Right. This is a long post, so you probably shouldn’t read it. Maybe go and work on that assignment or work report that’s due. Still with me? Well I should mention that it will tell you things that you probably don’t want to hear. Another chunk of people probably just clicked off and didn’t read any more.
Still with me? Good. You’re part of a small group of people who see this article, and decide to actually stick with it, because maybe, just maybe, if you finish it you’ll actually learn something and you’ll be able to achieve a lot more from now on. We’re talking today about wasting time. Procrastination.
The word used to describe when people find things to do to fill in the time when they should be doing something else. Often it’s easy to fall into this trap, and the less you want to do the task at hand the more you’ll be drawn into the dark world of procrastination.
You know the feeling.. You’re trying to finish that work report or that piece of coursework for your course, and you know it’s due in very soon but you just can’t bring yourself to start working on it, so you decide to start doing anything but..
You start exploring YouTube, looking at every and any related video in the sidebar. You Google ridiculous things like the temperature of the core of earth. Things that are completely unrelated and random, things you probably don’t even need or want to know but you just try to fill the time.
For the most part it’s a way of distracting yourself from doing something you really don’t want to do. For whatever reason, you’ve landed yourself in the situation where you have to do something you don’t really have the motivation to do, so your mind decides to ‘protect’ you from this hardship by distracting you and making you do random things like looking at pictures of cats online.
On a slightly unrelated note, does this seem a little odd to you – We have the most advanced internet available today, faster than it has ever been before.. A universal link between people, ideas and information and although we could use this power to do almost anything; learn skills, achieve things, start our own websites; we use it for the most part to watch cats in little boxes.
Anyway, back to what I was saying. So it’s the situation where you distract yourself. It’s easy to do. Notice how even as I was writing that paragraph I went off on one talking about people looking at cats. It’s very easy to fall into this trap.. This time sucking trap which stops us actually doing what we need to do in life.
So why do we procrastinate?
We procrastinate because we just don’t have the strength to really start the task.
The ‘task’ I’m referring to here means the thing you have to do, or ‘should’ really be doing at the given time, but that you aren’t doing because you don’t want to or you’re wasting time reading about weird interesting theories of existence.
We don’t have the strength to get started.
The truth is, once you get started, it’s actually really easy to keep going, and you can even unlock a very powerful state of being within yourself called the ‘flow’ or the ‘energy river’.
Now this is where you get into the state of producing things and being creative. You’re ‘fired up’ for working and you don’t want to stop.
You decide that while you’re in this high energy mood, you could..
- Organize all of your letters and bank statements
- Clean up your inbox, phone messages, pictures on your computer, and your desk needs a tidy up
- Start working on that story you’ve been thinking about for a while
- Start learning how to trade stocks and shares
- Put some effort into getting your partner a random present
- List those things in your room you never use on eBay to make some extra money
- Write a list of things you want to get done in the coming year
And more. The point is, you have suddenly found a load of energy to do all of these things that you never had before! It’s amazing. You can now do all these things and you don’t feel like it’s hard work.
You’re actually enjoying yourself because you’ve found your flow. The most annoying thing about this is that to get to this flow you need to actually get started in the first place. That’s the hard bit.. Like I said, it’s all about the strength to get started.
When you’re at that important junction in your mind when you know you should start working on the ‘task’ (From now on I’ll refer to the thing you have to do such as a work report, job application or whatever as ‘the task’).
What was the first thing you read in this post. Something along the lines of: This is a long post, you should probably not read it and instead go and get started on your task. You’re still here, and the reason is one of two things..
- You fell for the trap that almost all of use do when you need to do something. You decided that you can put off the task for another day or whatever, and you instead want to just read a load of random things and just do whatever feels right in the moment.. OR..
- You actually want to learn how to stop procrastinating, and hoped this post would help you..
Well, if you’re a number 2 person, good news, this post will help you learn how to stop. If you’re a number 1 person, then it COULD help you, but only if you actually understand and apply what you’re learning and reading here. This will show you how to stop wasting time and be a lot more productive in your life, but the choice is and always will be, yours.
The strength to get started on the task
This is the important part of the situation. You have come to a point where you’ve either been reminded of the task you need to do, or you’ve run out of things to do so you look at your ‘to do’ list. You see the task and you have an internal war that starts in a few seconds. On one side is a part of you that’s saying one thing..
‘You should really get started on this, it’s going to take a long time and you’ll struggle if you don’t get started now’
And the other half of you is saying another thing..
‘I could always start it in another hour or so. I’m sure it won’t matter that much and I can always just work through the night or work faster to get it done.. Besides, there’s a really good film on TV at the moment’.
Do you see?
And this is the conversation that happens every time we have something to do. It’s like an internal battle. The truth is that it’s at THIS point that the most important decision happens. You see, if you actually start instantly and get to work, your motivation and creativity will get stronger pretty fast.
As time goes on, you’ll get ‘into the zone’ and you’ll be spewing out creative and high quality stuff.
