I start laughing. He reminded me of what I did a few days ago when I came back home after a normal day at work.
“Wasn’t you supposed to process this stack of papers two days ago?” An inner voice asked when I saw letters and documents on the table.
” just give me a minute, I will do that after having some rest”. My procrastinator mind replied.
Then I removed my shoes and a few seconds later I was in the bathroom.
Near the washing machine, was the laundry.
“Didn’t you say on Sunday you would iron these clothes to prepare for the week?”
“Perhaps if I don’t look at them too much they will disappear” I thought , trying to focusing at the mirror.
I quickly washed my face and went outside to reach the kitchen. There I immediately noticed the trash full of garbage but I ignored it. I was concerned with only one thing: opening the fridge. A quick glance later,
” there is nothing I can eat right now, I am too tired I can’t cook now !”
I finally decided to order a pizza and sat down in the living room in front of the TV .
In less than 5 minutes , I had put off 4 tasks: processing papers, ironing clothes , cleaning and cooking.
What is the problem?
Like my friend and I, you also have tasks you naturally dislike because there are mundane or boring. May be it is making your bed, processing excel sheet, or filling out Paper.
Day after day you postpone them until a huge problem occurs and kicks your ass. Then for a short period of time you restart acting on them but slowly fall back to previous patterns .
How can you regularly act on boring task when you don’t feel like doing them ?
This is a critical question question that people neglect. Solving this issue provides a huge relief which opens the door for greater achievement towards the creative activities you are attracted by.
Mistake to avoid
That slowly builds up shame. The problem isn’t the fact that you don’t take action but that you don’t even assume your mistake . You didn’t attempt to change your behavior in between but you continue to lie to yourself . You can’t . Your unconscious mind can’t ignore the number of previous occasions you didn’t act upon.
Next time instead of over promising again , assume and face the consequences. “ I assume I won’t do that now and I assume it might put me in a bad position later”.
MISTAKE 2: you focus on the end instead of the start :” even if I started now, I won’t be able to finish today”
What you should do instead is to narrow down your focus on the start. What is the single move you within your control now? This way the task seems less daunting. critical task.
Mistake 3; you are waiting for the perfect mood. ” I don’t feel ready yet”, ” I am tired ” ” I don’t feel motivated for it now”.
Discomfort should no longer be an excuse. We are talking about tasks you naturally dislike. As a default behavior you will never feel ready for them . . It is all about your mind not how your body feels.
Mistake 4: you are looking for a solution outside instead of looking inside
When people face a problem their primary reaction is to assume the origin comes from outside.
They will look for organizing systems to improve the way they store letters and papers in their room, put books on their shelves, put clothes on the bathroom, make their bed. In best cases these systems only address the logical par with a single hypothesis: ” if I can remember where I put things, I can act on it easily ”
There are great but they come secondary. What comes primarily is your inner resistance towards the task itself. That ‘s why you still fail despite having these systems. Not only that, these organizing systems do require some time and consistency (commitment) before you observe any significant result.
How do you do in the meantime when there are not fully established yet?
Step 1: Have a short term solution in place from day 1.
Move 1: reward yourself before you start working but don’t finish the reward before the work is done.
It is generally said that we should reward yourself after we work. But here we are using flattery. You give a partial reward to kick-start the action.
You will be amazed how quickly the unwillingness to work will drop. A window opportunity will open a few seconds later making it easy to take action with less friction
Do you hate reviewing your project, go to the fridge, take a yogurt, and drink a little bit and don’t finish. Then come with the yogurt and put it on the table. You will notice how suddenly you have no aversion to start project review
Do you hate processing paper and bureaucratic tasks, open a bottle of juice you like, drink a little bit and put the bottle near the stack of paper. . Now restart processing. You will be surprised how easy it seems now.
Do you hesitate to go running, drink water or eat a fruit before.
You are on the train and you have time to process some Excel sheets but you don’t feel motivated for that. Buy a biscuit,beer, coffee, drink or eat a little bit before you start.
Move 2: put the material in a place where you tend be when you procrastinate
Where do you usually go when you don’t do the task you are supposed to do?
Chances are some of these places are your favorite: in Kitchen, In the Toilet, In the living room, In the bedroom etc.
Your book are in the bedroom? Put them in the kitchen
Your clothes are in the bathroom, Put them with the iron machine in the kitchen
Put your English vocabulary on the wall in the toilet room
Put the trash in front of the door
Put the letters to be processed on the fridge
The material required has to be at hand at one intention only.
This step is temporary but crucial. It set up conditions that effortlessly multiplies the opportunities for triggering the action.
Step 2: Mid term solution: address the problem internally at a deeper level instead of looking at the solution outside.
