Friday Reflection – Procrastination

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So that was January 2024. I have to say I am happy to see the back of it – I didn’t do dry January or Red January (Run every day) I just seemed to struggle through it. I normally have a lot of self-motivation, I love our business and feel very privileged in so many ways but I found the last month a slog and nowhere near as productive as it should have been. Talking to others it seems that I am not alone in my slow start to the year.

I was reminded of Tim Urban’s Ted talk “Inside the Mind of a master procrastinator”.  Tim is a self-proclaimed procrastinator and he puts forward the idea that the brains of procrastinators are different than the brains of other people. He suggests that both brains have a rational decision-maker in them, but the procrastinator’s brain also has an instant gratification monkey.  It is this instant gratification monkey that gets in the way of productivity.

The Monkey lives entirely in the present moment and wants what his name suggests – immediate fun. Whilst our Rational Decision-Maker allows us to see the future and the bigger picture, allows us to plan, and allows us to think in ways no other animal can, the monkey just wants to have fun, he wants to just have us do whatever makes sense to be doing right now.

His influence gets us to perform leisure activities at inappropriate times. But because this is unearned fun it can come accompanied with guilt, dread, anxiety etc.. Tim argues that for procrastinators this cycle continues until it is almost too late, at which point the Panic Monster steps in. As Tim says he suddenly wakes up anytime a deadline gets too close or there’s danger of public embarrassment, a career disaster or some other scary consequence. He’s the only thing that the Monkey is terrified of.

Now this system may work when there are deadlines but for things where deadlines aren’t involved, like seeing your family or exercising or non-urgent tasks – it doesn’t. The Panic monster doesn’t show up for these. That means you have to. We need to stay aware of the Instant Gratification Monkey.  Time for each of us sadly isn’t infinite.

So if you are struggling – take back control – set a plan, break your plan into a series of sub steps or goals, communicate your goals (sharing them significantly increases your chances of success), focus on the positive impact of achieving your goals, design rewards for each step, record your progress and most importantly just start. It is shown that once you’ve started something your brain will want you to finish it. Starting only takes a few minutes – and then see what happens.   

I am going to smash February – who is coming with me?