Beating Procrastination: “I Just Don’t Feel Like It!”

Like masturbation, procrastination is something we all do and don’t generally brag about (Louis CK may be an exception).  Why do we put off for tomorrow what we ourselves believe we should do today?

One answer from psychology research is that humans as well as other animals are hard-wired to respond most strongly to immediate rewards.  So, although it would be potentially very helpful to complete that assignment, clean that floor, or write a chapter of that dissertation today, it FEELS much better right now to put it off til tomorrow (or later).

So, you “don’t feel like it.”  OK.  If feeling good is your  main value, then you’re set.  You can just not do whatever it is.

Turns out though, that most of us want more out of life than just feeling good.  Few of us would want “She Felt Good” as the epigram on our gravestone, or even one of the main bullet points in our obituary, or (to be a bit less morbid), in an article about us and our values.

My favorite advice about procrastination is that there is basically nothing you can do about it.  As long as your goal is to FEEL good, you have little choice but to procrastinate.  If on the other hand, you have other priorities that are important to you, and you are willing to FEEL CRUMMY in order to serve those priorities, then you have some options.

A little creativity can help, but it’s the willingness to feel crummy now so that you can travel in the direction you want to go, that makes the difference.  And it just might be that the work your mind tells you will feel so horrible, doesn’t feel all that bad once you’re doing it.

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Filed under Leadership, Success, and the Workplace

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