How To Stop Procrastinating – You Will Finally Be Productive!
Hello, my name is Noah Elkrief, and in this blog post, I’m going show you how to stop procrastinating. And in the process of showing you how to do that, I’m also going to help you to stop feeling bad about yourself when you do procrastinate, and how to stop being filled with internal conflict – this war of trying to do your work, but yet wanting to procrastinate and you know, all that familiar struggle.
To stop procrastinating, you first have to understand why you procrastinate
In order to stop procrastinating, we first have to look at what procrastinating is. We know it as delaying what I want to be doing, or what I should be doing. But beyond that, look in your own life – do you ever procrastinate eating ice cream, watching TV, playing a sport, dancing, or doing anything that you love? No, of course not. You don’t procrastinate what you enjoy. On the other hand, do you ever procrastinate doing your taxes? Doing your homework? Working on a project? Cleaning the dishes, cleaning your room? Of course. These are the things we procrastinate because these are most often the things that we don’t enjoy. So what is procrastinating? Avoiding what you don’t enjoy. Or in other words, avoiding suffering. That’s actually quite logical – of course we’re going to avoid suffering. Of course we’re going to immediately do what we’re going to enjoy, that makes sense, doesn’t it?
You can’t force yourself to do work because you aren’t addressing why you’re avoiding it
When you apply the normal methods of how to stop procrastinating, they usually have to do with time management or trying harder or things like that. But you can’t force yourself to do it now, most of the time, because you’re not addressing the reason why you’re avoiding it, and all the time management tactics in the world won’t be enough if you’re avoiding it because it makes you suffer.
There are 5 major reasons why we procrastinate
What do you do about it? Well, it depends on what kind of specific suffering you have around the task, activity or issue. Broadly speaking, there are five major reasons why people procrastinate. And I’m going to go over each of them real quick and then I’m going to go over each one of them in more detail to show you how to get rid of it, how to lose it.
The five major reasons why we procrastinate are – one, because it’s overwhelming. We have so much to do and we don’t know where to start and it’s overwhelms our mind. Two, because the previous time we did it, we didn’t enjoy it, we were unhappy while doing it, so now we’re avoiding it because we remember it as something unenjoyable. But the third reason is because our mind tells us some story about how it will make us suffer and how it won’t be good for us. The fourth reason is because we have some suffering now that could be completely unrelated to the task, and so we want to avoid that suffering and we immediately go into distractions like TV, internet, things along those lines. And five, the fifth reason, is because the task just isn’t the right fit for us, okay?
1) We procrastinate to avoid feeling overwhelmed
Now let’s look at how to lose each one of those reasons, which one of those causes for procrastination. For the first reason, avoiding something because it’s overwhelming, the way to get around that, is by breaking down the big task into small, little tasks. Focus on where to start, the first thing to do, rather than thinking of all the things you have to do. And the way to do that is by not keeping it in your head, but by putting it down on paper. Write down all the things you have to do, pick one that you have to do now. Focus on the one thing, where to start. You think of all the things at the same time, your mind is very busy, it can’t focus on one and it becomes overwhelming and kind of scary in a sense. In order to not avoid it, in order to not be scared by it or overwhelmed by it, focus on one task, focus on where to start rather than all the things you need to do. And write it down.
2) We procrastinate to avoid activities that we don’t enjoy
The second reason why we procrastinate is because we’re avoiding something that was previously unenjoyable. In that situation, if the last time you did your work, a specific task, whatever, it was unenjoyable, the reason why you avoid it is because you think the task or activity itself was unenjoyable, but it wasn’t. What happened was you were unhappy while doing the task, and you think the task made you unhappy, but it didn’t, no matter what the task was. What made you unhappy was your thoughts in that situation. In those moments that you were doing the task, you had some story in your head that was making you unhappy. The way to see that it’s not the task itself that was making you unhappy is because probably in some moments while doing that task, you were fully immersed in it and you weren’t suffering. Or somebody else could be doing that task and they’re not suffering, right? In order to not procrastinate or to stop procrastinating doing an activity that you previously didn’t enjoy, or that you were previously unhappy in, is to identify what thoughts were making you suffer while you were doing that task, and then recognize how they’re not true, so they stop impacting you, stop making you unhappy.
You don’t enjoy your work because of thoughts that cause anxiety
The most common, I’ll go over now, the most common thoughts that make you unhappy while doing a particular task, and it’s mostly focused on work, because it seems that work is the thing we procrastinate most often. The most common one is, or one of the most common ones, is while doing the task, you have anxiety. You might have anxiety of, “It would be bad if I don’t get this done on time,” or “It would be bad if my boss doesn’t like it,” or, “It would be bad if it doesn’t work out how I want basically, if I don’t get the new client, if I lose somebody, if something happens.” It’s some variation of, “It would be bad if…” And if you tell a story in your head, it creates anxiety and stress, and you think the stress is caused by the actual activity you’re engaged in. But it’s not, it’s created by the story.
