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How to Beat Procrastination

Our brains are programmed to procrastinate

It’s easier for our brains to process concrete and immediate outcomes rather than abstract and future things. So the short-term effort easily dominates the long-term upside in our minds— behavioral scientists call this present bias.

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How to Beat Procrastination

How to Beat Procrastination

https://hbr.org/2016/07/how-to-beat-procrastination

hbr.org

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Key Ideas

Our brains are programmed to procrastinate

It’s easier for our brains to process concrete and immediate outcomes rather than abstract and future things. So the short-term effort easily dominates the long-term upside in our minds— behavioral scientists call this present bias.

To make the benefits of action feel bigger and more real:

  • Visualize how great it will be to get it done.
  • Pre-commit, publicly.
  • Confront the downside of inaction.

Considering the downside of putting a task off will help move forward with it

While we might weigh the pros and cons of doing something new, we far less often consider the pros and cons of not doing that thing. This often leads us to ignore some obvious benefits of getting stuff done.

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Procrastination is not an identity

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Clarify

Figure out why you avoid taking action. Find out all the reasons that prevent you from moving forward. 

For example:

  • You find the task challenging.
  • You don’t know how to do the project.
  • The activity is boring.
  • You don’t have a clear block of time to work on the task.

  • You need a quiet workspace.

  • You expect your work to be perfect—and fear it won’t be.

  • You don’t have a deadline.

Address the issues

Once you understand the reasons for procrastination, address those specific issues. 

Keep on dealing with the issues one by one. This will build momentum and move you toward completing your projects.

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Procrastination has a price. It's related to:
  • Depression
  • Irrational beliefs
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
Willpower Doesn’t Work. Systems Do.

People shy away from routines, systems and frameworks because they want to have “freedom.” But in order to get things done, you need rules.

To get things done, research found effective:
  • Self-imposed deadlines.
  • Accountability systems (commitment with friends, or a coach).
  • Working/studying in intervals.
  • Exercising 30 minutes a day.
  • A healthy diet.
  • Eliminating distractions.
  • And most importantly: Internal motivation.
Self-control
Self-control

It’s your ability to resolve conflicts between your short-term desires and your long-term goals.

For example, successful self-control means sacrificing immediate pleasure (cookies a...

Why self-control matters

People who have high self-control aren’t missing out on enjoyment. Not being able to resist temptation and enjoying life are not the same things.

They tend to eat in a healthily way, exercise more, sleep better, drink less alcohol, smoke fewer cigarettes, achieve higher grades at university, have more peaceful relationships, and are more financially secure.

Biological limits to self-control

Research showed that self-control is ultimately limited by our biology. We can’t exercise effortful self-control indefinitely – the brain has to do regular maintenance to remain functional.

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