How to defeat procrastination permalink

I won’t lie, I’m susceptible to procrastination. And that’s despite being fully aware of the negative consequences of procrastination. I just watched a video from Dr. Tim Pychyl, an expert on procrastination, on procrastination and how to defeat it.

It breaks down into the following steps:

  1. Be aware of your emotions and behaviors
  2. Front load things that require willpower earlier
  3. Shift from goal intentions to implementation intentions

Here’s how this all works…

Be aware of your emotions and behaviors

Being emotionally aware helps one recognize why we procrastinate and to immediately discount any immediate benefits that come at the cost of future pain. It also helps to understand one’s likes and dislikes - which are emotions directed at specific things or behaviors. Lastly, knowing one’s identity leads to lower levels of procrastination because it becomes easier to sort what matters to you and what doesn’t.

Front-load tasks that require more willpower earlier

One’s willpower acts much like a muscle. That means as one uses their willpower, their ability to use it further in the future diminishes without it being restored through rest. That also means that one can “train” themselves to have more willpower much like bodybuilders lift weights. One should do things that require more willpower immediately after periods of rest. For most people, the best times to tackle high-willpower-requiring tasks are at the start of the week - after a weekend of rest - and at the start of the day - after an evening of rest.

Shift from goal intentions to implementation intentions

Goal-based intentions sound like “I’m going to do task X at time Y.” These types of intentions are very vague. Take the more concrete example, “I’m going to write four pages of my paper this evening.” When is “this evening” really? What does “writing” really mean? And what’s the point of “four pages?”

Whereas implementation-based intentions take their cues from the environment: “Given situation X, I’m going to do task Y, so that I achieve future goal Z.” Or, as a more concrete example, “When I leave work, I’m going to go to the gym to work out so that I stay married.” This places the cue for one to perform a certain behavior or task into the environment, reducing the cognitive overhead (willpower) required to figure out when to do something.


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