Your inner resistance towards boring tasks has different layers and you should address them seriously before focusing on any outside organizing system.
Move 1: change your belief that you are superior to others: Deal with your Ego.
There is one untold truth: Your ego lies. Even though you acknowledge from a logical perspective these tasks are useful and critical you believe you don’t have to do it.
At a deeper layer than your emotions there are invisible scripts running:,
” I have more important things to do”,.” I shouldn’t be doing this”,
What you are unconsciously saying is that
“Someone else than me should be taking care of this”. Which means ” these mundane tasks are for other people,
To change this script, you have to emphasize this and This will decrease your natural inertia towards
Take a piece of paper and build a question that embed a contradiction , reminds you to be humble and make you feel guilty?
Eg: If I find ” reading boring, I built this question:
“Who I am to expect someone else to read my book if i am not willing to read and dissect theirs”?
You can repeat this question as a mantra, anytime you think ” I have more important things to do”” I shouldn’t be doing this,
This will slowly reduce the inertia in the background. It will require at least 3 weeks before you notice an impact but it is worth it.
Move 2: Build a mental or physical positive association . Position something you love near the material related to the task you find boring
Another layers of your inner resistance is the negative association you have regarding the task. ” Boring”, ” uncreative”, ” repetitive” are common thoughts that emerge when you visualize them.
Adding something you like close to the material you dislike allows to reduce this layer unconsciously.
- Put a photo of someone you like near the iron machine or on the books’ shelves.
- Put letters not far from flowers
- Think of someone you admire who performs the task you dislike.
You need to get to a point where if you think ” paperwork” , you mind reacts with ” this is boring ” and then quickly transition to ” these flowers are so great”.
As time goes on, you will progressively dismantle the negative association in your mind and replace it with a positive one.
It requires at least 3 weeks too.
Move 3: stop over-promising: anytime you think about a boring tasks, take a rough action now or assume you won’t do it.
This becomes your per-decision. If you can’t take a small action now, assume mentally you won’t do that later.
This prevents you to add another layer of inner resistance: shame, self criticism, lack of self trust.
Step 3: Build a habit: Sandwich the boring task into an activity you already do with ease .synchronize with your “natural days”
In the long run you want to reach a point where performing those actions become No-brain er to you. You can’t count on your willpower for that.
If you have identify an organizational system, it is time to execute on this too.
However, there are two rules not to be neglected when it comes in automating your habit of acting on boring taks.
Move 1: Sandwich the task you find boring into a task you already do.
This is the safe way to ensure you won’t come back to old patterns of delaying.
For instance, Insert ” reading book ” into my ” writing article routine”.
I have a morning routine of writing, I put a book at hand before I start. when I feel stuck because I lack creativity, I open this book, read a few pages and take note before coming back to writing.
Move 2: Identify your “natural days” and synchronize to it
Any habit has a natural days
For instance, my natural days for “processing papers” are Tuesday and Thursday.
How do I know that?
Because I tracked thoughts and notice that for no reason, no matter what I had planned for these days, no matter how well I was prepared, I unconsciously perform actions related to ” processing letters” with ease.
So now I don’t put pressure on my shoulder. I free my Tuesday and Thursday and make sure everything is ready so I can max out my productivity in” processing papers”. I will finish ongoing project during these days.
Similarly I have identified my natural days for “public speaking” are Tuesday and Friday.
My natural days for “cleaning” is wednesday.
Example of Application : I find ” reading non fiction books” boring.
Week 1 to week 3 ( step 1)
I put the first non fiction book I want to read in the kitchen .
I reward myself before I start anytime I think about reading and hesitate.
Week 4 to week 6: ( step 2)
I put a photo of an uncle I like near the bibliothek.
I also used “5 why” to dig deeper and understand why I feel so reluctant to read these productivity books.
It turned out it was because of the hardwork involved in testing the high number advice they contains . Since I also writing a book about procrastination that I expect to read a nd practice, I leverage my sefl conflict to build a mantra like this:
“Who I am to expect someone else to read my book if i am not willing to read and dissect theirs”?
After Week 7 ( step 3)
I already know what my natural days looks like because I had observed my behaviors during the previous weeks (tuesday and Sunday) . Now I can synchronize to it. I put ” reading” in my weekly schedule on Tuesday and Sunday.
I also stop putting books in the kitchen. I insert the ” reading habit” into the ” writing habit”.
There is no point of talking about the long term if you can make the short term happen.
I challenge you to try the short term solutions on task you reaaly dislike … Starting NOW.
Heudou Tchihikou Aubin
A master chronic procrastinator who chose to execute on his dreams