As a young person, I have been fighting an elephant for a better part of my life. I have also struggled with delay and avoidance of things that really matter. ‘I will do it later’ is what I always tell myself and move on. Procrastination is like a ‘chase me’ game, one that will take you down. It has a major impact on our productivity and success. Have you ever procrastinated until you started wondering if your village-mates are on your case? I have procrastinated on very important matters, from acting on my goals to applying for jobs among others. This has practically caused a lot of damage in my life. It has left me jobless, broke, lost weight and emotionally unstable. I know most of you can resonate with me.
Last year, I got a wake-up call and decided to do my research on procrastination. I needed to understand what it is and how it can be avoided. I’m going to briefly take you through procrastination and share practical actions to take against it.
The truth is, the present self cannot be motivated by future rewards and so we must find ways to move the future rewards into the present.
Studies have shown that we have two selves. The present self and the future self. The future self can set goals and envision how the future will look like. However, it is the work of the present self to act on the goals. Let’s say you are planning a summer vacation this year. You’d want a bikini body, right? That means you’ve to start working on it right away. Well, that’s what your future self wants. So how will you attain that? Your present self will have to consistently exercise and diet. Since the benefits of exercising are far away (weeks or months away) the present self will continue asking for all kinds of junk foods. This is because our present self is conditioned to value immediate rewards than long term. The truth is, the present self cannot be motivated by future rewards and so we must find ways to move the future rewards into the present.
I decided to come up with ways to help myself fight the elephant in the room by.
- Habit Stacking
I love listening to music and I can choose it over exercising. I thought to myself, how about listening to music while exercising? Sounds like a deal, right? I can comfortably exercise and listen to my music as well.
- Rewarding Myself
I have developed a habit of rewarding myself after doing an activity that I procrastinate about. Let’s say I’m supposed to do an article and I also have a very interesting movie to watch. The movie acts as a motivation and a reward after accomplishing my task. After I’m done with my article, I can comfortably watch my movie without feeling guilty.
- Having Immediate Consequences for Procrastination
Create ways that will make you pay for procrastination sooner enough. For example, if you procrastinate about going to the gym, make sure you pay your subscription for the whole month such that if you fail to go your money will be wasted. There are also other forms of punishment, try what works for you. The idea is to have a consequence that happens if the planned action is not performed.
- Breaking the Task into Small Bits
If a have a two-thousand-word article to write, I divide it into small bits and choose to do like two fifty words after every 3 hours. Whatever it is, breaking it into small bits is more achievable and easier to face. Once you start finishing becomes easy and the same momentum will carry you unto the next one.
If we want to stop procrastinating, we must train our present self to get started and trust that motivation and momentum will come as we go on. The difficult part of starting a task is actually starting it. Once it’s started everything else flows. The other thing is prioritizing. Most of the time we procrastinate because we do not have a clear list of what to do. Making a list of the most important things according to how important they are works better. Regardless of the method you follow, make sure you get started. With determination and consistency, this devil will be kicked out pretty soon.
Shalom Musyoka, Cohort 8.