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I thought about starting this blog for – literally – years. I also thought a couple of weeks about writing this post. The funny thing is: I even found a great video that I wanted to embed, so it wasn’t even about writing a full-on post with all kinds of insights. It was just going to be something to share with you about an issue I am struggling with: procrastination. I actually only did it now, since I made a deal with my co-worker (who is struggling with the same thing) to do at least one thing before our next day of work, and I don’t want to be the person that doesn’t even take the first step.
So… procrastination. Why are we procrastinating? Why am I procrastinating? I really don’t know, it doesn’t bring me anything. Even though I usually finish the job faster than I normally would, due to the stress, it takes years off my life. Maybe not everytime, but if I got a penny for every time I procrastinated, I would be retired by now.
That is why Tim Urban’s TED Talk speaks to me. In the first few seconds, it seems like he is literally talking about me. I have the exact same thought process: from ‘Wow, I’ve got all the time in the world’ to ‘OK, 2 hours left, that’s 120 minutes, uhm, can I count the minute of the deadline as well?’
Procrastination: why do we do it?
I experience two types of procrastination. One type means that I don’t do anything. This is usually when I feel like I have to relax a bit, after a busy time. The other type is when I’m actually really busy and do everything BUT what I should do. My house is spotless, my washing gets done and cleaned up, I exercise. I do all kinds of things, just to prevent myself from really doing what I have to do.
According to Tim Urban, the brain of a procrastinator has an instant gratification monkey. The monkey takes over the wheel of the rational decision-making part, and that’s that. Nothing productive gets done. The monkey only cares about easy and fun. That might work for monkeys, but it doesn’t work for people.
If you follow the monkey, you get a lot of ‘easy’ and ‘fun’, but since you don’t really earn it and know there is other stuff to do, you experience a lot of guilt. So it isn’t really that much fun. Fortunately, procrastinators have another element in their brain: the Panic Monster. The Panic Monster is able to scare the Monkey away, but… it doesn’t always rise to the surface.
Deadline or not?
Much of my work is deadline related. So generally, I make sure that it gets done before the deadline, but I never start too early. However, there are also a lot of things I want to do that have no deadline. For example following a couple of courses, improving my business, starting this blog (or now: expanding it), investing, travelling, cleaning up the entire house, being fitter, visiting family and friends, and more. These things don’t have a deadline, which make it harder for a procrastinator. These situations do not call for the panic monster, which means that they can be extended until the end of time.
One way to become more aware of this and to start doing something with it, Tim Urban created a life calender: a sheet of paper with boxes representing each month of your life. Currently, I am 32. If I live to be 80, I had a total of 960 boxes, of which well over a third have been blacked out. That’s quite a lot, since I don’t feel like a third of my life is over yet. But it is. I am over 30. I think it is time to start making my own life calender today. Not to count down til death, but to make sure I make every day, month, and year count. To take charge of my own life.
Are you with me? Check out the video below and let me know if you are a born procrastinator or if you’re one of the lucky few with great discipline 😉