Friday, 20 November 2015

Why Procrastination Kills and Four Ways to Avoid It

Each time I thought of a great idea, it would daunt on me that the next challenging thing to do is starting the first step. Because starting first step is always the hardest, the urge to procrastinate kicks in. So there is this Rational Decision Maker who is extremely energetic and keen to start doing the work and complete the task on time, driven by dogged determination and passion, living within everyone. He is downright boring, but he as a perfectionist gets things done rather efficiently. But there is another partner in crime, an Instant Gratification Monkey.

This Instant Gratification (IG) Monkey is directly opposite of the Rational Decision Maker. He loves all the fun and at all costs avoids challenging problems. He indulges in instant gratifications (as his name suggested) and persuade the Rational Decision Maker to doing the same. On a normal occasion, the Rational Decision Maker will steer the direction of what I will be doing and the course of my actions for the day, but there is a problem. The Rational Decision Maker tends to be tempted by the cuteness and carefree attitude of the Pet Monkey, and always sometimes gets carried away by his pet monkey to join in the fun.

Come to think of it, the Rational Decision Maker is in a pretty messed up position. He couldn’t control what the IG Monkey is doing, yet he is enticed by the monkey’s uninspiring ideology of fun and convenient mediocrity. Thankfully there is this Panic Monster who will appear and shriek at both Rational Decision Maker and monkey, and the monkey will always be the first to run up the tree in horror. Sometimes the Rational Thinker gets scared and escapes together with the IG Monkey up the tree, but most of the times he will start doing what he was supposed to do a millennium ago.

Whilst the task would eventually get completed on time all credit to the appearance of Panic Monster, the result will be of subpar standard. That is how we always manage to complete 3-month worth of project in the span of burning one midnight oil, but never failed to complain at the mediocre result we obtained thereafter. Bosses publicly berate procrastinators and sometimes the paychecks they rely heavily on vanish into the thin air.

Why though? These are three of the many reasons:

1) It’s challenging and too complex to begin with, daunting to even think of.
2) Underestimated time commitments, by thinking this particular task can be done in one week when in actual it requires two, leading to delay.
3) Plain laziness. 

What can we do to obliterate procrastination once and for all? Come to think of it, I am not the most qualified person to advise you and my suggestions may even be flawed in some ways I couldn’t think of at the moment, but I will give my best shot!

A) Start Breaking Big Complicated Projects Into Multiple Little Parts
Most projects are complicated in a glance, but when you start breaking the big picture into many smaller parts, you will realize it is actually pretty manageable. This is uncannily similar to the definition of simplicity. You may give each of these little tasks an individual deadline too to make it more fun. The feeling of seeing one by one items being crossed off is profoundly satisfying too.

B) Celebrate every little victory
I love this one! Every little feat we have achieved shall be rewarded with a celebration. Never short change yourself by being awfully frugal, because you deserve every bit of it. Give yourself a nice holiday, or dine at a nice restaurant. The “nice” here means an exquisitely posh restaurant with 5-star Michelin rating of some sorts. Even crazier rewards can involve skydiving, scuba diving, bungee jumping and many other extreme adventures. It is essential that our brains are incentivized before starting a project.
C) Sleep with your To-Do’s list ready for the next day
Preparing a list is what I have been doing for the past two or three years and I found it extremely effective in improving my productivity level, at the same time helped me to remember things I need to remember. Because our brain memory is limited. I like to resemble my brain power with a pen-drive with limited space capacity, although the truth is our human brain is one of the most powerful weapons we can utilize on. But better be safe than sorry!

Also, your To-Do’s items should never be too long to the extent of making your list intimidating, and it should be arranged according to their respective deadlines. I personally use a Google extension called Momentum to write my To-Do list. Whenever I click to open a new tab on Google Chrome, Momentum page will appear with its scenic background refreshed every day. And it’s nice to have a little quote at the bottom to inspire me daily. Today’s quote is “It’s time to start living the life you’ve only imagined.”

D) Partner with a “Procrastinating Buddy”  
If you started thinking “where is this person?” chances are they are everywhere. He/she can be your close friend who have the same goals. Maybe your wife. Maybe your colleague. Maybe your study buddy. Show each other the To-Do’s list and start holding each other accountable. At least this will give you a little push to get things done. Imagine you are having an appointment with your buddy to exercise in the gym every morning, you wouldn’t want to miss the appointment, lest you seem like a jerk.

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