Make a task less aversive

Make a task less aversive

When you notice yourself procrastinating, use your procrastination as a trigger to examine a task’s characteristics and think about what you should change.

By breaking down exactly which attributes an aversive task has (boring, frustrating, difficult, meaningless, ambiguous, unstructured), you can take those qualities and turn them around to make the task more appealing to you.

@brantley410

Time Management

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Procrastination is fundamentally an emotional reaction to what you have to do. The more aversive a task is to you, the more you’ll resist it, and the more likely you are to procrastinate.

Aversive tasks tend to: be boring, frustrating, difficult, lack intrinsic rewards, be ambiguous and unstructured.

Unproductive responses

... people have when they procrastinate:

  • Distracting yourself, and thinking about other things
  • Forgetting what you have to do, either actively or passively
  • Downplaying the importance of what you have to do
  • Focusing on your other values and qualities that will solidify your sense of self
  • Denying responsibility to distance yourself from what you have to do
  • Seeking out new information that supports your procrastination.
Limit your time

Limiting how much time you spend on a task makes the task more fun, more structured, and less frustrating and difficult because you’ll always be able to see an end in sight.

And instead of throwing more time at the problem, you force yourself to exert more energy over less time to get it done, which will make you a lot more productive.

Be kind to yourself

Be mindful of how kind you are to yourself, and watch out for times when you try to deceive yourself. 

The reason you deceive yourself when you procrastinate: at the same time that you know you should be doing something, a different part of you is very much aware that you’re not actually doing it, so you make up a story about why you’re not getting that thing done.

Just get started

You just need enough motivation to get started. Once we start a task, it is rarely as bad as we think: your attributions of the task change, and what you think about yourself changes, too.

For example, to go for a swim in a cold pool, you just need to be motivated for the 30 seconds it takes you to jump in and start swimming.

The costs of procrastinating

Activating the rational part of your brain to identify the costs of procrastinating is a great strategy to get unstuck.

So make a list of the tasks you’re procrastinating on, and then note how your procrastination has affected you in terms of things such as your happiness, stress, health, finances, relationships, and so on.

Think about your future-self

Research has shown that we have the tendency to treat our future-selves like complete strangers, and that’s why we give them the same kind of load that we’d give a stranger.

We’re not very good at predicting how we will feel in the future. We are overly optimistic, and our optimism comes crashing down when tomorrow comes. When our mood sours, we end up giving in to feel good. We procrastinate.
Disconnect from the Internet

47% of people’s time online is spent procrastinating, so our best tools for productivity (computers, smartphones) are potentially also one of our greatest time wasters.

To get something done, we need to disconnect from potential distractions like social-networking tools.

Especially for tasks that are not defined and poorly structured.

This means thinking about when, where, and how you’re going to do them. Move from broad goal intentions to specific implementation intentions.

Seek out more meaningful work

You procrastinate a lot less with meaningful tasks that are intrinsically rewarding. 

In every job, there are going to be tasks you find aversive, but when you constantly find yourself procrastinating because your work is aversive, there may be other jobs that are more aligned to your passions, that you will be much more motivated and productive in.

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RELATED IDEAS

Encouraging people to imagine the future can help them make better decisions now.

  • Looking at a digitally aged photograph can help us more effectively imagine ourselves in the future, thus helping us make better decisions.
  • Realistically imagine how you’ll feel tomorrow if you’re trying the old “I’ll feel like doing this tomorrow” excuse. 

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IDEAS

People tend to procrastinate to avoid emotionally unpleasant tasks - so they choose to focus on something that provides a temporary mood boost.

This creates a vicious cycle: procrastination itself causes shame and guilt — which in turn leads people to procrastinate even further.

Even the most efficient workers have days when it’s harder to finish tasks. 

Take five minutes to get outside, take a walk, get some sunlight. Those breaks will actually increase your productivity and make up for the lost time.

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