How NASA Overcomes Procrastination
One of the hardest things to do when accomplishing anything is remaining consistent.
It’s not something anyone teaches us, but instead expects from us.
Doing something over and over again is something that we are good at physically, but not mentally.
Our natural tendency is to overthink anything because that is what our brains have evolved to in order to survive.
Any new habit we do build, our brain tries to keep because change equals complexity which equals death.
So naturally, we are animals defined by emotion.
When we are fit into rigid systems, we have a tendency to subconsciously rebel in order to survive.
Our brains are happiest when it does nothing.
Specifically, procrastination comes from a conditioning of the mind over many years.
You try to accomplish a goal but then get sidetracked.
Once you get back on track, the original goal does not fit the new reality thus giving the sense of failure.
This process is repeated until the action is taken out and you no longer feel the need to try.
“Yeah, I’ll get to it when I have X.”
You condition your habits by your terminology. When you say I need X to give Y, this places you in a subservient role, which leads to non-action.
You find yourself backing down from your own convictions. You’ll notice clutter starts to pile up because instead of yes or no, you give maybes.
You get in the habit of not making clear, concise, decisions.
According to Harvard Scholar and philosopher, William James, the solution to procrastination is simple:
“Do something everyday for no other reason than you would rather not do it at all”
Basically, you could just as easily replace the habit of procrastination with the habit of action. Meaning, if you’re going to do nothing, you can do the nothing of choosing action because they both have the same value (i.e. 1=1)
As soon as you catch yourself thinking “Well, I won’t do that now, I’ll do it later” you must immediately do whatever it is you’re procrastinating about. This will create a habit of acting instead of doing nothing.
According to consultant and author Alan Lakein, there are two time management techniques to overcome procrastination.
Swiss-cheesing — this sounds like doing drugs, but what it means is breaking the macro purpose into a series of micro tasks and doing them in quick segments.
Unscheduling — if you analyze the week, you can actually see just how much time goes to non-vital activities. Take the full free time in a week and use it.
THE 3 TYPES OF PROCRASTINATORS
Fear of Failure — Usually, in their past, they may have already achieved some level of success in some area.
Because of this success, they reach such a high standard that they live in constant fear of not being able to meet these standards.
They cripple their own efforts by working less at their own capacity. They do this because they never have to be challenged and never have to experience failure.
They avoid testing themselves to the highest standard to avoid the truth of discovering their own abilities.
They could be really bad or really good at something, but they don’t want to find out.
They also flirt on the edge of catastrophe by pushing things back until the last minute, but can pull themselves out at the last second.
If the performance is good, they can celebrate for performing in clutch time. If it was bad, that person can say “ I had no time, what did you expect?” The real test, of what could be done with actual time, has never been faced.
Fear of Success — These people aren’t really afraid of success, they are just afraid of standing out of the crowd.
They are introverts that brought up ideas in meetings or school and raised their hands, only to be ignored or shot down.
They look at their external environment, see the result of their actions, and determine that THEY are the common problem and it’s best to not to rock the boat.
What happens is the internal conflict one feels because on one hand, they want success, which requires standing out.
On the other hand, this goes against their entire model of their psychology and behavioral patterns.
When met with time, decision, and action, these two conflicts equal equal each other out and results in nothing (1–1=0)
Over time, they are afraid that success OR failure can lead to some kind of catastrophe that will ruin their model of consistency. All of this is done in the mind before anything is actually accomplished.
Fear of Authority — These people procrastinate to have a sense of control. It’s a natural defense mechanism employed to control any form of authority.
Usually, this need for control stems from a deep fear of losing one’s own identity. By losing your own identity, this person would equate that to death itself.
HOW TO DEVELOP AN OBSESSION THAT MAKES YOU WORK DAY AND NIGHT
In the Code of Hammurabi — it says:
“If you grew up with a sense of apathy and bad habits, then your parents gave you apathy and bad habits.”
Meaning, you are a product of your environment. You can change this by modeling other people.
