Want to Overcome Procrastination? Start With This Simple Exercise.
What’s the first thing you should do to overcome procrastination?
Should you create some implementation intentions? Should you break big, complex projects into smaller, more actionable steps? Should you just get started somewhere? Should you learn more about the science of procrastination?
While these are all great strategies, they are not where I would start. Instead, I would start by getting clear on my motivation. I would create a strong commitment and form a big enough reason ‘Why’ to fuel my journey ahead.
You see, successful change always starts with a strong commitment. Unless you’re truly committed, motivated, and in it with your whole heart, your efforts will inevitably fall short. If you’ve tried various techniques to beat procrastination in the past, you probably know this.
Most techniques will work if you’re willing to put in the work. But in order to put in the work, you need sufficient fuel and motivation. In other words, you need to first have a strong goal intention – you must have made a deep commitment to the goal and you must really see the value in it. If a goal is valuable enough – if the Why is strong enough – you will make the techniques work. It’s like Nietzsche said, “He who has a strong enough why can bear almost any how.”
So, in today’s article, we’ll figure out your Why and create a strong commitment, thus building a great foundation for overcoming procrastination.
How to Get Ridiculously Motivated
People are motivated by two things: pain and pleasure. We are running away from pain and towards pleasure. It’s as simple as that.
If we want to make a change in our lives, we need to associate massive pain to not changing now, and massive pleasure to changing immediately. Not changing should feel painful; changing should feel pleasurable.
To strengthen our goal intention of overcoming procrastination, we need to become painfully aware of the negative effects of procrastination AND we need to become aware of the positive effects of acting in a timely fashion. Simple, huh?
We make the negative behavior more painful and the positive behavior more pleasurable. The result? We will want to run away from the negative behavior and run towards the positive behavior. In other words, we will feel motivated to pursue the positive behavior – in our case, we will feel motivated to stop procrastinating and start acting in a timely fashion.
Getting Clear on Your Why
Getting motivated and committed to overcoming procrastination is as simple as filling out the table following below. It’s a simple three-step process.
First, create a list of tasks, projects, actions, or goals you procrastinate on. This list may include things like finishing a work project, creating a daily meditation practice, following a regular exercise regimen, getting rid of unnecessary clutter in your home, and so on.
Second, next to each thing you’re procrastinating on, write down how your procrastination is affecting you in terms of your health, happiness, relationships, finances, general life satisfaction, and so on. This is designed to show you the pain procrastination is already causing you in your life. Remember, the goal is to associate as much pain with procrastination as possible, resulting in lots of motivation to move away from this dreadful habit.
You can use any of the following questions to become aware of the negative effects of procrastination: What is this currently costing you? What will it cost you in the future if you keep procrastinating on this? What has it cost you in the past? What is it costing the people you love?
Third, next to each thing you’re procrastinating on, write down how acting on the thing in a timely fashion will benefit you in terms of your health, happiness, relationships, finances, general life satisfaction, and so on. This will help you recognize just how beneficial doing the thing will be, making it more pleasurable. In other words, you will want to move towards it.
You can use any of the following questions to become aware of the positive effects of acting in a timely fashion: If you stop putting this thing off and do it now, how will you feel? How will your life be? What will you gain? What will it mean for the people you love? How does it help you achieve your future goals? How does it connect with your values?
Tasks, Projects, Actions, Goals
Costs associated with procrastination
Benefits of acting in a timely fashion
This exercise accomplishes two things:
- It will increase the pain associated with procrastination, making you want to move away from it
- It will increase the pleasure associated with acting in a timely fashion, making you want to move towards completing tasks on time
To put it in simpler terms: if you take time to do this exercise, you’ll create a highly motivating Why and a strong commitment to overcoming procrastination.
Once you have that strong commitment, you’re much more likely to act in a timely manner.
P.S. Want More Strategies to Overcome Procrastination? Once you're truly committed to change, you can start learning and applying some more specific tactics.
If you want to learn the exact strategies I personally use, you can download our new free guide, 33 Proven Tactics to Procrastinate Less and Get More Done. As the title suggests, the guide lays out over thirty research-backed strategies to procrastinate less.
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==> 33 Proven Tactics to Procrastinate Less and Get More Done
Love that Nils. Pain and pleasures can be great motivators. Personally, I like to see motivation as composed of the following elements:
1. Pain – the motivation to move away from something (a Job we hate etc.)
2. Pleasure – what we want more in our life (create more freedom etc.)
3. Ego – Our desire to be loved, to be famous, to make our parents proud of us etc. (I don’t think that should be the main motivator though)
4. Habits – What we do consistently every day. Our daily habits creates momentum and help us remain motivated. Over the long term, simple daily habits like meditation, goal setting or exercising can lead to massive improvements.
5. Love – This is our “why”. The reason behind everything we do and is bigger than ourselves. It’s our desire to help and contribute to the world.
I see love and daily habits as the structure that ensures we stay motivated in the long term, while I see pain, pleasure and ego more as quick fixes thats give us a boost when we need it (when we’re tired after work etc.)
What do you think?
That’s interesting, man! I especially like the Ego part because that definitely plays a big role in motivation. I would probably put ego and love somewhere into the buckets of pain and pleasure. A desire to be loved can either come from pain or pleasure. If I don’t get the love I need that’s painful and may urge me to do something to relieve that pain. I may want to run towards getting more appreciation and love from others – aka towards pleasure.
I don’t know exactly how they fit together, but I see where you’re going with this. Ego, love, pain, and pleasure definitely all play a big role in motivation – whether they’re quick fixes or long-term.
As far as the habits go, it kinda depends what you understand under habits? Do you mean habitual ways of thinking or acting in the world? Or do you mean habits like daily exercise, cold showers, or meditation?
Nice article! Thanks to the author.