The ways to lose the anxiety is to discover you don’t know whether it would be bad for that particular outcome to occur. If you’re thinking it would be bad, let’s say you’re preparing for a client presentation, so you think it would be good if I get the client, bad if I don’t, but how do you know that? Can you think of any reasons why it might be good for you or your for business? You think it would be good if you’re writing a book, it would be good to sell a lot, bad to sell a little, how do you know? It would be good if I get this task done by this amount of time, and bad if it takes that long. How do you know? Can you think of a few reasons as to why the opposite might be true? When you recognize that you don’t know whether it would be bad or good for the outcome you want to happen to happen, then, you lose that story and you lose the anxiety that goes with it. Does that make sense?
You don’t enjoy your work because of thoughts that make you feel inadequate
The second reason, or the second thought that makes us suffer in our job, or while doing anything, is a thought that says, “I’m not good enough.” While doing the task, we have these insecure thoughts of, “I’m not going to be able to get this done, I’m not smart enough, I’m not good enough.” When those thoughts pop up in your head, ask yourself, “Do I know that to be true? Do I know I won’t get it done? Do I know I’m not smart enough? Do I know I’m not capable of this? Haven’t I done it before? Is it possible that I’m capable of it? How do I know?” And even if you’re not capable, right, even if the answer is, “You know what? No, I am really not capable.” You might discover you are capable and you might discover, “No, I’m really not capable of getting this done.” If you’re not capable then, you can work on how to make yourself capable, you can tell your boss that I’m not capable, if that seems appropriate, or, most importantly, most fundamentally, you can recognize that not being capable of this particular task doesn’t mean you are bad in any way. You see? We don’t pick our intellect, we don’t control our memory, we don’t control our tasks or our skills, right? To a degree, right? Look at it, you didn’t pick the intellect that you have, it doesn’t mean anything about you. You didn’t pick your memory. If you have a certain skillset, right? You did decide in some way to put forth time into developing a certain skill or not, so if you don’t have the skill that’s required in order to get a task done, does that mean you’re worse than someone who has that skill? No. You have some skills, they have some skills. You have some qualities, they have some qualities on some level, right? What makes knowing one skill better than knowing another skill? It doesn’t mean anything about you. It’s a skill, right? It doesn’t mean anything about you.
You don’t enjoy your work because you feel empty or lacking
The third common thought that makes us suffer while we’re doing our work, is comparisons. Basically when you’re in your job, it is incredibly common for people to compare what they’re doing to their fantasy. Right? So you might compare it to your fantasy of a job that has purpose, a job that has meaning, a job that reaches my full potential. Or, not a job – it would be better to be on a beach somewhere. The reason why that creates suffering is as soon as you believe your fantasy as the way to be happiest, as soon as you believe your fantasy as the key to happiness, you automatically believe this moment is insufficient and lacking, and you feel like something’s missing from your life. And that creates boredom, lack, and just unhappiness.
How to stop feeling empty and lacking when you’re doing work
When a fantasy comes – “It would be great if I had this job that has purpose or meaning, or being there” – ask yourself, what do I want most in my life? What is the number one most important thing? Is it purpose and meaning and living on a beach, or is it peace? Because if the answer is peach, which it is for everyone that I have come into contact with, but most people aren’t willing to see that, or aren’t ready to see that, if you want peace more than anything else, then you’ll discover that, well, the next question is, can purpose or meaning or beach give you peace? It seems as if the answer might be yes, but that misunderstands the question. What makes you suffer? What prevents you from being in peace? Thoughts. Thoughts that give you anxiety, thoughts that make you worry about others’ opinions, thoughts that make you feel insecure, thoughts that make you compare yourself to others, thoughts that compare this moment to your fantasy.
If you achieve your fantasy no matter what it is, the dream job, the dream meaning, the dream purpose, the dream beach, the dream house, any of it, it doesn’t have the ability to eliminate the thoughts that make you suffer. Why would you give attention to a fantasy that can’t give you what you want? When you discover that achieving your fantasy can’t give you peace, then you automatically stop giving attention to it.
You can still pursue it with all your effort, but there won’t be anxiety or lack associated with it because the only reason we have anxiety is because we think one outcome will be better than another. And the only reason that we care if one outcome is better than another is because if we innocently believe that achieving one outcome will result in happiness and achieving one outcome results in suffering. But what outcome you have out there doesn’t impact your peace, because it doesn’t change the thoughts in your head.