If you DON’T start, you’ll find more and more things to do to distract yourself. There will ALWAYS be another YouTube video that looks interesting. You’ll find yourself thinking that now is the perfect time to watch a 2 hour documentary on prison life.
You’ll even start thinking that you should just go on Facebook and chat to whoever is there. It’s a slippery slope.
It’s critical to get started right away!
The second you have it in your mind that you should start working on something, do it. You see, the human mind is incredible. It can rationalize absolutely anything. You can convince yourself beyond a shadow of a doubt that you absolutely are allowed to have that ‘one last cigarette’ if you’re trying to quit. You can tell yourself things that make you believe it’s okay.
You can convince yourself that you’re something you’re not. I’m not saying it’s a good or a bad thing, because there are times when you need to change your beliefs and make yourself believe in something. There are times when you need to ‘think you can do it’ in order to be able to do ‘it’. What do I mean by this? ..
Well, I mean that there are two types of people in life, people who think they ‘can’ and people who think they can’t. The brutal truth is that they’re both right. They’re both right because what we ‘think’ and believe we can do, we can, and the opposite is also true. So it’s important to use that part of your mind for some things, but in this case, we’re talking about procrastination.
We’re talking about your mind persuading you that it’s okay to go and watch videos of robot snakes. It’s not okay because you have things to do! You know you have things to do! So why aren’t you able to get started? Well, it’s because your mind makes it very attractive to just not get started.
You give yourself a million other choices. Sit around and finish the Pringles while watching the news.. Go for a walk etc.. All things which distract you.
The KEY to being productive and achieving things in this manner is to get started. Physically start typing if you’re writing a book. Physically get down and start your press ups if you’re trying to exercise. Make your body do it, and your mind WILL follow. When you start doing it, your mind will take note of your strength and back you up. This is where we get onto ‘the flow’.
The motivational ‘flow’ state
The flow is something which happens when you start on the task and give it your all.
You get started and quickly find that it’s not as bad as it appeared in your mind before. I sat around for a few hours before writing this post, and then once I got started on it, I found that I could actually type it almost as fast as someone can read it. The ideas just come out of my mind like water from a waterfall.
It’s a beautiful thing to experience, and when you get your flow you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve. It’s best described as the situation where you’ve been working and you find yourself locked into the moment. You’ve seen it when athletes are very focused and they just seem ‘in the zone’ as if nothing could shake them and they just keep going.
Marathon runners that just seem to keep pushing forward no matter how tired they are. They’re in the ‘flow’ or the zone. They’ve got started and now find it hard to stop because their mind and body are in synch. This is important to understand. When you give something your all for an extended period of time you’ll get to a point where you’ll feel very powerful.
You’ll feel powerful because you’re not only giving it your best shot, but you’re also in harmony. Your mind is motivated and driven, and your body is warmed up and ready to go. There is a famous quote by a scientist: Isaac Newton, which goes something like this.. It’s called the ‘objects in motion quote’..
‘An object at rest stays at rest while an object in motion stays in motion’.
It refers to momentum and the fact that generally when something has started moving, it’s hard for it to stop, sometimes it even gets faster and faster. On the other hand, an object which is not moving just doesn’t start moving. Like I said before, the key stage is before you’re moving. When you’re trying to get started. And again, the best way to do this is to just go in cold, start doing the thing and your mind follows after you..
So I think I even mentioned this in another post about productivity.. it’s all about the task and starting it right away.
Remember, there will always be something else to watch on YouTube, some other thing to do which takes you further and further away from what you should be doing. Just try to push through all of that and ‘go cold turkey’ with it. Just get stuck in and after a while you’ll find your motivation and mind come to back you up.
The cure to procrastination and time wasting
So, hopefully you’ve understood a bit more about why people waste time and don’t do the things they want to do, but the fact is that it means nothing unless you actually put it into action and try it out. The next time you have something to do, think about what you’re doing and whether you should really be putting it off and going down that slope or whether you should just start it and get on with it.
You’ll be amazed at what you can do if you join your ‘flow’ and start being creative with things. You can do so much it’s amazing. This post took me about 20 minutes to write, because when I’m locked into that flow, it just happens so easily.
Of course there’s then the proof reading and pictures etc, but the meat of it took 20 minutes. If you’re typing something, you’ll get into a state where you’re not focused on the keys on the keyboard, instead you’re focused on what you’re thinking in your head.
You hear the words in your head a few sentences ahead of where you’re typing and your fingers just seem to dance across the keyboard. It’s really quite fun to do but you’ll never get that state of motivation and focus if you don’t do that hard bit which is get started. hopefully this has inspired you, if you like what you’ve read, please share it with someone who has trouble with procrastination.
If you’re trying to finish some sort of task etc, then I have a little extra something for you. This is a video I found on YouTube by accident and it’s a 2 hour long ‘chill step’ compilation, mixed with vocals, motivational quotes and more. It’s incredible to work to, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Put your feet up, get your laptop out, or whatever you need to do, and keep this video in a separate tab. Enjoy.