There’s always a choice point when we procrastinate. Although it may seem like it’s happening automatically and we might think we don’t have a choice, the fact is that we do. Either we act on the thought of wanting to do a task or give in to the urge to delay it. It’s at this critical juncture where thoughts play an important role. In that split second you’ve made a decision to delay the task and then your mind will give you umpteen justifications for your reasons to delay and that’ll become a habit.
Today when I was laying on the sofa watching Netflix and not feeling like getting up, I had a thought of sketching. I immediately went and picked up my drawing tools and sat down to draw. Hence the result is these two drawings. Now in that moment as I reflect, I had another thought, “let me watch one more episode”. That was the choice point – drawing or giving in to watching another episode and remaining in that place for the rest of the day.
I’ve had practise with catching my thoughts so I was able to quickly act on my action thought.
This may not be possible all the time. But over time if you practise you’ll be able to recognise your choice point – choosing whether to delay or act. Many a times, there are valid reasons for delaying like being burnt out, exhausted, needing rest, sleep etc. However many a times, what makes us procrastinate is not being aware of the choice point, and then we have these handy justifications that don’t help at all.
We have all these ‘ideal conditions’ that have to be met before we do a task. If any of these conditions aren’t met, we procrastinate. We think we need to do it perfectly and unless all the demands/conditions are met, we cannot do it. All conditions may be important but they aren’t necessary to do the task.
For example, if I think of drawing, I just need the drawing tools, hence even a pencil will do. All conditions like having a quiet corner for myself, being in the right mood aren’t necessary to draw. Also, we have this idealised and perfect image of tasks, like I might think I need the best markers to draw, I need to finish my laundry then draw, I need to do this and that and then… I procrastinate!
So try this. The next time you get a thought that prompts you to take an action, instead of ignoring it, act on it immediately. Once you act on it, you’ll gradually feel motivated to continue doing it. We cannot wait for the right feeling to come along to do something. You don’t need motivation to act, you just need to recognise the choice point and act despite the urge to delay. Also, become aware of the automatic thoughts that come up, the justifications that come up when you have the urge to delay.
Practise, telling yourself, I don’t need to meet all the conditions to do this task. All conditions don’t have to be met to complete this task or to start it. What I have is enough to do it right now.