I’m on a quest to figure out how to be more efficient and maximize my creativity. True confession: Procrastination is a problem for me sometimes. My brain knows I just need to jump in, but instead I delay then get going when a deadline is breathing down on me.
To figure out how to break the inefficiency cycle, I read everything I could find. That helped me put off writing this post for quite a while. 🙂 The following is a collection of the best wisdom I discovered.
1. The most brilliant shortcut to break the procrastination mindset: This article from The Atlantic looks at how we struggle to put our future needs ahead of instant gratification and research on how to counteract that.
Genius tip: Research shows that simply thinking about a far-off event in terms of days rather than months or years makes it seem like it will happen sooner. As a result, you’ll take action rather than dawdle. So instead of thinking about a deadline being six weeks away, frame it as 42 days.
Key takeaways: It’s really about the basics: Get enough sleep; start important work early in the day; turn key tasks into habits. The biggest change for me is to batch related tasks together. Different kinds of work require different kinds of thinking. By grouping similar jobs together, you help your brain get in the right zone.
3. Best for understanding why it matters – This TED talk by master procrastinator Tim Urban is both hilarious and insightful.
Great insight: No one is immune from procrastination, but it’s crucial to halt it before you are in the grip of the most insidious form — long-term procrastination that makes people feel like spectators in their own lives. “The frustration is not that they couldn’t achieve their dreams; it’s that they weren’t even able to start chasing them.”
4. Understanding the problem – This piece from the Wall Street Journal did the best job I’ve seen explaining the emotional reasons for procrastinating and how understanding those can break the habit.
Valuable advice: Procrastination is a coping mechanism. Failing to get going can be a sign you are stressed or suffer from perfectionism. If you’re an occasional procrastinator, quit thinking about your feelings and power through. If you’re a chronic procrastinator, you might need therapy to understand your emotions and how you’re coping with them through avoidance.
5. Best counterargument – Adam Grant in The New York Times presents convincing evidence that delaying work improves creativity. That time allows the mind to wander and increases your odds of stumbling onto unusual and unexpected solutions. Projects in limbo stay active in our minds.
Important caveat: This effect is only helpful if you aren’t waiting until the last minute. Just like in real life, that forced people in experiments to rush to come up with the easiest solutions, not the most creative ones.
6. Best way to procrastinate on your procrastination – OK I admit I fell down a rabbit hole looking at some pretty random stuff on this quest. I’m calling this research instead of procrastination.
Most hilarious tangent: These charts titled “Anyone Who Has Procrastinated Will Understand.” Enough said.
If you found this post helpful, please share it with your friends. And if you have a great antidote to procrastination that I missed, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org