The way our brains function is by avoiding pain and seeking pleasure. We like the instant gratification that comes with avoiding a difficult or boring task. This primitive mental scripting can be used to our advantage.
A Look At Pain
The pain associated with beginning a task that is either too difficult or too boring is what causes us to procrastinate. By not doing this task, we temporarily relieve ourselves of the incoming mental anguish and allow ourselves to indulge in activities that are more fun, but less important.
There is the other pain, the one where we arrive late or miss a deadline. We quickly consider this pain, but since disaster is not eminent we are able to clear our conscience and put this task on the back burner.
We know that the second of these pains is the worst of the two evils. By missing our deadline or doing work that isn’t satisfactory we are hurting ourselves more. This is where I’ll show you how we can take advantage of this pain and utilize it for success.
Programming Ourselves For Success
What does it mean to program ourselves for success? Upload a new operating system into our brain and be on our way? In a way, yes.
We now know that there are two pains. The one before the task, which we try to avoid and the one after the task, which we cannot avoid. Since we live in the now, we exist before the task, until the task has passed.
By concentrating on the pain that will occur, if the task is left undone or completed poorly, we bring the future into the present. This allows us to live with both pains. Our brain is programmed to get rid of pain and it’s pretty good at prioritizing; the biggest pain is avoided first.
Pros and Cons
I have a belief that once a person has all the data that they need to make a decision, the decision should be made very quickly. Sometimes this is not possible, so I make a pros and cons list. One catch though, we’re going to make a list of the pain associated with doing the work right away versus the pain from procrastinating.
Doing it now: Pain
- No time to relax
- Not having fun
- Doing something hard
- Can’t really enjoy the time off
- Stressing about the task
- No satisfaction about leasure
- Will hand in unsatisfactory work
- May miss a deadline
- Could get fired
- Could get dumped
The trick here is to brainstorm your own list, for a specific task, and take a good hard look at it. You’ll notice that the pain from procrastination list will be longer and more severe than the pain of getting it done now.
Another trick that I have used to avoid procrastination is time logging, which makes you more aware of where your time is going. If you consciously see your time windling away, you’re more likely to take action.
I’d like to hear some personal accounts of what you have done to avoid procrastination, you can send me an e-mail or comment below. I will be doing a followup post with more specific techniques that I receive from various sources.