"I bought a book about procrastination several years ago. Haven't read it yet. I will get to it eventually."
Just kidding, I actually did read it ;)
Turns out procrastination is directly correlated to perfectionism. When perfectionism increases, procrastination increases (and vice versa).
So when you find yourself avoiding some task, it's very likely you've built up the task into something so big, so gargantuan, that starting has become daunting.
Take for example, the relatively basic task of baking cookies (I'm kind of hungry).
There are two ways to do this:
The Easy Way
Buy a bunch of ingredients (flour, sugar, chocolate chips, eggs, etc..) mix 'em up, throw 'em in a baking tray. BOOM, done!
Becoming a Perfectionist
After doing that for a while, you've now graduated to the "cookie expert" level, so you up your game. Instead of buying chocolate chips, you now buy bars of chocolate and chop them yourself. Heck, maybe you drive out to a farm and get some farm fresh eggs, maybe even freshly grind some rock sugar.
The results are phenomenal, so you keep adding and complicating.
The World's Most Difficult (and Expensive) Artisinal Hand-Crafted Small-batch Farm-to-table Cookie
- Get a hen-house with chickens in the backyard, for super fresh eggs.
- Buy a small farm to grow wheat and harvest it for flour.
- Buy a sugar plantation to grow and harvest your own sugar cane.
- Raise a cow for fresh milk.
- Harvest your own cacao beans and make your own chocolate.
Congratulations, baking cookies just became harder than climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.
You can no longer complete this task in 10 minutes, you now need a metric crap-tonne (actual SI unit) of planning, pre-planning and organizing.
You've created something too big to start.
Breaking the Cycle
To break the cycle, you'll need to create an easier start condition. You can do this by SIMPLIFYING AND REDUCING the first (aka starter) task.
Recall that procrastination effects only the start condition, STARTING the task (not actually doing the task). Once you've started, tiny amounts of success and accomplishment will build up and melt away procrastination (because you're creating mini gratification cycles).
- Have trouble working 8 hours? work for one hour and see how that feels, odds are you'll have no trouble continuing because the start was the only real barrier.
- Want to paint the deck but never get around to it? Tell yourself you'll only paint the railing, chances are you'll be done in a jiffy.
- Wanna run a mile? put on your shoes and run for just 5 minutes, bet you wont stop there.
- Never get around to writing that blog post? Just write one paragraph, 30 minutes later you'll realize you finished an entire post (actually how I wrote this)
Starting is always the biggest barrier. When you feel stuck, simplify and reduce until you reach a starter task so small that your "engines" can turn on. With your engines rolling, you're well on your way.