Once we understand it, we’re much better equipped to fight it

First, let’s define the beast we’re battling.

Procrastination is the biggest creative block of all. The boss level. To defeat a boss, we need to practice, build up our skills. And it’s important to know your enemy. So here’s a definition.

Procrastination is the habit of voluntarily and unnecessarily putting off important tasks you need to do, even when you have time to do them. You know that avoiding these tasks will cause you problems in the future. Yet you do it anyway, to avoid feeling bad in the present.

Procrastination is a form of self-harm. We all know this. But this awareness doesn’t stop us giving in to it.

In his useful book Solving The Procrastination Puzzle, scientist and long-term procrastination researcher Professor Tim Pychyl identifies the song of the procrastinator.

  • I don’t want to
  • I’m not in the mood
  • I’ll feel better tomorrow.

Does any of that sound familiar?

Procrastination is a master of disguise.

Its song has many different lyrics and hooks, endless variations on the themes above.

You can be perfectly alert and awake until you turn to a task that triggers you. Then the fog descends, and you suddenly feel exhausted. Procrastination will tell you to rest now, that you’ll be be able to tackle it better later.

“Wait until tomorrow/next week/next month,” it urges, promising that then you’ll somehow have all the energy, knowledge, skill, confidence you need.

It will persuade you to delay just a little longer while you clear the decks, empty your in-box, research or prepare a more, tidy your office, declutter a cupboard, then watch Netflix (to recover).

It whispers cunningly: “Just this one more thing before you start…” Or, “Why don’t you have a quick look at Instagram?”

Once it’s wasted your day, it repeats its tired old promise. “You can start fresh in the morning. Tomorrow, you’ll be less anxious, more rested, in a better mood…

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