How Procrastination is controlling your future (and how to stop it.)

It was 1927 and Charlotte was harvesting carrots. No, I’m joking. It was 2018 and Abi was standing at the grocery cupboard… again. I definitely fit into the snacking procrastinator-type. I was about 3 seed-crackers in and about 5 paragraphs behind on my first blog post. My realisation that I was taking part in some hardcore procrastination led me on a tangent. And this post is the result.

What I discovered was more than just ways to conquer this shitty habit. I stumbled upon something that no procrastinator ever wants to hear. Let me just say that this knowledge is the reason why I cannot let it control my life any further. And after reading this, I think you may feel the same.

I get the frustration and, let’s face it, ridiculous enjoyment of watching X-factor auditions for like, just ten more minutes. Or maybe you aren’t like me. Maybe you’re like my friend, Gwen who seemed to nap her way through our first year of university. She’s going to laugh when she reads this. Maybe you’re an Instagram scroller, or if this procrastinating is happening during an all-nighter, an existential panickier. Actually, I think I used to fit pretty comfortably into many of these categories.

While we can laugh now, procrastination brings its fair share of pain, panic and regrets. If we’re talking about deadlines, they’re eventually met… weather this is on time or not. But what happens with tasks that don’t have an exterior deadline.

    • Like that dream to save and go to visit a school friend in Norway, or
    • To scrounge up all the courage you can and finally get the hell out of your office job, or
    • Lose the weight that you feel is causing you daily obstacles and pain.

This is what Tim Urban touches on at the end of his evolutionary TED talk. His words are everything and are the inspiration behind this post. 

What happens when we procrastinate on our dreams?

The problem is the fact that we don’t feel this pain on a daily basis. We get on with life, day after day, month after month… year after year. And a pretty mediocre life passes us by.

Listen to that 7-year-old princess, astronaut, or in my case, farmer inside of yourself!

I maybe – definitely – don’t want to be a farmer now, but I’m beginning to become attentive to my seven-year-old-self’s totally naïve enthusiasm and self-confidence. Enthusiasm for life and self-confidence are two things we should never outgrow. And yet, we often seem to lose a little bit of ourselves as we grow up. We lose our oomph!

We limit ourselves, become driven by fear and soon enough, experience our dreams as pictures dangling from drawing pins on our vision boards. Because, you know, we’ll live them one day.

Do you see the problem? With procrastination by your side, you’re literally creating a life in which you’re destined to wake up at 55 years old, with an alarm clock and a concoction of medications on your bedside table, to go on and face a monotonous day, propped up by coping mechanisms. I think that that’s pretty terrifying.

You’re not only procrastinating on a single task, you’re procrastinating on yourself and your life.

How you can change this trajectory?

    • Be the kind of person who fits into your ideal life. The world meets you where you’re at. So, turn that fear into love – self-love, love of life and love for the world. And realise that taking control of your future is a representation of respect, not only for yourself, but for life and time.
    • Protect the time which you’ve got, because without it, none of your goals are possible. If you’re Elon Musk, then live your life in 5 minute intervals – yes, Elon really doesn’t let one 5 minute slot go by wasted. If you’re any other normal human, you may choose to break your day up into 30-minute or one-hour slots. Can we get anymore cliché than ‘Carpe Diem’?

Some super-practical changes to make.

1) Get real with yourself and get journaling (or what ever other activity that gets you thinking). 

  • What fear is stopping you? Fear of failure? Maybe even fear of success?
  • Why has instant gratification become the priority for you? Let your long-term goals take centre stage and research the importance of delayed gratification. What do you want to achieve? What do you want to be? Feel that. Now, how do you get there – in terms of big jumps and those tiny daily activities?
  • Change the way you see yourself to fit this goal. This is sooo important! If you see yourself as a lazy, unworthy person, do you really think you’re going to end up living your dream life? I’d say not. Maybe this sounds crazy, but I promise it works: create the new you in your head and think how they would act – live that life that they would live.

2) Get some external support.

Even the best of us have off days (or weeks). Don’t hate yourself for these, but realise this reality and plan for them.

  • Accountability. Yes, it’s all about internal self-support and self-regulation. But if your best friend is a runner, ask them to help you out on your running goals (and hopefully they’ll also get to work towards their goals). Sign up for your first race together and use each other for accountability (Side note: generally, your goals should be 10-20% out of your comfort zone, not 200%).
  • Find yourself some non-procrastinator friends. Up until recently, I would have passionately argued against such a species, but I now have to sheepishly say, “Yes, Abi, they are such a thing. You just weren’t part of the crowd.” As a bunch of crazy-successful people, including Jim Rohn and Tim Ferris have said, “You are the average of the five people you associate most with.” Get out there and find yourself some inspiration, advise and great conversation.
  • Technology is here to help us, right? So, download an app to keep you on track and remind you of your daily steps towards your long-term goal. Tip: don’t even think about skipping these steps, because once you start that, these notifications become an irritation that only motivates some hardcore self-loathing! Just saying, from personal experience.

3) Treat the stubborn fellows a little differently.

There is something about making lists that is so satisfying – like half the task is already completed. But why are there always those sneaky tasks that work their way from Monday’s list, to Tuesday’s, to Wednesday’s… and by Friday 4pm, they’re still there?! I’ve come to recognise these stubborn ones and treat them a little differently. I put them on a whole separate list and make sure that I tick off at least one of them per day. This way, they can’t all manage to slip by until Friday.

4) Perfectionism isn’t your friend.

Seriously. This is something that I still struggle with and is the reason why I almost didn’t start this blog. But, I tell myself on an often daily basis that done is better that perfect. I want to live a meaningful life and this means a combination of just being and doing. Perfectionism ain’t going to serve the ‘doing’ part so well.

5) There is a difference between taking a break and procrastinating.

If I’ve learned anything from those near-delirious university all-nighters, it is the fact that taking a break can be healthy (and is often recommended). I recommend a Backstreet Boys bedroom-dance-session, but if you think that they should say in the 90s, I’d say I’ve got one better: meditation. I’m sure I’m not the first person to recommend it, so do some research and consider it as an investment in yourself. Maybe you want to meditate through stillness, or why not try it through movement, like running or dance?

 

What you’ve just read could be entirely true, but if this is the last time you think about it, it’s also entirely useless. So, if you’re serious about who you want to be and what you want to do in the future, consider giving yourself a nudge by writing it in the comment section.

“So much of what makes people happy or unhappy – their level of fulfilment and satisfaction, their self- esteem, the regrets they carry with them, the amount of free time they have to dedicate to their relationships – is severely affected by procrastination. So it’s worthy of being taken dead seriously, and the time to start improving is now” – Tim Urban

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