According to William James, if you wish to attain something, simply act as if you already have it and you will. To be like your mentor — act like them.
The brain and human nervous system is unable to distinguish reality from vivid imagination. It can’t decipher the difference between reality and what you think.
If you think and act like your mentor, you become them. (HINT: this is a good way to find your audience.)
Simply roleplay your mentor like you roleplayed a superhero when you were a kid.
Through imitation, you become that person instantly. (HINT: This is a GREAT way to tackle failures or setbacks.)
A good example of this is in the story of Bunker Bean written by Harry Leon Wilson which was adapted into a movie in the 1930’s.
A man has everything go wrong in his life since birth and so he decides to see a fortune teller.
The fortune teller says that he is the reincarnation of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The man now thinks he’s a classical ruler and becomes a successful leader.
He goes back to the fortune teller after his success only for the fortune teller to tell him she was lying.
He is crushed, but then learns the lesson that you are what you think.
If you are unsure of what you actually want to do, try a thought experiment called the genie experiment.
Imagine that you are walking doing a sandy beach, all alone, and listening to the waves. As the waves hit the shore, you come across a lamp.
You decide to pick up the lamp and a genie comes out and says:
“Thank you for releasing me. As custom of my people, I will grant you 5 wishes to the best of my ability.”
What would your 5 wishes be?
The brain automatically tells you what it thinks is most important just by doing this exercise alone.
Since the brain communicates in images, it will form visual and sensory images that affect our mind, body, and behavior.
Our behavior is governed by images of achievement (the blueprint of achieving a goal), which become the source of emotional fuel for a disciplined individual.
To put it simply, we set bad goals.
Think of the big picture. Something that will light a fire under your ass.
Then, take the overall purpose statement and get more specific. It must include something result oriented, or what you get out of it, must be time specific, and measurable (X criterion when the goal is complete).
The more detailed and specific your vision is, the more emotion it will conjure up. The more often you think of your vision, the more drive and sustaining power you will have behind you.
This is what everyone means when they say “You just need to be more motivated” but they don’t know how to say it correctly. So, we go, “I need to be more motivated, let me watch some motivational youtube videos”.
In reality, we have to be more specific in what we want. The clearer we become, the more results we have, the more results we have, the more success we see, the more success we see, the more motivated we become.
HOW NASA PUT A MAN ON THE MOON
If we look at what NASA did from an organizational standpoint to put a man on the moon., we can model them. Here is what they did.
– Wrote out a grand amazing objective
– Took the objective and broke it down into major objectives
– Took the major objectives and broke them down into minor objectives
– Put all of the objectives into the correct order
– Created a flowchart based on this data
– Estimated the time each activity would take to complete
– Determined the most crucial path for each (the bottom line) of each activity
– Assigned a specific calendar date to each activity
– Sat in a room and talked to each other in the past tense describing this plan and explained it to each other in common words
– Recorded the basic conversation on tape
– Ignored all of the recorded tape EXCEPT for the first step
– Gave it to their engineers and astronauts for training for them to listen to while doing the task
– Induced what’s called time-quickening which alters the mind’s perception of time.
– Once the first task was completed, they moved to the second task.
The human mind has the ability to alter the perception of time (such as dreaming). It’s called time-quickening or some people call it being in the zone.
You can actually trigger the sensation that time has stopped by being involved in an activity with no interruptions for a significant period of time.
To do the last step, they would do the following to trick the engineers and astronauts into working non-stop.
To time-quicken, you:
– Create or find a work environment that is free of distractions
– Focus on one task a time and don’t move forward until that task is complete
– Work uninterruptedly until the task is complete
– Hide any forms of clocks
– Don’t stop to see how much you’ve accomplished. Just go.
– If you become fatigued, take a 5 minutes break, and then get back to it.
And before you know it, within 10 years, man landed on the moon, something which seemed impossible at the time.
Readers, what are some ways you use to battle procrastination? Let us know in the comments below.
William Tait runs HowToBeAMusicSuccess.com a site that teaches musicians marketing, sales, and psychology.