There are always a hundred reasons not to do something, or more specifically, there are at least eight reasons that someone may procrastinate a seemingly huge task, like starting a blog. In his book, The Anti-Procrastion Habits: A Simple Guide to Mastering Difficult Tasks, author S.J. Scott claims there are eight principal reasons we procrastinate. Some of these reasons include ‘being a perfectionist’, ‘fear of the unknown’, and ‘you promise to “do it later”‘. The main culprit of my procrastination stemmed from ‘you often get distracted’ – something I’m confident all of us, especially millennials, can relate to. It seemed everytime I tried to put paper to pen, an intense and fleeting emotion or notification would pop-up, rendering the next 20 minutes useless. From there, the initial spurt of motivation was gone and Instagram memes, Facetime’s and Vice videos were all beckoning my brain to indulge in their dopamine-fueled click bait.
South Park explains dopamine addiction
Scott references an exercise in his book called the 25-5 Rule – supposedly originally referenced by Warren Buffet. The premise is you write down 25 personal projects or basic activities that require your time. You then circle your top five priorities out of that list and transcribe them into actionable goals. What do you do with the other twenty? Simply put them aside. Ignore them at all costs until you have succeeded with your top five. Though it’s admittedly difficult to give up #22 Find new restaurants, psychologists have known for a while that we’re not nearly as good at multitasking as most of us tend to believe, in fact, we’re terrible at it. So the prospect of de-cluttering my mind of activities tempted me and I set out to make my list of 25 and subsequent top 5 priorities. In order my current top 5 focuses are:
- Starting a Blog
- Speak/Read/Write/Listen to all things Spanish
- Make lesson plans
This list meant that for the first time in my life, comfortable socialization in the form of drinking, Facetimes, or watching TV amongst company was to take a back seat. Some people; gringo friends and especially my sweetheart back home, were less than enthusiastic. But this is the time to be selfish, I repeatedly assured myself. And let’s be real, I wasn’t throwing away my phone and starting life anew in the Amazon (though also an alluring idea), rather I had decided to start acknowledging some of my habits that were contributing to a more lazy and complacent version of myself (see: meme addiction) while simultaneously introducing healthier habits (like reading) that I hoped would ultimately increase my life satisfaction.
An all too common occurence
Like all true science, this modification in behavior is systematically an experiment I want to test. I have my hypothesis: Increased focus and productivity will reduce anxiety and increase happiness. And after my bi-weekly self-peer review, if it turns out that a top-five priority is no longer a high priority for me, I can replace it and record the results. Nothing is set in stone. But for now, Starting a Blog is number one on my list simply because it excites me more than anything right now. For months prior, I would come up with elaborate excuses to justify my procrastination. As my favorite writer and New York Times bestselling author Mark Manson said, “By lying to ourselves we mortgage our long-term needs in order to fulfill our short-term desires”. It’s easier to enjoy and indulge in immediate pleasure like food, sex, and TV than is it to ask yourself what really matters to you and take steps to become the person you want to be. I went months without ever finishing a publication because of course, once it’s finished it can be seen and you can be judged. That type of vulnerability is frightening and substantial enough to dissuade even the most determined writers. However, there is no reason to delay action seeking perfection.
spoiler: I’m not the first person to come up with this idea
There are many other fears that contribute to procrastination; fear of failure is a common one, as is the fear of success. Success can bring all kinds of new pressure, attention, and responsibilities that we didn’t want or expect. However, we are generally terrible predictors about how we feel in the future –in psychology and economics this fallacy is known as affective forecasting. Studies have shown that winning the lottery doesn’t bring people the happiness they expect and for you new college freshman, getting placed in an undesirable dorm has no significant effect on future happiness. The stories that we tell ourselves in our head that we are so confident of are ultimately our own constructs, which often overlook our innate abilities to adapt to adversity. This can be a liberating realization because it allows you to make mistakes and try things out, like starting a blog. And if by some miracle you are reading this that means I have taken the first decisive step to combat my procrastination problems.
2 thoughts on “Procrastination Problems”
Thoughtful and nuanced insights, Stephen. They’re as applicable to Baby Boomers as they are to your generation. Your writing is crisp and informative. I look forward to future entries!
Keep it up, son! This is quite inspirational!