Feb 12, 2018
Procrastination is one of the most common causes of unhappiness, and this bad habit is almost universal. We all put off the tasks we dread because they make us anxious, and because we're tempted to do other things that are way more rewarding. But the longer you procrastinate, the worse you feel, and this robs you of motivation. As a result, you fall into a vicious cycle where procrastination triggers negative feelings like depression, anxiety, and guilt, and your negative feelings, in turn, reduce your motivation and trigger more procrastination. A vicious cycle.
Fabrice and I are going to show you how to break the cycle and boost your happiness. To get started, please think of ONE thing you've been procrastinating on. It could be anything, such as working on your taxes, cleaning your garage, filing papers, working on a paper or presentation you've been avoiding, reading something you have to read for school or work--anything at all.
Now I want to ask you a question. Would you like to overcome the procrastination so you can get started on that task? If your answer is no, you can come back and listen later when you do want to solve this problem.
If the answer is yes, then I have a second question for you. WHEN would you like to overcome your procrastination and get started? Today? Or later on?
If your answer is today, then we're ready to rumble. If you say, "tomorrow," or some later time, then I'd encourage you to come back to this podcast when you are ready to solve the problem. I can ONLY help you overcome your procrastination today! NOT tomorrow.
Finally, I want to know if you'd be willing to devote a very small amount of time to getting started TODAY. I'm asking you to invest something like five minutes, and I'm also asking you to agree to limit your work this small amount of time. This is crucial, because if you tell yourself you have to do the entire job, that may take hours, and you'll probably feel so overwhelmed that you won't do a thing!
Finally, I want to know if you'd be willing to get started for five minutes even if you're not "in the mood," and even if you're completely unmotivated, and EVEN if the very thought of the task makes you anxious and guilty. If the answer is YES, then we've got a deal. But if you want to wait for the motivation, I urge you to turn off the podcast and come back to it at some later time.
One philosophical principle is the approach we're going to teach you is NOT to wait for motivation. Most procrastinators think that motivation comes first, followed by productive action, but this is an illusion, because you'll probably NEVER feel motivated to do some awful task you've been putting off. If you're waiting for motivation, you'll be waiting forever!
As I wrote in my first book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, highly productive people know that ACTION comes first, followed by motivation. In other words, you have to get started on some task before you'll feel motivated. You're not entitled to feel motivated until you've start accomplishing something! Waiting for motivation is the trap that keeps your procrastination alive and prospering.
I'm going to make things simple for you using a tool I created years ago called the Anti-Procrastination Sheet! To make this podcast experiential, think about the specific task you've been putting off, like filing papers, preparing your taxes, cleaning the garage, a paper or report you have to prepare--anything at all.
Now take a look at the Anti-Procrastination Sheet. As you can see, it has five vertical columns, but they're different from the columns on the Pleasure Predicting Sheet that we discussed in last week's podcast. In the first column you break the task into small, or even tiny, steps, and number them. Make sure that each step can be completed quickly and easily--for example 30 seconds, or a minute or two.
You don't have to outline the entire task, just the first four or five steps. And make sure the steps are small enough so you can complete all or most of them in five minutes or so. The philosophy behind this is called "little steps for big feats!" If you aim to do just a little, you may end up doing a great deal. But if you aim to do it all at once, the odds are high that you'll just end up procrastinating, because the task will seem overwhelming.
After you've outlined the first few steps, predict how satisfying or rewarding each step will be in the second and third columns, on a scale from 0% (not at all satisfying) to 100% (tremendously satisfying.) Make sure you complete this column before you do the activity. And make sure you do it on paper, and not just in your head!
Now complete the first step, and indicate how satisfying and rewarding it turned out to be on the same scale, from 0% to 100% in the fourth and fifth columns. That's all there is to it! Now do the same thing for the second step of the task.