Procrastination is an odd feeling. We feel it all the time; I am feeling it as sit here looking at the blinking cursor. I almost didn’t write this.
I believe one of the reasons we procrastinate is due to a safety mechanism in our brain that attempts to protect us against failure. There’s no failure without first an attempt at something, a shot at goal. The best way to trick ourselves into thinking we’ve removed all risk of failure is to avoid all doing of any kind. I say trick because inaction, in of itself, can lead to failure.
Procrastination left unchecked convinces us we should plan, strategize, check email, sharpen our tools, shop online. There’s a near-zero risk of failure in any of those activities, only satisfying endorphins.
Have you noticed how planning a vacation feels great? It feels almost as grand as actually going on the trip? A rush of euphoria is palpable as soon as you book the flights. The anticipation of the upcoming voyage is intoxicating. Our brains are capable of tricking us into feeling nearly as much satisfaction from the expectation of an event as the event itself.
Procrastination is an evolved mechanism, and it works flawlessly. We feel an immediate sense of accomplishment when we plan for things we want to achieve — despite the lack of actual process — we get a reward, instantly. Perhaps this is meant to help spring us towards action, but more often than not, we fall short. Tell a friend about your plans, and now you’ve just multiplied that rewarding feeling, zero accomplished. For more on keeping your goals to yourself and the effect this may have on progress, Derek Sivers’s talks about just that.
What’s one to do? Start, take the first step, write the crappy first draft. Stop fidgeting with your editor, your tools, your pencil, your chisel, and get going. Easier said than done; I know this too well.
Fears, doubts, and insecurities will always be there, nagging at you. Momentum is a hell of a thing, leverage it to your advantage. One step leads to the second, third, fourth. Once you get moving, keep going, it’s only a matter of time before you are going faster, longer, wiser.
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