How to stop procrastinating?
The root cause of all your actions
The key to anything is asking “why”. Why are you procrastinating? Different people have different reasons. Finding it is the only way you can find a solution.
What is Procrastination?
Its not an act. Its not inaction either.
Procrastination is an indication, a symptom of something deep that drives us.
Procrastination is an amazing way to understand ourselves, not something to be swept under the rug.
Procrastination in a way tells you who you are.
Let me explain.
What do you procrastinate?
Its so easy to blame ourselves as procrastinators (as if its a role) and see ourselves as pushing everything that “needs” to be done. But have you ever thought about what you usually procrastinate on? What kind of work is pushed away by you? Is there a pattern in it?
For example I procrastinate heavily on admin activities such as paying a bill. Or procrastinate on learning skills like public speaking even though I know its “important” for me in the long term.
And do what?
I push away things to do something that would create me a lot of value, right now. It could be entertainment. Or it could be learning something new. Or just sleeping and taking all the rest I need.
I procrastinate on anything that I do not see immediate value in.
What is “Value” to you?
The key is to realize how important something is to you. We all derive happiness from four essential things — significant contribution, intellectual growth, collaboration and money and relationships. I derive more happiness from contribution and growth and collaboration. Find yours. Here lies the key to “ happiness”, the thing that drives all our actions.
Image source: inspirationisjustapo on DeviantArt
What’s your priorities?
Your ability see “value” in your actions drives your priorities.
I forget about things which do not come under my priority list. What is not my priority I procrastinate.
We can focus on only 2–3 priorities at any point of time. And many of our efforts and most of our time will go into these priorities giving very less mind space for anything else.
The most important question
Why? Why should I do something. We keep asking ourselves. Our focus, action is all around this question. Are you going towards something? Is there is a big ideal in your life? Russell L. Ackoff in the book Art of Problem Solving talks about how one big goal that is un-achievable is a necessity for our growth.
Like for example “solving hunger” in the world could be an ideal. Or “inventing a new solution for cancer”. Or even “touch a million lives through my actions”. Now you start somewhere and identify all actions that would take you towards it. Your mind automatically identifies activities that are valuable and activities that are not.
Its important that the goal is close to your heart, things you believe in, stuff that moves you deeply.
One biggest challenge is bringing urgency to your actions. If something is too long term, how do you get that urgency to do it now? How do you relate a long term goal with your actions today?
Relevance is critical. We are in a society we always have a million things to do. We are exposed to more travel opportunities than our parent were. We are exposed to more things to accomplish in life than ever before. We all have a bucket list of things to do all the time. And we have only so much time between family and job and sleeping and driving. And we live only 100 years (at max).
Internet of today has made us feel like we are bad in what we do, that we are not going fast enough, that we are not doing enough in our professional and personal lives. How many of us have at least 100 articles to read in our book marks all the time?
How do you keep learning coding or even martial arts if it has no relevance to your current life, goals or value?
One overarching thing
I can do only 1 or max 2 things well in a day. For that matter I focus on only one overarching thing at any point of my life. A year back it was coding. A few months back it was writing . Now its consumers. And then I act on things where there is a strong relation between the activity and value creation and my goals.
Key is to have an overarching goal. You should realize what is important for your happiness to identify that goal. You then identify the essence for achieving the goal. For example the essence to building something that people use is consumer obsession. You should be obsessed with what you want your customers to become all the time. Essence for my writing is genuineness, documentation and pain. Essence for my life is process, growth and value.
You do not chase an activity or task to be completed. You chase an essence. You do not chase the task of reading something. You should chase the essence of what reading is about — getting knowledge. You should focus on getting as much knowledge and insights as possible.
Action — Value
So for you to focus and do something with as much impact as possible you have to relate the activity to what value it creates to your life and how the value is important to you.
A travel could be just going to a place. Or it could be to understand the place and share the story with others. It could be showing a piece of culture to others who do not have the opportunity to go there. Identify an aspect of an activity that inspires you. That would drive your action better than killing yourself for not doing something.
We always visualize before doing an activity. Say you want to go somewhere, you think for a moment how that experience will be like. If the visualization is not stimulating enough you will not act.
If a visualization of you reading a book is not inspiring then your intention to buy and read it becomes weak. Some books I read from start to end so fast because I am convinced that every page I read is adding value, will impact my actions and that I can take the learning and improve my life.
Life is about improvement.We all think of going to the next level. And we do anything that promises us to do that. This is what big brands and companies understand about human mind. And that’s exactly what they use in designing their products and advertisements.
What big leaders, visionaries and story tellers do? They would connect your action to a bigger goal. For example Gandhi said that resistance against British need not be violent. It can be as small as refusing to wear western clothes. A simple action that transformed ordinary people into freedom fighters.
Find a simple action that would start you on the path of becoming something you always aspire to. Your activity is not just an action, its a gateway to a bigger value. Its not about your travelling somewhere, its about you understanding people there so that you can build something that would create value for every one.
An important part of doing something is believing that you can achieve it. If you have a belief that no matter what you do, you cannot accomplish the results, there is no way you would choose to do something. You will keep giving lame excuses to yourself for not doing it.
The only way
For you to act on anything — the actions should be relevant to your goals. The goals should be of great value to your life. Your life’s essence should be about stuff that i close to your heart. You should believe that your actions will make a difference. Your actions should be contributing to your growth.
That ‘s the only way you stop procrastinating and start acting. Not only start acting but continue to act with consistency, because that is the only way to impact.
You should not really focus on procrastination per se. You should observe the reasons you give yourself for procrastination. Then test those beliefs.
However difficult something may be, there is always some one who has done that before. How could they do it? Why not you?
Procrastination is not just about an act. Overcoming procrastination is not about your ability to do anything you want.
Overcoming procrastination means you understand what’s important to you, what’s your goal in life, and how what you do now would lead you on to that.
Procrastination seldom accompanies a clear mind. If you know what you are doing, why and how it relates to your happiness, procrastination is not something you have to worry about.