Master Procrastinator Shares Tips To Beat Procrastination
We all procrastinate, at least to some degree. Some of us procrastinate less, some of us more. Tim Urban, the owner of the Wait But Why blog shares what really goes on in the human mind and his life-long battle with procrastination in a hilarious and engaging TED talk that doesn’t hold back any punches about how we all are procrastinators.
The three main characters in our minds
Urban’s idea about how to beat procrastination is focused on understanding what we are thinking of in face of tasks and deadlines. So he introduces three “main” characters existing in our minds.
The rational decision-maker focuses on making rational decisions that help us get work done, be productive and help us grow and achieve goals.
The instant gratification monkey is all about “easy and fun”, basically anything other than the tough work.
The panic monster will be sleeping most of the time until… a deadline. Then he wakes up, panics and makes sure the other characters (especially the monkey) notices the deadline.
Of course, ideally, we want our rational decision-maker to be strong enough to dominate the monkey. Because if the monkey is more dominant, we would end up procrastinating and be on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and everything else except our work. Unless, of course, our work is closely related to those.
Two types of procrastination
The panic monster, to Urban, is something like a guardian angel because it is constantly keeping track of the deadline, although a bit inefficient because it only wakes up when it’s dangerously close to the deadline. These are what Urban calls the short-term procrastinations, these are confined to a timeline and disappears once the task is done, or not done by the deadline.
But there are times where the panic monster does not wake up at all — when there is no clear or apparent deadline. For example, maintaining one’s health, working on a relationship or getting out of one that isn’t working, building one’s career, or doing that thing you’ve always wanted but never started on.
These are long-term procrastinations, “much less visible and much less talked about” and are usually the cause of immense unhappiness, regrets, and frustration. The reason for this is not exactly because dreams can’t be achieved, sometimes it’s because the chase towards the dreams was not even started.
We are all guilty of both types of procrastinations
Let’s face it. Whether we are successful or unaccomplished, we all experienced the two types of procrastinations Urban mentioned. There is always something that we ought to do but just somehow not done yet, big or small.
Some of us deal with the instant gratification monkey in our minds better than others, maybe because our panic monster is attuned to panic way before the deadline. But Urban says that it gets really tricky when the deadlines aren’t clearly in sight — the panic monster is only sensitive to deadlines.
It’s hard, but we have to set deadlines for everything in our lives if not getting things done will be a futile battle against the instant gratification monkey. It is important to feed the monkey, we all have our needs for leisure and down time from work. No one else is responsible for our rational decision-maker guy except ourselves.
In a separate blog post on Wait But Why, Urban shares some life hacks to deal with procrastination. He goes into deep details about how to go about beating procrastination (ironic for a master procrastinator like himself) but very quickly, here are the three key tips.
1. Make active choices in everything. This might seem very simple but most of us are reactors and we tend to react only when it’s almost too late or worse, way too late. By making active choices, you are taking the initiative to do something for your own life (hopefully).
2. Devise tactics to fight off procrastination or instant gratification. Whenever the monkey tries to create havoc, use these tactics. Some examples Urban wrote include creating or improving your panic monster to wake up way before deadlines; turning off your phone or WiFi; and many more.
3. Aim for slow and steady progress. When we want to start something big, the mere thought of it will make us procrastinate. Houses are built a brick at a time, just like dreams. Procrastination can only be beaten a step at a time too, start small and let it grow big.
Ending quote from Tim Urban’s blog
“Because defeating procrastination is the same thing as gaining control over your own life. So much of what makes people happy or unhappy… is severely affected by procrastination. So it’s worthy of being taken dead seriously, and the time to start improving is now.”
*Key points in this article were taken from a TED talk in March 2016 by Tim Urban and his blog, Wait But Why.