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7 Lies You Tell Yourself When You Procrastinate

We all procrastinate. But we don’t like to admit that we’re procrastinating. It hurts our ego. So, we tell ourselves lies to feel better about it. Here are some of those lies.

  1. This new project is more important. When a project gets tough, it’s much easier and more fun to start a new, different project. This is commonly known as “shiny object syndrome.”
  2. This [inconsequential detail] needs adjustment. Three seconds ago, I moved my laptop about 1cm to make sure it was centered on my desk. Before that, I moved a sculpture on the shelf. If there had been a cup of coffee next to me, I probably would have drunk it. When we face The Resistance, our attention diverts to silly details around us.
  3. [Inconsequential critic] won’t like it. We worry that someone won’t like what we create. We forget that it doesn’t really matter. Upsetting people isn’t illegal, and we should be so lucky that anyone notices our work at all.
  4. I’m not good at this. We believe that we can’t improve. We forget that, in order improve, we have to do something badly a few times. Instead of having a growth mindset, we have a fixed mindset.
  5. Some other force will prevent my success. We look for a scapegoat on which to blame our future failure, then use that failure as an excuse for not trying. We fool ourselves into forgetting that The Obstacle is the Way.
  6. I’m doing research when I [watch Netflix]. Sometimes value comes serendipitously from unexpected places. For example, in the Lord of the Rings trilogy we spent the whole day watching, we suddenly find a story to use in our speech. We use these uncommon coincidences to convince ourselves we don’t need to be actively working, or that there’s value in checking Facebook or Twitter.
  7. This other thing will take “just a minute.” We’ll straighten up that sculpture on the shelf, check our email, or do some other “quick” task that will take “just a minute.” Three hours later we awaken from a Facebook-induced coma with 26,548 tabs open.

The bigger the field on which we give our minds to roam, the more wildly our minds will go off course. To tell yourself fewer lies, put up a long, narrow, fenced-in area by building a habit, doing the right work at the right time, and designating unstructured time.


Your ego makes you tell lies to yourself. Ryan Holiday explains why on my podcast. Listen here.

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