lunedì 26 gennaio 2015

How do I get over my bad habit of procrastinating? - 5

Speaking from personal experience, you won't be able to beat procrastination until you realize three things about it.
Keep in mind that my answer is not scientific and probably would be seen as highly questionable by any professional psychologist. I'm sharing it only because I suffered from a very bad case of procrastination for years--and don't any longer. As a preface, I also want to emphasize that no amount of books, motivational videos and advice--including mine--would help you unless you truly make winning this fight your top priority. The motivation necessary to get over procrastination once and for all, can only come from within.
So here is my story of beating procrastination.When I say I used to suffer from it I don't mean occasional late term papers, missed deadlines and late fees. I mean running my life into the ground--and not being able to do anything about it. To put things into perspective, I have decent abilities and have accomplished some decent results in life. But my procrastination was killing me. I procrastinated for days over tasks that would've taken me an hour to accomplish. I procrastinated over things I hated doing, things I didn't mind doing and even things I thought I liked doing. I was getting nowhere in my life, even though on the surface it looked normal, balanced and satisfying. But internally it was hell, full of guilt, anger and endless resolutions.
Books and articles didn't help. I wouldn't say I read them all, but I read quite a few. They spoke about fear of failure and fear of success, about making small steps and getting out of the comfort zone, about to-do lists and human predisposition for postponing unpleasant things. They were all as useful as getting life advice from a penguin. I was watching my life taking some ugly shape right in front of my eyes--and feeling powerless to avoid that self-destruction.
Then a few things happened that made me brush aside everything I thought I knew about procrastination and more importantly, about myself. As result, I started approaching my procrastination differently. In retrospect, here're the key realizations that helped me, those three things I mentioned in the beginning. Without them I'd be still making resolutions.

1. Realize the true nature of YOUR procrastination. I know it sounds unscientific. After all, procrastination is such a common problem that its roots can't be unique for everyone who suffers from it, right? However, my experience leads me to believe any generalization about root causes of procrastination is dangerous and useless. When you see three people limping they may be limping for three totally different reasons, even if they walk the same. Whether your own cause is indeed a fear of failure or is as exotic and downright spooky as The Demon of Procrastination you need to find it before you can go after it.
To get there you have to observe and analyse your own behavior. Pretty soon you will see a pattern and that pattern may surprise you. In my case, I found that what for years I considered procrastination was essentially a form of internal sabotage. I realized that I was procrastinating over anything that was taking me away from going after my true goals. And that sabotage wasn't work of Rex from Oliver Emberton's great answer. To use his analogy, it was more of Albert who for years felt he was being taken away from his real passion.
2. Realize what you miss by letting procrastination get in the way.
Late term papers and missed deadlines are small potatoes. If you're a chronic procrastinator you have a bigger thing to worry about--not living your life.You know, these finite minutes allocated for your existence? When you procrastinate you're not living them. At least, that's how I feel. You're kind of going though them on autopilot, but it's not the same as living. You can't successfully fight procrastination unless you realize what's at stake.
3. Realize that your procrastination is an addiction and treat it as such.
Again, hardly a scientific claim. People look at procrastination as a personality flaw, a form of laziness, a mind's way to avoid unpleasant tasks. But if you're a chronic procrastinator, this definition of addiction ( likely would sound very familiar: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful. If you didn't consider your procrastination harmful and persistent you wouldn't be asking this question in the first place. As far as I'm concerned, not only procrastination is an addiction, it is probably the most widespread and the least understood addiction in history. So don't treat it lightly and know that the more you succumb to it the worse it becomes.

Once you realize these three things, the rest is easy. I know, it sounds like such a cliche. But it really is. It all comes down to beating a well-understood addiction that prevents you from living a fulfilling life. To overcome it you can choose any method you like. You can you use to-do lists. You can set goals and track your progress. You can create a system of incentives and punishments. You can do what I did (which was a single "overnight quit" resolution, which did work for me).

Whatever it is, the key is not how you do it. The key is why. Until you truly want to stop procrastinating, no amount of patented methods would work. You may get occasional improvements, but they won't stick. Trust me. I've been there. It will be just an illusion. But once you truly know what's at stake, pretty much anything would work. And nothing in the whole procrastinating world would be able to stop you.

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