A Regular Day

My Procrastination Cheat Sheet

Learning to Outsmart it after a Decade of Fighting it

This blog has been two years in the making. Hence it is only fair that the first post be about procrastination and the constant mind games I have to play to come out on top and get things done.

Procrastination is putting off what you should ideally be doing right now in favour of things that are more pleasurable in the short term. Its a more evolved definition of laziness since it has a layer of motivation built in as well.

You know you are a procrastinator when :

1. You make detailed To Do lists that remain unfinished.

2. You have a very clear plan but havent moved beyond step 1 which incidentally was making the plan.

3. You have had lose weight, save money and doing something you love as your New Year resolutions since 2010.

4. Your biggest motivator is Last Minute Panic.

5. You are at your creative best early in the morning when telling yourself why the next 20 minutes of sleep is more important than a jog.

6. You find yourself in spirals on the internet that start from a work related search and ends at random YouTube videos after going through some weird news and comic strips.

7. You are reading this as a result of one such spiral.

My struggles with procrastination started when I moved to college. I moved from an environment of structured learning with enough short term goal posts to keep me moving forward to one big goal post at the end of six months. Outside of studies, there was sports which again had a fairly clear cause and effect — practice your forehand down the line to win against the big oaf who came charging down everytime after serving. Your school crush (who was a year senior) hanging around was motivation enough to practice the same to improve your chances with her.

College hostel life was filled with unregulated video games, incessant texting on the Nokia 3310, random music on loop, porn and booze. Studies and sports became occasional events that one could get through with a couple of weeks of effort. The couple of weeks of effort became couple of days and by the end of it, a couple of hours.

More than a decade after college, I stopped trying to fight it and started trying to outsmart it. Its helped me develop a Procrastination Cheat Sheet of sorts.

1. Find More Important Tasks to Do that you want to Avoid

When its between visiting in laws and completing your presentation, chances are you will work on that deck. Find more important things (at an intellectual level) that you would want to avoid and put them right up there on the To Do list. All of a sudden responding to that flagged email will seem a better alternative.

A few ones that work for me are :

i. Grocery shopping

ii. Calling random people for their birthday/ anniversaries

iii. Cleaning the closet

iv. Trimming the beard

2. Break down Tasks

I almost always go for a workout when I get out of bed and get dressed. All of a sudden workouts got broken down to getting up and getting dressed. Its another matter I get to this stage only once a week.

Breaking down tasks to smaller more immediate things helps. If you want to retire at 40, start by saving Rs. 20k a month. A more immediate task has a higher probability of getting done than long term ones that you dont have line of sight to.

3. Remove Distractions

Knock off Facebook from your phone. Reduce your phone data pack to 1 GB a month from 4 GB that you might have. Don’t carry your charging cable with you. It funny how you will not reach for your phone when you know you have 20% battery left.

4. Set Time Slots that you have to get to

If you get late to office everyday, find a colleague to have breakfast with at 9 am. If there is a note that you arent working on, set time with your Boss on their calendar to review it. Creating goal posts proactively will help you activate Last Minute Panic before these self created deadlines and help get things done.

5. Tell people about what you want to do

If its losing weight, tell your friends you will lose 5 kgs in six months. Set a bet with one of them. If its eating healthy, tell the people you have lunch with. More often than not the fact that you have told someone who you meet quite frequently will push you to get some discipline in and do those tasks that are daily pleasure killers.

I am sure all of us have our own cheat sheets for Procrastination. Drop a line in the comments below with yours.

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