This is a republishing of The Steady Fella Newsletter. Every week readers use the timeless insights on passion, productivity, philosophy, and happiness from this newsletter to build towards the life they want.
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This week's newsletter is based on "Why we wait: the neuroscience of procrastination" from Ness Labs.
Procrastination is an incredibly common act we've all struggled with. It's an ironic concept because we're driven away from something we deem important.
There are a few things that trigger it:
The Greek philosopher, Socrates, asked how is it possible that, if one judges an action to be the best, one would do anything other than this action.
Most people answer that question with laziness, bad habits, or incompetence. The real answer is our biology.
With every decision we want to make, there's a battle in our brains between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex.
You can think of these two as opposites. One is conscious actions and the other is instinctual actions.
The battles go like this:
When you understand the science of procrastination it makes it easy to stop blaming yourself. Now, what can you do about it?
Because of the brain's ability to adjust and adapt (neuroplasticity), there are techniques we can use to prevent procrastination:
If your environment is full of physical and digital distractions, it adds extra resistance to a task that you're already not motivated to do.
Eat the frog! Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
Doing the thing you least want to do first is important for 2 reasons:
Splitting your large task into multiple smaller chunks makes it less daunting when trying to start, gives you mini feelings of accomplishment, and provides established breaks throughout the task.
Working in public just means letting people know your tasks, jobs, or goals. It uses the power of accountability for motivation.
"Someday" is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you
- Tim Ferriss
In this quote, Tim Ferriss is saying that delaying when you take action on your dreams leads to that dream never being able to realize. It starts in your head and stays in your head for your entire life.
Tim Ferriss says, "For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks ... The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time."
He says if it's important to you, do it now and correct course along the way.
Do you notice you're procrastinating when it's happening? Or not until some time has passed?
Over the past year, I've made it a priority to be very intentional with my time. So whenever I get frustrated with my work and reach for my phone I instantly recognize that I'm trying to procrastinate.
This awareness helps me snap out of the trance and work my way back to getting things done.