ARISE: meet your 9 procrastinator demons
― Charles Baudelaire
When you begin to focus on the circumstances, you tend to see more and more suboptimal elements and finally convince yourself to skip the opportunity in favor of a hopefully much brighter future. It’s a well known cognitive bias: we predict positive outcomes to be more likely than negative outcomes.
Tomorrow/next week/next year will be perfect or at least much better than the present situation. No need to hurry, you won’t loose anything if you do it later.
Tomorrow/next week/next year is going to be as chaotic and random as today. And yes, you DO lose a lot by postponing: the cost of potential opportunities you are missing.
Reality check on what can go wrong in the future and keep opportunity cost in mind.
Fear. The task would put you outside of your comfort zone and this scares the sh*t out of you - plain and simple. Fight or flight? Hint: the lizard brain is a born aviator.
The consequences of your action will be horrific, end of the world, you'll remain in shame F-O-R-E-V-E-R.
The consequences might be unpleasant but far not as bad as you think.
Calculate the real risk objectively and set a plan for the worst case scenario.
The task has been staying on your list for too long and because you had skipped it several times, it got stigmatized. You’ve long forgotten the real difficulty but a mystic - and fearful - coat covered it. It slowly became a symbol of your unwanted self and as such, you want to avoid it.
This task is difficult, there must be a reason why it’s on my todo list for so long!
You've skipped it several times which means it's not super interesting to do - but most of the time, it's just a simple and easy step. It’s been on your list for so long because a. you are a lazy dude b. you wrote it down too early c. you overestimated your capacity and wrote a huge effin' list. That item on your list is probably not hard at all - just got stigmatized.
A quick 5 minute sprint with a precise tiny first step.
It appears when the end goal or the next milestone is fuzzy and you don't see necessary steps to reach it - you basically don’t know what you want to reach.
You should stay idle until you see the exact path, otherwise you'd fail miserably.
You haven’t indicated the end goal and the necessary steps - most importantly the first tiny one - and it seems blurry. You may not know the exact direction, but movement clarifies the path.
Setting the specific milestones and end goal and also the necessary next steps according to your best knowledge. Embrace the fact that you lose more by standing still than by taking a first - potentially imperfect - step.
The project ahead is so enormous, you sh.t your pants just looking at it. Goliath also seemed huge to David...
Ehh, it’s HUGE, I don’t even try to tackle it, I have no chance, not a single one!
It might be big but you can tackle anything piece by piece. You can eat an elephant - one bite at a time.
Chunking the giant into digestible parts and serving yourself the first tiny bite.
Lack of an essential energy resource: sleep, food, fun etc.
You are low on energy but hey, let’s start fiddling with something and a magical power will refuel you.
You are low on energy and no magical power will refuel you. You have to refuel yourself. Fiddling sucks. Refuel as soon as possible.
Get out of the zombie state asap by refueling yourself as quickly and as effectively as possible.
The lack of a deadline - and usually motivation - makes the task less urgent, lower in priority and there will always be a “better” thing to do.
You can do it anytime, wooohoo! No need to hurry, you should do other more important and/or fun stuff instead!
Someday maybe = probably never.
Deadline spiced up with some juicy stake.
You remember that the task ahead bored you to death previously and you have to do it again. It's mind-numbing, lacking any challenge or fun whatsoever.
This demon is not lying, the task IS probably terribly boring...
...but it would probably take less time than you think (you have routine) and you can make it challenging by introducing some fun constraints. Can you shrink it to 5 minutes?
Make a challenge out of it » gamification!
There is an adrenaline-rush close to deadlines and it makes you high. It’s a pleasant feeling but the product is usually suboptimal.
Let’s postpone until the very last minute! It’s gonna be awesome with all the intense focus, razor-sharp attention and a six-pack of energy drinks!
It will be intense … You’ll be under huge stress and produce crappy work. No chance of “I’ll sleep on it” iterations. You’ll feel like cr.p after the all-nighter and start your day with -20% IQ points. Nice little handicap for the exam/presentation.
Taking the first tiny step asap and instead of adrenaline, get high on dopamine by achieving micro-successes along the way.
Ohh, those good old college exams…
Mind-chatter: “I have plenty of time left, let’s watch the newest season of zombieland!”
There you go, now you know your enemies and their weak spots so theoretically you can destroy them any time.
Or can you?
I’m sorry to say this but you’ll most probably fail after one or two tries, as you did with other anti-procrastination tricks before. Here is why: when procrastination strikes, your mind gets under the influence of your demons and they obviously have no interest in demolishing themselves. Makes sense?
First, you have to realize this, then you can look for the real solution - a solution that is outside of your biased mind…
It helps you to identify your current demon
Guides you to kick the blocking demon's arse
Gives an initial dopamine shot with a crazy animated timer