It’s unrealized dreams. It’s delayed goals. It’s dying with a whole lot of wisdom inside of you that never gets released.
Procrastination in some forms can be valuable. I procrastinate before I write because it helps me lean into the hard task ahead.
But good procrastination like this is rare.
Most of us drown in procrastination.
Here are a few practical strategies I’ve learned for dealing with it, that you can implement in the next 5 minutes (without a productivity degree).
Who do you think you are? A genius that can predict the future?
Procrastination is the deadly close cousin of a fear of failure.
We overthink our goals because we’re worried we might fail. So we create infinite Plan Bs and try to cap the downside — and overthink what might happen. Listen to how crazy this is…
We worry about failure and try to predict if it’ll happen through overthinking. That delusion is basically telling ourselves that we’re fortunetellers and can predict the future with enough thinking.
Failure can’t be predicted. It can only be lived.
Here’s the paradox: you’re more likely to fail by overthinking (as a form of procrastination) than you are of taking action and having things go against you. Failure equals learning. Never starting equals delusion.
Delusional people are the ones to be afraid of. Don’t become one.
Whatever the worst-case scenario is, you’ll be fine. “Thinking about it” doesn’t make it easier. It doesn’t stop failure. So quit trying.
Your procrastination is delayed wealth — Sales Notepad
Following obsession instead of “interest”
Productivity pisses me off.
Most of us are trying to create habits and be disciplined with goals that are nothing more than a pain in our gorgeous asses.
“Interests” are lukewarm activities.
Being interested is a snoozefest. Forcing yourself to do stuff to tick boxes on some ridiculous productivity list is a clown show. The answer to procrastination is to follow obsession.
- What can you *not* think about?
- What do you love to do that requires zero reminders or motivation?
For me, it’s writing. I don’t need a pomodoro clock or a $5000 an hour productivity coach to make me hit keys on my keyboard. I’d do this sh*t if I had 5 days to live or was stuck in a jail cell with nothing but a laptop.
I’m not interested in writing. No. I can’t stop thinking about it.
My wife wishes I didn’t care about it so much. But I do. It’s my life. It’s everything. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing. And I’ll never work a piss-weak job again because of it.
That’s what obsession looks like. It screams in your face. It spanks your ass.
Make the task 80% smaller
That’s what the productivity gurus tell you to do before you do your morning poo. They miss one big insight: most of us are trying to start our day by wrestling a crocodile and trying to defeat it at 6 AM.
It’s bloody hard.
The solution I’ve found is to take a big task or project and decrease the size by 80%. Here’s an example.
I need to do my taxes. CBF. Spreadsheets. Calculations. Accounting software. Dealing with accountants who put me to sleep. I just can’t do it.
So I didn’t.
I simply did one small task. I emailed my accountant my investment returns for last financial year. That’s all. In a week I’ll send him the next piece of the tax return puzzle. We’ll continue like that for a few months until this big task is nearly done.
It’s easier to start small than it is to start big.
Small tasks can be started right away, and every big project is made up of dozens of small tasks. So pick one small task, complete it, then move to the next one.
Eventually you’ll have a productivity winning streak that’ll destroy procrastination.
Nuke the obvious distractions
Flow states don’t happen with notifications turned on.
Phones don’t create flow states either. Notifications are other people’s priorities that ping your brain to death until you forget your own.
There’s no way to beat procrastination without switching off notifications. Sorry. Just do it, like Nike said.
A faster way to get started
Many of us, me included, spend much of the morning getting ready to do the work. We prepare our environment, follow a set list of rituals, get in the mood, etc.
A no-brainer reframe is to just start working.
Skip all the pre-work. Confront the beast and do the work first. The momentum you get from executing is far more powerful than trying to get in the right mood.
The right mood begins with action.
Energy management over time management
Screw time management. We all suck at it.
I don’t manage my time because I’m not a magician and have no clue how long each task will take. As Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion.”
The universe is against you, amigo.
I manage my energy instead. I put energy-draining tasks at the end of the day, like calling the local government. I put high-energy tasks, like writing, at the start of my day when I have the most energy.
If I’m not feeling high energy, then instead of battling through, I go for a walk to re-energize. After I do a Zoom call I’m the most drained. If I do back-to-back Zoom calls I hit zero, fast.
Knowing how your energy works is far more powerful than getting good at scheduling stuff in your calendar that you think you have time for.
Over time I’ve learned to do more energy-giving tasks, and delete energy-nuking tasks (like meetings).
Think about your energy more than time. One is easy to calculate, the other is impossible to predict.
Take brain-dead tasks and give them to this person
Another reason we procrastinate is because we’re doing tasks we should have stopped doing 5 years ago.
Data entry is one. Answering every email is another. Managing a calendar is another one.
Simple tasks can be outsourced to this person: a virtual assistant.
You’ll never reach your potential if you try to do everything. Find the tasks you enjoy doing that create energy, and slowly outsource the rest.
The modern day pandem!c no one talks about
We have an overinformation crisis.
People think a lack of information is their problem. But the silent pandem!c is really a lack of action.
- Reading books is often procrastination.
2. Doing more courses is often procrastination.
3. Asking mentors for help is often procrastination.
Zach Progob says, “Getting ten reps beats learning ten steps.” I agree. Beat procrastination with more action.
This way of putting it from Naval Ravikant is so potent you may pass out:
Most of what we think we’re doing when we’re asking for help, when we’re going to seminars, when we’re watching YouTube videos…we’re just procrastinating. We’re not really serious. When you’re serious, you just do it.
Let’s finish here
Procrastination can be solved.
Take a 10,00-foot view of your day’s work and apply the above frameworks to it. If you’ve got the right strategy in place, you should be able to wake up and start work without much delay.
We procrastinate when we do the wrong work. And we avoid taking action when the fear of failure drives our goals and mindset.