If the thoughts in your head make you suffer now, they will make you suffer wherever you are
If in this moment you’re comparing what you’re doing to your fantasy, in the next moment you’re going to be doing the same thing. In a year, in ten years, no matter what you change out there, or when your job, which is your hand movements, right? You’re not going to change the thoughts in your head if you never even look at them, if you never even deal with it. There’s no such thing as a purpose or a meaning as something real. No matter what job you’re doing, how would you know you have purpose or meaning or potential, you’re reaching your potential? There’s a story in your head, there is no point where you can find potential or meaning or purpose on your body, or on the job. It is a story.
Having “meaning” or “purpose” can’t make you happy
If you’re in a job and you are, let’s say you think all of the money you’re making for the company is going to make the owner really, really rich – then you’ll feel “my job doesn’t have meaning, my job doesn’t have purpose, it’s just making one guy rich,” right? But what happens if he is giving all of his money to charity but you don’t know about it. Would you feel different? No, because you don’t know about it, you don’t feel what’s actually happening, you feel your thoughts about it. If you work in a charity and you think, “I am doing good work,” but what if the head of the charity is really taking all the money for himself and not giving it? If you don’t know about it, which means you don’t think about it, then you don’t feel anything bad, you feel that my life has so much purpose.
The amount of purpose or meaning you feel is not related to what you are doing, it is related to the story in your head. So when you think you have purpose or meaning, it is never enough to actually make you feel fulfilled and happy because it doesn’t affect all the other thoughts in your head and it’s not real, so it never feels like enough.
Put simply, taking a step back, one of the major causes of suffering while doing anything is comparing this moment to your fantasy. And the way to eliminate the sense of lack that it creates is to discover that your fantasy can’t make you happy because it can’t get rid of the thoughts in your head.
3) We procrastinate because we fear how we might feel
Now, moving onto the third fundamental reason why we procrastinate – that is, because the thoughts tells us something about the future which makes us think that we will suffer from doing the task. It is slightly different than what we spoke about before. The most common thing perhaps in this category is the fear of failure. We think, well what happens is, if you think it would be better for you to achieve one outcome than another one, then you automatically are afraid of not achieving the best case scenario. But even more than being afraid of that outcome, we’re afraid of what it means about me.
We are afraid of giving 100% effort and failing because it means we aren’t good enough
Let’s say it’s starting your own business, or actually writing a book. Ok, so let’s say you’re writing a book. Best case scenario it sells millions of copy. Worst case scenario it sells nothing. Alright, so you think selling a lot will make you happier and you think selling less will make you less happy, right? So that creates fear. But the real strength of fear comes from, “If I sell a lot of books, that means I am great, and if I don’t sell a lot of books, that means I’m not.” That is a fear of failure because of what it means about me. The way to avoid that fear is, well the way that we tend to avoid that fear is by not giving our all. If I give 100% effort towards writing this book and getting it out there and nobody buys it, it means I’m not good enough, according to the story in our head. But if we only give 60% effort towards it, then we have an excuse for why if it fails and nobody buys it, we have an excuse – I didn’t give all my effort, that’s why it didn’t happen, that’s why it didn’t work out. Right? Then it doesn’t mean anything about me, it just means I didn’t put enough effort in. There’s no “out” when you put 100% effort in.
The outcome of our effort doesn’t prove anything about who we are
The way to put 100% effort in and not to procrastinate and to not have an excuse is to recognize that the outcome of your effort doesn’t mean anything about you, good or bad. If ten people spent a hundred hours writing a book about the exact same topic, researching it the same amount, spending the exact same amount of time writing, is each one going to sell the same number of copies? No. Why not? We don’t know. Each one has a mind that works differently, each one has a different network of connections, each one has a different memory, a different skill set, all different types of things that are different. If each person spends a hundred hours practicing basketball, each one is going to come out, end up with a different skill level. Why? Because the amount of time we put in doesn’t necessarily, or isn’t the only factor that determines the outcome. When you fail at achieving the outcome you desire, you say it’s my fault, but there’s millions of factors which you don’t control. You didn’t control the intellect that was given to you, your memory, the previous life experiences that help to contribute to what you are doing, whether your boss likes it, whether the readers like it, whether you meet the right person to help it succeed, any of these things. It’s not up to you. We don’t operate in a vacuum where everything that happens is only based on what I do. It’s not how it works. And even if it was only based on what I do, I don’t control what I’m able to do. Do you see?
