If you have a procrastination problem, I want you to ask yourself a self-awareness question.
“What do you do when you are procrastinating?”
Take a moment and answer this question before reading further.
Most of the time, when we are procrastinating, we are distracting ourselves with another activity. Maybe we have to wash the dishes, but we procrastinate by watching TV. Maybe we have to do the laundry, but we procrastinate by surfing the Internet. Maybe we have to get a haircut, but we procrastinate by starting a texting session with a friend.
“If we always engage in an activity when we are procrastinating, the best solution to procrastination might as well be doing nothing.”
Doing nothing requires more self-discipline than engaging in a distraction, but less self-discipline than starting the required task right away.
When you have to start a hard task, you have three options with different pain/reward levels.
- Engage in a distracting activity. No pain. Instant rewards. No self-discipline required.
- Start the required task. Pain. No immediate rewards. A lot of self-discipline required.
- Do nothing. Slight pain. No immediate rewards. Some self-discipline required.
Don’t Shut Down the Executive Center of Your Brain
Engaging in a distracting activity shuts down the executive center of our brain. I like to call this part David, because it has to deal with the rest of our brain, the Goliath. When David is put asleep, we will not be bothered by the nagging voice in our head that wants us to get back to the task we need to do. That’s why we feel no pain in this option. No self-discipline is required in this option. Moreover, our brain feels good with the instant rewards that the distracting activity provides.
Starting the required task doesn’t provide the instant rewards that the distracting activity provides. If you have a procrastination problem, this might result in too much psychological pain. The amount of self-discipline required might be way more than you have.
The Middle Way to Improved Self-Discipline
When you do nothing, you don’t have the immediate rewards that a distracting activity provides. Your David isn’t put asleep. He’s very much awake and aware that you should be doing the task at hand. So, this option involves some pain and requires some self-discipline. The trick in this option is to relax while doing nothing without giving in to distraction. When you are sufficiently relaxed and let go of the resistance to the task at hand, you can successfully start it and overcome the procrastination.
“The trick in this option is to relax while doing nothing without giving in to distraction.”
What’s the best way to relax while doing nothing? My favorite one is to drink a glass of water and do a quick meditation.
- Set the timer to five minutes.
- Close your eyes and take deep breaths.
- Follow your breath as you inhale and exhale.
- Acknowledge your thoughts and emotions and let them go.
- Don’t pay any more attention or invest any more energy into them.
At the end of the five minutes, you will be relaxed enough to start the task at hand.
Doing nothing and relaxing is one of the best solutions to procrastination. This week I’m going to analyze procrastination more in depth and offer more solutions to it. If you have a procrastination problem, check this blog for follow-up posts and sign up to the free email newsletter to stay in touch.