The Lever #014: How to Stop Procrastination In Its Tracks
Updated: Mar 10
The name of the game is getting things done. To do that, you first need to start. And sometimes you just don't want to.
Here is a simple trick for smashing through procrastination
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An Object at Rest
You sit there staring at your monitor.
The blank page stares back at you. The cursor blinking steadily, like a traffic light on an empty street.
The job you should be doing - the article, assignment, the internal audit - has a deadline coming at you fast.
You know you need to do it, but you still haven't started.
You sigh and flick over to your favorite subreddit. The dopamine hit is instant.
Just five minutes….
Socrates once asked the question, as mentioned in Plato's Protogoras, how it is possible how people can choose to do something other than the action they know to be best. He called this "akrasia", meaning weakness of will.
This leads to the akratic loop, where you know you should be doing one thing but you do something else.
Procrastination is the result of an internal battle raging within us all. It is the battle between the limbic system, or lizard brain, and the prefrontal cortex which gives us planning, reasoning, and decision making. And because the lizard brain is older, stronger, and more developed (evolutionarily speaking), it often wins.
The result is that you do what feels good right now. Your present self would rather feel good in the moment, even if this leaves your future self in a bad situation.
How to Beat Procrastination
Part of the problem when it comes to selecting what to do right now is that you don't clearly verbalize the decisions you are making.
When confronted with the flashing cursor you know what needs to be done, but you don't engage the prefrontal cortex and make it explicit. And the limbic system doesn't need words. It deals in urges.
Higher reasoning is language driven. You need to give your brain the right words to break out of the akratic loop.
When confronted with procrastination, ask yourself this simple question:
If I finished just one thing today, what would that be to consider the day a total success?
Now do that thing.
(Hint. The thing is almost always the work you are procrastinating on.)
Self Talk is Self Programming
If you think of your mind as a computer, the language you use is the operating system.
Asking yourself the right questions works to prompt the right actions.
And performing the right actions makes sure you get the right things done.
Thanks for reading this week.
I'll be giving you more methods to make the voice of your prefrontal cortex louder in the weeks to come. This will help make the words you give it more effective.
Until then, go and do something today that you'll thank yourself for tomorrow.
Yours in Productivity
My book, Peaceful Productivity, will be ready this month. It lays out an entire productivity system that will help you get more done in less time, and kickstart your productive life.
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