When you recognize that the good outcome doesn’t mean you’re great and the bad outcome doesn’t mean you’re bad, then all of a sudden you’re free to try your best, you don’t need to procrastinate.
We are afraid of feeling powerless or helpless
The second thought in this category of why we procrastinate is because we often have this idea that I am forced to do what I am doing, right? I have to do this, I have no choice. This could happen with someone doing their homework, this could happen with someone in their job and they think “I have to do this, I don’t want to do it but I have to.” That mentality creates resentment towards the task, it’s forcing me to do something that I don’t want to do. And when we’re forced to do something we don’t want to do, we put it off. Partially because we want to avoid things that we don’t enjoy, and partially just as this idea to give us some power. “Well I may have to do it, but I’m going to do it when I want, I don’t have to do it now. A way to get around this story in our head is to simply recognize you do have a choice, you are choosing to do it. So with your homework you may think you don’t have a choice, you have to do it.
The truth is that you do have a choice even when you think you don’t
You do have a choice – do the homework and get a grade that you like or don’t do your homework and get a grade that you don’t like. Don’t do the homework and have your parents be mad at you. You have a choice. The same is true for doing your work – you think you don’t have a choice, you do. The choice is do your work and get the boss to like you, or at least be okay with, or don’t do the work and take the chance of being fired, or talk to the boss and see if there’s something you can do about it, or quit and do something else. You have a choice – you are choosing to do the work. No matter what the situation is, you have a choice, always. And when you recognize you are choosing to do it, you stop blaming it on others that they’re forcing it on you. And then you can stop resenting it, you can see that I am choosing to do it because I’ve evaluated the pros and cons and I’ve decided this choice is what’s best for me. That’s always what’s happening, we’re just not aware of it.
We procrastinate doing the work because it will just re-affirm that we aren’t good enough to do it
The next reason why we avoid work is because we think, “I’m not good enough to do it.” And so, we may have never done it before, or we may have done it before, but we tell a story, “I’m just not going to be able to do it, why even start, I’m not going to be able to.” In that situation you could simply ask yourself the question, do I know that to be true? Is it possible that I will be able to do it? Have I done something similar before and been able to do it? Have I previously come to the conclusion that I won’t be able to do something and when I tried, I actually was able to do it? Do you actually know that you won’t be able to do it? And if you think you do, then you could ask yourself the question, “Do I know it’s better to fail or succeed at this?” How do I know what’s best for my life? Do I know all of the effects that could occur from this situation, from failing or succeeding? How do you know?
We procrastinate doing work because it seems to make us miss out on happiness
And the last thought that we’re going to talk about in this category of avoiding work because of what thoughts say, is the idea that if you do the work, you are missing out on something else. Right? You think it’s a waste of time, it’s not fun, right? It’s sometimes referred to as the fear of missing out. The whole premise of the fear of missing out, thinking you want to do something fun instead of that, is based on the idea is that the best way to pursue happiness is through experiences.
But when you pursue happiness through experience, your life goes happy moments experience (hand goes up), suffering (hand goes down), and a sense of lack all in between. Because if you’re waiting for fun moments like the night, the weekend, then you spend your entire life waiting to be happy. All day long, you’re waiting for nighttime, all week long you’re waiting for the weekend, all six months you’re waiting for your next vacation, always waiting to be happy because you think happiness comes from accumulating fun moments.
Why certain types of experiences make you happy
Look at your experiences, is that the way you want to live life? Is that a fulfilling way to live life? A fun moment is simply a distraction from your thoughts. When you’re engaged in any activity, it takes your complete attention, you’re at peace. You’re happy, you’re having fun. Why? Because you’re not giving attention to all the thoughts in your head. It doesn’t matter what your job is, how much money you make, what your marital situation is, what you look like, anything, when you’re distracted from your thoughts, right? Whether you’re watching TV, playing sports, dancing, anything. If you’re distracted from your thoughts, you’re fine. If you’re at work and you watch a funny cat video, you’re fine, in that moment, because you’re distracted from your thoughts.
Why accumulating fun moments can’t give you lasting happiness
That’s fine, there’s no problem with that, except that distracting yourself from your thoughts to pursue happiness is an incredibly temporary solution. If you’re looking for happiness from distractions, you’re distracting yourself from a thought for a moment, and then all of your thoughts come right back. Right? When you’re pursuing a fun moment instead of your work, what you’re saying is this fun moment is the key to happiness. But ask yourself, what is it that I want? Fun moments, suffering moments and lack in between, or do I want to live a life of fulfillment to enjoy everything that I do, to always feel complete and whole? The way to be at peace is to discover how to be happy in any situation, not to constantly try and change everything and everyone to match your idea of perfect so you can be happy. That never works, because no matter how perfect everything is, you still have the same thoughts.
