The #1 Anti-Procrastination Rule
Have you ever had a burst of sudden motivation?
One that made you rush to do something, an activity you were really excited about, only to find yourself wondering where to even start when you got there?
Could be starting a youtube channel, getting rid of your pot belly, or even writing a book.
A confusion that, in my case, tends to turn to overwhelm quite quickly, and for most people, tends to evolve into avoiding a task that minutes ago seemed of maximum excitement.
We end up procrastinating on a pursuit which just seconds ago deeply motivated us.
Meanwhile, with a quick glance through social media, we can find ourselves being riddled with guilt when we see Jocko Willink waking up at 4:30 Am every day, or David Goggins running 200-mile marathons.
How can these people overcome such tall mountains when we can’t put on the shoes to climb ours?
Before answering that for you, let me share my personal example which happened right before writing this article.
Yes, I was considering procrastinating before I even got started.
Not in the very flagrant way of doing it with social media, or video games, or even checking on my crazy neighbor who was throwing plates out the window.
(I wish the latter was a lie.)
Instead, by means of tasks that would make me feel better prepared for writing: A superior idea, more in-depth research, even a better “focus” playlist to get into the right mood.
Tasks that would make me feel 100% ready.
A feeling that, as far as I’ve been able to tell, is a mirage, in the sense that no matter how close you feel you’re getting to it, you never seem to reach it.
In reality, as far as I‘ve been able to gather, our minds will always whisper sweet excuses into our ears when confronted with extremely important, uncomfortable work.
This is always exacerbated when we fail to follow the number 1 rule to stop procrastination. A rule that I often preach, however, one that I failed to implement in this instance.
#1 Anti-Procrastination Rule — Make It Clear
“Success demands singleness of purpose.” — Vince Lombardi
Vagueness, when present in the planning of our tasks, usually has one of two possible outcomes:
1. We delay said activity until the very final moment;
2. We postpone it to the next day/week/month, or in the worst-case scenario, forever.
Who hasn’t found themselves planning “Go to the gym on Thursday”, with an idea of doing it first thing in the morning, only to keep pushing it back, having to go 1 hour before the gym closes?
I sure have, and the feeling it brings out is always one of lack of control over oneself.
It leaves the internal impression that I am not, as William Ernest put it, “the master of my fate”, feeling instead as if I was drifting away in a sailboat, always subject to the direction of the wind.
This delay, in my experience, usually happens when we allow room to bargain with ourselves. When the time to do said task, what the task is, where we will do it, and all other details are not as clear as they can.
Even though dealing with a grey area can be ideal when we are talking about, for example, philosophy, it is nothing but when we are trying to be productive.
When the time to sit down, or get up, arrives and we are confronted with a task that is not as clear as the water of the Instagram pictures we get distracted with, our mind's first reaction is to avoid such discomfort by postponing it, usually with incredible excuses.
“I need a coffee first”, “I’m more productive at night, actually.”, “I would do it now but Trump just tweeted and I have to give my take on it.”, etc, etc.
Deep down we know we are tricking ourselves, we know this delay won’t make things easier, but it feels much better than to go through the struggle of getting started.
So, to emphasize the importance of the rule, let me repeat it below.
If you want to avoid procrastinating on a task, make it as clear as possible to know what you are doing, and when you are doing it.
1.1 — Re-Defining Success
If the overall rule is to make it clear, then apart of it is to change what we consider “getting things done” implies.
Let’s say I plan to go to the gym after I wake up, on Friday, and run for 30 minutes on the treadmill.
For the sake of example, let’s also assume I woke up at 10 AM, already late for work, and had to skip my fitness task.
“No biggie” — I may think to myself — “I’ll just get it done after work.”
Naturally, if we then go to the gym, we would be tempted to put a big green checkmark next to the task on our planner, after all, even though we didn’t do it in the morning, we did it nonetheless. Still counts, right?
Not in the sense that you didn’t put the effort in, obviously, the workout was done. HOWEVER, the habit was not completed as it should, when it should have, how it should have, as such, bringing along the consequence of increasing the likelihood of a similar delay happening in the future.
A habit that, if continued, will find ourselves delaying everything until the last minute.
Finding the day slipping away from our grasp, always having to recover it at the final moments.
As I see it, that is not the way I want to live, always in a rush to the next thing, on paper having everything done, but in reality, burning my mental state to achieve it.
You can let me know below if you feel the same, however, I am looking for a life where I can put the best effort forward in my work, providing the best results I can for myself and all those that are impacted by it, without that having to be the only thing I do all day.
I have relationships where I want to be the best I can be, fitness goals I am striving towards, and an overall peace of mind which is so easy to sacrifice in return for all of them.
The only problem with this is the final part of the rule:
1.2 — There Must Be Sacrifices
“If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.” — Charles Bukowski
Being confronted with having to make what we want to pursue as clear as possible, essentially, where we want to commit to fulfilling our potential, can be, and quite often is, absolutely frightening.
With so many doors open in front of us it would seem nearly impossible to choose just a very specific one, after all, that would imply having to close all the others.
It would mean having to kill all our potential, except for the one in this pursuit.
Due to this extreme difficulty, we delay. We peek inside every door, maybe even taking some steps inside, getting excited about all the possibilities, all that could be, but never staying long enough for the door behind to close. Never staying long enough to see these dreams to the end
Honestly, I understand.
For most of my life, this is what I had been doing. From photography to graphic design, digital marketing to cold calling, even traveling the world as a general assistant for someone else, I knew I had some potential to be fulfilled, I just couldn’t commit to anything.
I couldn’t let the door behind me close.
This kept happening for a few years, always bouncing around, never dedicated, until one day I truly, emotionally understood why I had to fully commit to entering one of the doors, and closing it myself.
If you’re rolling your eyes already, expecting the cliché answer of “I found my passion and all of a sudden knew this was it”, then you can keep them in place because that was quite far from it.
What I realized was that if I didn’t choose one of these paths to embark on, sacrificing all of the others, inevitably, one day, life would shut them all down for me.
I would die without even seeing one of them to the end.
Luckily, I closed all doors but one, and as Rober Frost put it, “I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Since tomorrow is not granted, I would suggest you hurry up in doing the same.
Thank you for reading.