Just one more hour
Okay, 5 minutes
Squeeze in a power nap
Oh shoot! I need to check my email
Wait! What’s on the news?
Honestly, I don’t feel like doing anything
I doubt anyone will buy the idea
Someone else will do it if I don’t, so…
I have enough time
I don’t think it’s good enough yet
Let me do something else, I’ll get back to this later when I’m free
Does it all sound familiar? Putting off tasks we consider “hard at that moment” for a later time and focusing on those we consider easy or pleasurable..
Let’s talk about procrastination. It’s a broad topic so I’d narrow it down to procrastination in relation to those goals you’re “horror-struck” of because your minions have been rewiring your brain with lies.
A little story worth sharing
I knew a 16year old girl with dreams who loved to write. Her journal gave me a glimpse of her dreams. They were Big Hairy and Audacious Goals (only AIESECers will get this) she wanted to accomplish. Dreaming it was the sweet part; putting the sweetness into the action was the problem. Procrastination was her go-to solution for her fears. Stepping out of her comfort zone was a problem so she put off tasks for a later time reassuring herself that she had enough time. That girl was me. Looking back now all i feel is guilt. I can boldly tell you now that the reason I never accomplished any of those goals was because those were the unrealistic dreams of a 16year old but that’ll be a front. Truth is, I couldn’t bring myself to believe in me enough to work on them. So I always put them off to do things I considered less scary and in my comfort zone. You dig yeah?
So let’s save you the trouble of looking back with guilt. Mine’s warning enough for you. Here’s an interesting scientific discovery I made from an article I read about The Science Behind Procrastination
The prefrontal cortex is a newer and weaker portion of the brain. It’s what allows you to integrate information and make decisions. This is the part of the brain that separates humans from animals, who are just controlled by stimulus. The prefrontal cortex, located immediately behind the forehead (where we tap when we’re trying to think), gets the job done. But there’s nothing automatic about its function. You must kick it into gear (“I have to sit down and write this book report!”). And the moment you’re not consciously engaged in a task, your limbic system takes over. You give in to what feels good—you procrastinate.
Breath!!! you’re normal. As you’ve read above, your prefrontal cortex controls procrastination.
Now here’s what I have to say:
The Negativity Committee
There’s a negativity committee that meets inside your head to deliberate on life issues when you PERMIT IT TO. Notice the words in bold, it means they answer to you not the other way round. This committee functions well when you nurse negative thoughts like “I’m not good enough”, “I’m scared of failing”, ” Ethan and I are agemates and he has achieved more than I have” and so on. The committee delights in such thoughts and what they do is come up with a gazillion ways to amplify them and you start believing your own lie.
I have a question for you: What/whose scale did you use to determine that you’re not good enough?
Read this carefully :
“You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.”
Revelations 4:11 (NLT)
So if everything He created pleased him, don’t you think you’re calling God a liar by believing you’re not good enough?
Then we have those “self-pity type of feelings” like “I’m not good enough”, “I failed the first time I tried so it’s not for me”… Awwww, I know I’m supposed to feel all sorry and sad for you but I just can’t. They’re all just lies you tell yourself to help you sleep well at night, then those excellent at ensconsing self-pity with statements like “I’m not in the mood” ,”I don’t care”. Both groups should know that: Feelings are like waves in the ocean, we can’t stop them from coming but we can choose which ones to surf. For a special category of people, myself included who say “I don’t feel like doing anything today so I’ll make it my lazy day”. You only deserve a lazy day when you’ve achieved a certain milestone. If you’ve spent your time having lazy days then you need to be spanked.
A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there, sit back, take it easy—do you know what comes next?
Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life, poverty your permanent houseguest!
Proverbs 6:10-11 (MSG)
If the keystone of our inept attempt to execute tasks is based solely on feelings, no-one would’ve achieved anything. I’m told when you don’t “feel” like praying is when you should pray more. For writers I’ve read that sitting around waiting for your writer’s block to fade is time mismanagement. You’re allowed to call in sick at work but i don’t think you can tell your boss “I don’t feel like coming to work today”. Your thoughts manifest into actions so be careful which ones you dwell on.
What have I achieved this year?
One thing I’ve done so well this year is… nothing. I’m just kidding I’ve procrastinated this year like my life depends on it. Why? I accepted and swallowed every thought that jogged through my mind. Guess what? I’ve just been on a loooong thing this entire time.
I’ve pushed really important tasks because I’m scared of either failure or rejection, I’m not in the mood, I don’t think I’m good enough, nobody cares, someone else should do it, just a little more sleep, I’m tired, I feel lazy. At the end of the month, my monthly review divulges that I’ve achieved half of my goals for that month meaning the other half has to be carried over to the next month.
This doesn’t mean I aim to high so I have to reduce my standards. You know, cut my coat according to my material as my friend will say. What it sadly uncloaks is the times I’d have spent working on a lot of those goals, I used instead to powwow with the negativity committee in my head.
The truth is…
I appreciate a lot of people whose lives look all put together. The ones that look like “they’ve got their shit together” on social media and you’re here feeling all sorry for yourself. When they come out to talk about their struggles, makes me feel okay. Like finally, I’m not the only one with the struggle.
You also look all put together and someone out there’s looking at you wishing they had your life and you’re here struggling with different life’s issues. It’s normal to talk about them with someone you trust: yourself, God, family or a friend. Don’t sit there and allow the “spirit of packaging slay you”. We all need some bit of saving even if you nix it.
If you keep waiting for the world’s approval of your ideas you’d never achieve anything. The world doesn’t care. Sometimes, it takes just you to believe in you even when everyone thinks you’re crazy. I always say that if you’re crazy enough to think it you should be crazy enough to believe it and make it work. Don’t wait for the genie to grant you the wish of “getting the world’s approval”. You’ll croak while waiting.
My Major Advice: Stay Consistent
Above all, consistency is key. The problem faced with this generation is we want rapid results, rapid money (ponzi schemes are thriving thanks to this), rapid everything. Life on the fast lane. Patience is long gone.
Learning is a process. If you consistently work on those goals daily, you’d learn everything you need to learn that you didn’t know when you started. A few people will regard your diligence but when your goals finally actualize, you look like an overnight success.
Think of people like Zuckerberg, Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), Kevin Hart, Oprah just to mention a few, you know their success stories but have you ever taken time to dig into their lives? You’d understand that they all had one thing in common: They were clueless at the beginning, made a lot of mistakes, learned from them, and continued working on themselves and their goals. That’s consistency to me. Don’t be trapped by destination addiction that you forget to enjoy the journey. Contrary to popular belief, the journey is more fulfilling than the destination.
The Seinfield Strategy
James Clear wrote about this How to Stop Procrastinating on Your Goals by Using the “Seinfeld Strategy” which got me enthralled.
The strategy simply put is: Don’t break the chain
Let me explain:
The way to get better at doing what scares you is to make it a daily task. Choose a task that is simple enough to be sustainable and make your actions meaningful enough to make the difference.
Get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. Then get a big red magic marker. For each day you complete a task, put a big red X over that day.
After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.
According to James Clear, The Seinfeld Strategy works because it helps to take the focus off of each individual performance and puts the emphasis on the process instead. It’s not about how you feel, how inspired you are, or how brilliant your work is that day. Instead, it’s just about “not breaking the chain.”
Next time, before you resort to procrastination as an escape route from working on your goals, remember that it’s a taboo from here on to break the chain.
What other ways/strategies would you recommend in tackling procrastination?