cause).
THE THOUGHT BARRIERS, REASONS
Here are some of the thoughts that get in the way, weird, true or not:
"I have to take care of myself and this will get in the way." (Refers to when a person has "emotional" problems that are unsolved - and the accompanying anxiety repeated over and over. That's why we say one should spend the time to clear up the major anxieties as a top priority, though many want to skip this step and/or don't see the need to do so!)
"I must do something fun. I'll be losing fun time if I do this."
"I want to do something else. This is no fun. I must have my way.
"It's so painful." (I'll just think how terrible it is to have to do this. And maybe I'll just be thinking of how terrible I am at doing it and/or how ineffective I am. Here I am inflicting pain upon myself.)
"I'm such an idiot, dolt, lazy bum. I can't do anything right and I'm afraid to goof or look stupid. I'll get mad at myself."
All the above are non-sensical and all are victim mentalities, which one should eliminate from one's life, as it wastes our lives and it reduces the quality of life during each moment of such thinking.
THE ENTRIES TO NON-PROCRASTINATION
Do it in little, 'standable' bits.
"I'll do this for 2 minutes." (Or 5, 10, 20. I find 20 is sometimes a good number, because I feel I have that much time to set aside without losing anything. Just do it for the number of minutes that work for you. Use a timer tool, so you can be assured it'll all be over in the scheduled time.) (Do a little bit of organizing as you take each break...)
Put it on a calendar at a specific time to do. If necessary, schedule several little segments of time over the day or days. If it is a regular "pile up" of undones in a particular area, handle it in 5 minute scheduled chunks that appear in computer reminders that are "in your face". (Do your scheduling while in a strong state, where high intention is possible.)
Just do the set-up for it, so it's ready to start on.
Clear an area, put all the papers needed there, gather reference materials, get everything ready so you can start when you're ready.
Creating a way of "being"
In the procrastination stage, one is "being" a child. Since one can actually choose at any time to become a "Rational, nurturing adult ," one can say "I now choose to be at my highest level, to be in my rational, nurturing adult. I am, indeed, a powerful, capable adult."
Do a minor part, but get a reward
Give yourself a little reward or even a "yeah, I did it for 5 minutes!"
Close your eyes for 20 seconds to a minute, breathe deeply for that long, stand up and walk around, go for a walk, take a shower - anything to break the lethargy cycle.
Recalibrate your brain
"I am no longer willing to be the victim of procrastination. It costs me too damned much. It is a matter of honor for me now, not the kind of honor to make myself wrong with, but the kind of honor I want to give to my body and my spirit. I simply refuse to dishonor my own personal emotional state, for it is what life is about. I will feel proud of this resolution." (Put this in your Reminders Notebook and repeat it for 21 days. Then put it into the commitments section of that notebook.)
"Right now I make a 100% commitment for the next __ days to not procrastinate on anything."
Commit for minutes, hours, or days, however long you are willing to shoot for with 100% compliance. See and read and understand The 100% Commitment.
Record the experience
Keep a record of what your experience was, especially as far as how you felt and the positive benefits you experienced. You psychological brain is in a bit of a fog about the benefits of procrastination and needs some specific directions and clarifications to operate better in this way. Remember, you are not a victim of procrastination, you just need to change your awareness to such a degree that it sees the truth of what works.
Set up a page in your Reminders Notebook to go to when you need to re-center or ground yourself to not procrastinate.
IT'S ALL PSYCHOLOGY, NOT TIME-BASED
So how does this all relate to procrastination? Well, people with a scarcity mentality usually procrastinate because at first glance the task they should be getting on with seems all too hard because of all the perceived obstacles and problems. With an abundance mentality you look at possibilities and opportunities rather than obstacles and problems meaning you don’t have any reason to put it off, and a few good reasons to get on to it right away!
Note that one's psychology is affected by one's energy level, so it is imperative that you get good enough at energy management to have you energy at a good level. See Greatly Enhancing Your Energy.
THE CHOICE: CREATE MORE MISERY, LESS MISERY, OR NO MISERY
The irony here is that one is trying to escape misery but adding misery.
It is time, and a necessity, to deal with this, to at least solve it 80%.
These books are listed in the order in which we would recommend you read them and in the order of importance. If you read one, you'd read the first one. Stop where you choose, but don't stop until you've actually solved at least 80% of the problem. Please don't forget to Complete because: "What you do not complete, you're doomed to repeat!" Solving this will have huge payoffs, so it is worth doing right now!
Overcoming Procrastination, The Famed Scientific Method For Ending A Habit That Is Robbing You Of Time And Money, Power, Freedom, and Love, Albert Ellis, Ph.D., and William J. Knaus, Ed.D.
The Procrastination Workbook, William Knaus, Ed.D. - Very in-depth, based on
cognitive behavior therapy, which has proven to be the most effective.
Procrastination - Why You Do It, What To Do About It, Jane B. Burka, Ph.D., et.al.
The Procrastinator's Guide To Success, Lynn Lively - A very practical approach, applying effective business techniques and the basic psychology.
Notes for self for later inclusion:
Although we tend to think that letting ourselves off easy will lead to more procrastination, Wohl et al. found the reverse:
"Forgiveness allows the individual to move past their maladaptive behaviour and focus on the upcoming examination without the burden of past acts to hinder studying."
This may work because:
"...forgiving oneself for procrastinating has the beneficial effect of reducing subsequent procrastination by reducing negative affect associated with the outcome of an examination."
Another way of thinking of this is in terms of approach and avoidance behaviours. Because we tend to avoid things that make us feel bad, pent up guilt about a task will make us avoid that task in the future. Self-forgiveness, though, may reduce guilt and so make us more likely to approach the task.
This explanation highlights the fact that we don't just have emotional relationships with people, we also have them with tasks. Some tasks we like and look forward to like trusted old friends, while others feel more like muggers stealing away hours of our lives.
See Cost Of Not Doing Important Things, word doc (behavior)