Beating procrastination

I’m a terrible procrastinator. I put off all sorts of things all the time, because I’m tired, I don’t feel like it or I just don’t have the time. However, I seem to always have enough time and energy for the things I do like, so I’ve come to suspect that maybe I’m trying to fool myself.

Procrastination is a weird thing. You delay the bigger reward of having accomplished your task in favor of the small-to-the-point-of-nonexistent reward of… not doing it. It wouldn’t make any sense at all, if we weren’t hard-wired to prefer the immediate reward over the long-term reward.

It’s also something that accumulates quickly. You should make dinner but you can’t because first you’d have to wash the dishes which would require you to empty the cupboard where the dry dishes from the last round are, and so on, and so forth. It applies to everything. First you procrastinate, and before you know it, you’re shaving yaks.

The only cure is to break the loop: find the determination to do one of those accumulated things. That may lead to a feedback loop that goes the other way: you feel accomplished, energized and ready to tackle the next task, too.

I find that lists are useful in getting things done. Writing down the first two or three things, the things I actually have to do, and then continuing the list with the things I don’t want to do is a great tactic. Once I cross off the first items from the list, I often end up having enough momentum to tackle at least one, sometimes all of the tasks I had been avoiding.

Unfortunately, all it takes is a little slip-up, and then you’re down that road again: I’m too busy to write a list etc…

The periods when it does work, for me, seem to happen at times when I’m breaking other bad habits too. For instance, in the last few days I’ve cooked proper meals several times, washed the dishes as soon as there’s space for them, and even exercised on the Wii Fit. Which is something, by the way, of which I will NOT provide pictures.

Today I’ve managed to clear my list for the most part, and I’d still have time to exercise my programming muscles for a bit. I just don’t really feel like doing it. However, there’s one last episode of Blackpool left for me to watch…

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