4) We procrastinate to distract ourselves from our unwanted emotions
Now the fourth fundamental reason why we procrastinate is to avoid some form of suffering and to go to a distraction now. This is where things like watching TV, going on YouTube, looking up articles on the internet, Facebook, eating, going to distractions, going to simple, fun activities, or mind consuming activities, to take breaks from work or to avoid work.
Why we constantly go to distractions instead of doing our work
Why do we do that? In order to stop doing it you have to understand why you do it. And there’s really a simple answer, and that is, our mind goes to what makes us happy, that’s where we. And so when you watch that cat video, when you read an interesting article, when you look at photos, when you eat, you have a little bit of pleasure, a little high, right? And so what happens is that creates a memory of pleasure, and in any moment that you feel a sense of lack, you immediately look to escape that feeling of lack by going to the easiest source of pleasure. And the easiest source of pleasure, food, TV, internet, pictures, whatever, something that takes your attention away from how you feel and the thoughts you have in this moment.
You can’t just force yourself to stop procrastinating
The way to avoid doing that is not to force yourself to stop, “I need to stop doing that”. That doesn’t work, does it? Why do you keep checking your email, keep looking for good news, looking for someone to prove they love you, looking for some comment that says he still likes me, whatever. Right? If you’re not addressing the reason why you’re going to something, no amount of discipline is going to stop you from going there. The way to free yourself from this constant urge to escape how you feel and go to distractions, is to look at how you feel in the moment that you feel pulled to go to a distraction. If right now, I’m trying to do my work, and then I feel like going to have a donut, stop – what am I trying to escape now? And look, because there’s some story going on that’s making you unhappy.
It may be some thought about how you’re not good enough, if your life isn’t good enough, I don’t know, it could be anything. But you need to look for yourself to see what thoughts you’re trying to avoid. Because that’s what distractions are doing, avoiding the thoughts. Distracting you from thoughts.
When you lose your suffering, you lose the urge to distract yourself from suffering
The way to stop having the pull to going to distractions is to stop suffering, to stop being at the effect of these thoughts in your head. And the way to stop being at the effect of these thoughts in your head is to look at them. We never spend time with our thoughts, we always need to be distracted in every single moment, right? When do you spend time with yourself with no distractions? You need TV, music, food, friends, work, anything to avoid you just being alone with your own thoughts. Right? If you can’t be with your own thoughts, of course you’re going to try to escape them in every moment. If you want peace, if you want to stop procrastinating, because they’re the same thing – if you’re not at peace, you’re going to procrastinate, right? Because you’re going to associate your suffering with a task and you’re going to try to avoid your suffering now by going to things that are going to make you happy.
If you want to stop procrastinating, what you really want is peace and happiness. And the way to get that is to be willing to look at what thoughts you’re telling yourself over and over again, and then look at whether they’re true or not. And you can use my free e-book and my free web app in the description to help you investigate your thoughts, see what stories you’re telling yourself, or you can look at my other videos.
5) You procrastinate because a task or job isn’t the right fit for you
Now for the fifth reason, the fifth fundamental reason why we procrastinate, is simply because a task, a job, is not the right fit for us. Maybe you really love interacting with people and you’re in a job where you’re in Microsoft Excel all day. That’s not the ideal fit for you, you don’t feel motivated, enthusiastic, pulled to go do it, right? In that case, here’s the thing – you could recognize that and then try to pursue a different or pursue a different way to spend your time, but here’s the most important thing to understand about that – if some task is not the right fit for you, you don’t actively avoid it, you see? For me, I love dealing with people, but I don’t avoid numbers, I don’t avoid doing other type of work because it doesn’t make me suffer, it’s neutral. The task that isn’t the right fit for me is still neutral, so there’s no reason to avoid it. If you’re trying to avoid something, it’s because it’s not neutral, it’s because you believe it’s making you suffer. And even if something’s not the right fit for you, it can’t make you suffer. The only thing that can make you suffer is the thoughts in your head. That’s it. Does that make sense?
Thanks for reading this blog post for how to stop procrastinating
That’s it for this video. Those are the five major reasons for why we procrastinate, and the primary thoughts that cause us to suffer while doing a task, and causes us to avoid doing a task and make us procrastinate. If you have any questions about anything I said, which you probably will, please ask them in the comments, because I’m going to answer, and then by answering these questions in the comments, other people can see them and we can end up addressing everyone’s issues and hopefully stop some procrastinating, alright? Thank you for watching this video, and I’m excited to hear what the impact is on your life and if you found it helpful. Alright, I’ll see you on the next video. Bye.