First of all let’s crack open a common myth… IT’S NOT ABOUT BEING LAZY!! Some of the most hard working people I know (including me!) have been prone to massive bouts of procrastination…
The answer appears at first to be silly… here it is… Procrastination is more pleasurable than completing the task. Put simply you procrastinate to get pleasure.
“Procrastination is like a credit card: It’s a lot of fun until you get the bill”
I realise it sounds counterintuitive, please give me a moment to explain…
Would you deliberately choose to attain pleasure in your life and also simultaneously try to avoid pain as much as you can? It’s an obvious answer, of course you like pleasure and dislike pain… who on earth doesn’t?
So, now we can safely assume that in our basic decision making process’s of everyday life …on the most basic level… we will try to gain pleasure (because it’s nice) and avoid pain (because it’s nasty).
How Pain Can Define our actions
Procrastination can hurt us right? It can cause us pain? So surely if this crazy idea were to be true, we would never procrastinate… as when we do, we cause pain. The pain of regret, pain of missing objectives, pain of increasing stress and so on…
In real-life most decisions have a combination of both pleasurable and painful aspects no-matter what action you take… so our decisions are made, primarily, by the factors that FEEL and LOOK more real and vivid in the moment.
You may logically KNOW that procrastinating isn’t good for you in the long run, but that doesn’t define your action… your action is determined on your perception that, in the moment, procrastination is perceived as giving more pleasure or less pain to you.
A common example in my life is when when an important report, presentation I have to complete and I just know its going to be hard… you will probably know what I am talking about and remember a similar situation in your life… and you didn’t take any significant action until the last moments, even though that wasn’t the best way to deal with the situation. You procrastinated because the pain of having to sit down and prepare for and complete the task felt bigger, felt more real than the pleasure you would feel by taking the action required to complete the task.
You then filled your time doing other stuff – either completely “veging out” or updating your status on Facebook or maybe you did other things like housework (yes – doing other boring jobs seemed less painful and more pleasurable in that moment than doing the task in hand!)
Then the deadline got closer and closer… and the perception of pain and pleasure started to shift… as the deadline approached, so did the pain of what would happen if you failed to deliver… and as your perception shifted so did your actions – you took the actions needed to complete the task.
Your perception of the things you want to do in your life will determine your actions – even if logic says the opposite. If you want to get fit and healthy, but the perception you have is that it will be hard, painful and burdensome… you will procrastinate forever, even though we all know being healthy is a good thing to do!
So how do we crack it???
As with almost every post I ever do the answer is simple… To improve your life, we need to improve our questions… Ask questions that make taking action massively pleasurable… that makes procrastination excruciatingly painful.
Lets try an experiment (and please feedback to let me know if it gets you to crack procrastination)
Get a pen and paper and write down an area in your life you are procrastinating with right now… ask yourself these questions, then write down the answers as comprehensively as you can:
What 10 amazing feelings will I feel when I have completed the actions needed?
What 10 awful feelings will I avoid by completing this task now?
How will I have fun completing the actions needed?
Stop enjoying procrastination… Go smash it instead!