How to Finally Defeat Procrastination and Stop Wasting Time


Task Aversion — Approach or Avoid?


Let’s be honest, you’re probably procrastinating while watching this video. And because of this, I’m going to keep this as practical and concise as possible.

In life, you’re often deciding whether to approach or avoid something. You’re always making a journey towards something or away from something. 

When you avoid a task, it’s called task aversion or procrastination [1, 2]. In an eye opening study performed by Allan Blunt and Timothy Pychyl, it was found that the reason for task aversion changes based on where we are in a project. In the early planning stages, aversion is often due to a lack of personal meaning [1, 2]. In the action-oriented stages, aversion is often due to a lack of structure [1, 2]. 

Let’s reuse the journey analogy and assume that you want to go somewhere. Is the final destination worth going to? Does it matter to you if you make it there? If it does, this is a personally meaningful goal. Now, how prepared are you for the journey? Do you have a plan for getting there? Do you know which obstacles you might encounter? Do you know how you will overcome them? This is the kind of structure you need to avoid procrastination. 


The Holy Grail — Meaningful Treasures


The first thing you want to do is pick a treasure worth pursuing: The Holy Grail. The Holy Grail looks unique to each individual based on their biological and environmental factors. It’s a treasure that is personally meaningful and worth pursuing. 

We don’t live life in isolation. We’re embedded inside an environment or a culture. Because of this, we can construct a spectrum of action: actions that we only do for ourselves and actions that we only do for others. Holy Grails occupy that unique and beautiful grey area between the two extremes: tasks that are beneficial for yourself and those around you. These are the best goals to pursue because your social environment will want you to achieve them and will support your efforts.

If you pursue goals that only benefit you, your environment will be against you. If you pursue goals that are only in service of those around you, you will come to resent your environment.

Finding the right goal — The Holy Grail — requires some deep thought. Sometimes, you need to adjust what you’re seeking or the way you think about a goal. Other times, you need to change the people around you. In the end, you need to pursue something that is meaningful to you and worth pursuing for yourself and the people around you. 


Dragons & Lions — Make A Plan 


The next step is to set up a plan for getting to The Holy Grail. On your way there, you’re going to encounter monsters or obstacles. If you know what obstacles you’re going to encounter along the way, you should use what psychologist Peter Gollwitzer calls implementation intentions. An implementation intention sounds like this:

“If [I encounter OBSTACLE X], then [I will perform ACTION Y]”.

Having a plan prior to encountering an obstacles will greatly increase your chances of overcoming it [3]. A plan can also prevent procrastination because it makes us feel more competent. When we know we can achieve an outcome, or we know we have a good shot, we rarely procrastinate. 


Long Journey — Small Steps


The journey to The Holy Grail is often long and arduous. It can often seem so distant in time and space that it’s hard to generate any motivational feeling towards it. In order to generate these feelings, you need to chart the path towards it. In other words, you need to take that abstract reward and imbue its meaning into your daily life. 


You can do this by taking the large goal of obtaining The Grail and breaking it down into the smallest possible goals that you’re willing to pursue. Always take on just as much of the journey as you’re willing to bear. For some of you that may mean 15 minutes of work, and for others, a full day. Break the goal down all the way until you actually feel like doing one of the sub-goals. 

Making a long journey requires getting to know yourself better. How long can you work in one session before you get tired? 15 minutes? 1 hour? How many sessions can you work in a day that you can sustain across weeks, months, and years? This kind of knowledge will take a lot of experimentation and self-monitoring on your part. 

Continue to build upon your efforts each day — always breaking down the big goal as much as is necessary to start working. As you complete each day, you’ll likely get more competent, and your motivation towards the goal will get stronger, and you’ll be able to accomplish more and more. 


Conclusion


So, that’s it. 

Pick a Holy Grail: a goal that is meaningful to you and worth pursuing for you and those around you.

Create a plan that will help you overcome potential obstacles using implementation intentions.

Start by taking the smallest possible step that you can and build upon that step each day.

As always, thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time!



Sources

1. Task aversiveness and procrastination: A multi-dimensional approach to task aversiveness across stages of personal projects. Blunt A.K., Pychyl T.A. (2000)  Personality and Individual Differences,  28  (1) , pp. 153-167.

2. Pychyl, Timothy A. “Procrastination: It's Not Me, It's the Situation!” Psychology Today, Psychology Today, 28 Mar. 2008, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dont-delay/200803/procrastination-its-not-me-its-the-situation

3. Oettingen, Gabriele. Rethinking Positive Thinking: inside the New Science of Motivation. Current, 2014