Why do I procrastinate?

Over the past few days, I have been doing a fair amount of research on the subject. I wanted to include in my apps articles that users could find interesting and useful about procrastination.

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Capture from my very own ToDo app which among other things, tracks my procrastination habits. I am not doing great.

Contrary to my simple belief that procrastination is just another word for being lazy, there seems to be a whole lot of complexity surrounding procrastination. I read this article on the Washington Post (included below for all users to read — you’re welcome WP for the free advertisement), which I found profoundly interesting and funny. The article talks about the fear or anxiety about an upcoming important task, that leads a person to just focus their attention on something else to get rid of the negative feeling. The article talks about the “instant gratification monkey” which essentially represents the brain shifting focus from what needs to be done to something else like watching YouTube or going on Twitter.

For me, this is very accurate. As I write this, there are other more important things that I should probably be doing. Because I don’t know that I will like the outcome I will choose to put them off until the last possible moment. This was true for me as well with Procras-ToDo, so many times I could be working on the app and decide not to because I am unsure that the result will be something I will like or because I think I might get stuck somewhere in the middle too far to turn back and with no way forward.

Going back to the monkey 😊, the anxiety and fear relief is only momentary. As soon as the video(s) is/are over I feel worse than before. I now have less time until the inevitable deadline to complete the “task” and I’ve wasted a bunch of time on things that will not yield any long-term benefits.

The articles I’ve read also point out something interesting. In one of them, there is a reference to a study that was done where random people were shown future pictures of themselves and asked how they would spend $1000. The people looking at an older photo, would almost always say they would invest the money. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think that by that time it would be too late.

As I was writing this I look over to my left and see the new ink cartridges I order for the printer, they arrived yesterday, and I start opening the box and looking at them…

Back to this…

I try to talk to as many people as possible, well not now with the stuff that’s going on. When I was in college I took a series of elective social psychology courses because I wanted to understand why people would do the things they do, to anticipate to a certain level what someone might do in a given situation. I don’t always work, but occasionally, I am surprised as to how predictable behavior can be. If anything, I think I understand much better, why I do thinks.

In conversation with other people around my age, I find it so bizarre that a lot of them are so reliant on social media to define their lives. They are on FB or Twitter, or Instagram looking at what other people are doing and wishing they could do the same. Even stranger is the desire to broadcast your entire life to what are mostly strangers on social media. Another interesting, what are you doing to get to the level of those people you are following on social media? Besides looking at every post and photo.

I am reading this book by Malcolm Gladwell, “The Tipping Point” (all of his books are quite interesting). The book talks about the factors that go into an x turning point. One story in the book talks about the hush puppies, the shoes, and how they almost went out of business before catching on and becoming “a thing”, just because a couple of people were wearing it at the right time, in the right place. There is a lot more to the story, but I think for me I can associate that with a way that I can beat procrastination.

Why is it that is so easy to set goals, but so hard to carry them out?

When I set a goal, I am setting it for the future. “I am going to make an app”. The goal doesn’t affect me now until I must take the first step to get to the conclusion of my goal. My future self likes goals because it knows that there will be a return on investment. My present self however might feel that other things are more important, and this is one of the troubles with accomplishing set goals. The plan is for tomorrow, but it requires action today.

Going back to the book, I believe that the first step can set up a snowball effect that will lead to me on the other side of completion feeling good. Therefore, I will consciously force myself to start taking little steps toward whatever goals I’ve set. I tend to picture this gigantic stone that I am trying to carve into a sculpture (I don’t know anything about carving or sculpting). Every little chip is one step closer to the end. Just like procrastination can become habitual, so can the thirst for new things to complete.

So, for me, the most important thing is to recognize the behavior in myself and forcefully end it. Once I am back on track, I instantly feel better about what I am doing with my time. Productivity is very addictive.

J.

WP Sources, The Tipping Point

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