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Procrastination

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Is the urge to procrastinate and/or seeking instant gratification born from:

 

-Birth?

-Irrational convictions accepted during our own lifetime?

 

The way I see it, if it's the former, then only way to combat the urge to procrastinate and/or the urge to seek instant gratification is to either:

 

    -Remove the urge overtime by conditioning yourself (like you would a pet dog) using pleasure & pain

    -Avoid the urge by making plans ahead of time to either remove possible temptations/distractions and/or add artificial blockades that prevents        yourself from succumbing to them.

    -Fight it with will when the urge arises

 

 

If it's the latter, then you can just remove the urge altogether by uncovering which irrational convictions you have that is leading you to procrastinate and/or seeking instant gratification and correct them.

 

Any thoughts?

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In my experience, procrastination occurs when I find no fundamental value in the activity I'm avoiding. I can "defeat" the procrastination by sheer willpower, but only at the last minute, and the product or result is inferior (naturally, given the lack of motivation and likely accompanying misery from forcing with will).

The easiest way to defeat procrastination is to do the things for which you have incredible interest, and to avoid the things for which you don't, consistently over time. If you find yourself procrastinating, it's my opinion that some life reassessment is in order, at a broad level, because even menial activities are borderline exciting when you have a great interest and goal in mind.

Edit:

Thinking twice on this, I remember many times where I've procrastinated on things in which I actually do, or did before the procrastinating, have an interest. But, the problem was with value hierarchy -- I was either trying to do too many things at once, or I knew that there was a more important value that should be done instead.

Later, with my ducks more in a row, the urge to procrastinate on the exact same activity would vanish, and I would enjoy or find interest in it again.

Edited by JASKN
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Isn't procrastination always related to an action of little immediate value (or even immediate dis-value)? [short-term negative]

Also, isn't always combined with the belief that this immediate action will result in a value, just not now? [Longer-term positive]

Am I stating the obvious, or is there any example of procrastination that does not have those two attributes?

Edited by softwareNerd
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I

Isn't procrastination always related to an action of little immediate value (or even immediate dis-value)? [short-term negative]

Also, isn't always combined with the belief that this immediate action will result in a value, just not now? [Longer-term positive]

Am I stating the obvious, or is there any example of procrastination that does not have those two attributes?

It is for me. And, over the years, procrastination seems to have been a bigger problem for me than most.

The best way I found of dealing with it is to make commitments to myself in a way that takes away the little choices. Specifically, I have two separate rules for myself:

1. I have a short list of tasks ordered by priority (all of them high long term benefit, low immediate gratification type of tasks). This list is inflexible, and I only add, remove or change the priority of an item after careful, lengthy deliberation (days or weeks of mulling it over). Currently, I only have four tasks on it, in this order: working on an active, paying project; spending time brushing up on programming skills, and spending half an hour a day looking for work, when I don't have an active project; spending half an hour a day reviewing Japanese vocabulary with an SRS software).

2. I have a rule stating that I must perform at least X hours of work every day (at the moment, it's only three hours), and that it must be done as per the list. In other words, I'm not allowed to just do Japanese, or hang out emailing people, when I have a deadline coming up on an active project. The work has to be what the list says it is.

I find that sticking with the list is almost seamless. It takes almost no willpower to do it. Actually deciding to start the work can get tricky (this is where I still have an opportunity to procrastinate), but it's still nowhere near as difficult as it would be if I had a longer schedule, and I had to make the choice of what to work on in the moment. When I wake up in the morning, three hours of hard work is not that bad a proposition.

P.S. Don't get me wrong, I do work more than three hours a day (for the most part). Three is the minimum, that I do every day. What this does is basically lower the cost of any procrastination I choose to engage in after the three hours are up. Basically, I give myself three hours of work, without having to fight the urge to procrastinate. Then, depending on what other work I have or wish to do, it's either easy or hard to keep at it.

If I have no annoying deadlines, hanging out looking at programming blogs, picking up an interesting book, or learning Japanese for hours is a breeze. Keeping up with communication (emails, texts, phone calls with colleagues and clients) and trying to meet fast approaching deadlines is also something I'm motivated to do. It's those other days, when the deadline is far away, and there's no end in sight as far as the volume of work to be done, when I'm grateful that I at least had these rules in place and got two and a half hours of work done, instead of the zero I would've gotten done without them.

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This is a question for a pro, and if it bothers you enough you should consider getting some help.

 

That said, I find that I can get reading / writing tasks done if I set a timer for, e.g. an hour.  That's not an upper limit; you can always set if for another hour when it goes off.  This is a simpler version of Nicky's advice.

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I have procrastinated reading this very thread and making a reply, even though I'm interested in participating in the discussion. And interestingly enough I've not procrastinated in reading and making replies to other threads I participated in. (Hell, sometimes I procrastinate real-life duties by participating in threads on here).

 

Now I know there are a lot of tricks to combat procrastination; I have a few myself that I use.

 

But what I don't understand for sure and is interested in knowing is where this urge is coming from.

 

After some thoughts I've noticed a lot of times when I procrastinate it's on things that I find stressful; these things can be things I'm interested in, they can also be things I find boring. So interest doesn't really seem to be playing that big of a factor. Stress is the main culprit here.

 

And it's not just any stress; I think it's specifically stress from the unknown, from things that will require change to routines. (Rather than stress from overburden).

 

Of course, to combat this, by willing yourself to do what needs to be done and making the stressful activity a habit, it (generally) makes an activity easier overtime and allow yourself to be less susceptible to procrastinating from either avoiding perceived stress and/or getting distracted by immediate attractions.

 

Some people help themselves to form habit in doing stress tasks by using the pleasure/pain mechanism (rewarding yourself with snacks after completion of the stressful task). Others find ways to remove distractions ahead of time to make procrastination harder. Those that have iron wills (physical activities and good nutrition will help in this respect) can just strong-arm their way though with pure determination.

 

However, the ultimate source of procrastination, this tendency to avoid stress and/or be distracted by immediate attractions, the more I think about it the more I believe it is something that comes from birth by default rather than something learned in our lifetime.

Edited by VECT
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I think it's important to recognize that, as with almost any neurological phenomena, the causes of procrastination and the psychological foundations of procrastination are very, very complex - and one person's tendency to procrastinate can come from a very different place than another person's tendency to procrastinate.

 

Psychologically/neurologically, human beings inherently value immediate value more than long term value. Something of lesser absolute value that we get immediately is quite often subjectively valued higher than something of greater absolute value that we get later - unfortunately, this psychological evaluation is not always proportional, causing us to pursue lesser values over the short term when we would have a much greater average gain of value by pursuing a long term value. 

 

Essentially, this means that it takes conscious, active, willful thought to pursue long term goals of higher absolute value (and higher value over time, or average value) over lower values that one can get in a short period of time. However, as anyone who has suffered from mental exhaustion after a long day of work knows - there's only so much you can willfully force yourself to do.

 

Procrastination can be born of other places however - as you said, conditioning can play a part in it, environment can play a part in it, and of course mental status can play a part in it. People with certain autistic spectrum disorders can function entirely normally, but have a really hard time with procrastination and focusing on tasks at hand. 

 

The way a person addresses procrastination would change depending on what it's essential cause is. I don't think that procrastination is simply born of an irrational value system or holding irrational convictions. We are biologically wired a certain way, and that way is not always conducive to modern life (after all, most of that wiring evolved long, long, long before the problems, work, and vices of modern life) - and our tendency to procrastinate and value short term values over long term values is a part of that. 

 

For myself, the biggest component of my own tendency to procrastinate tends to be my environment. Put me in a room with my personal computer, and I will work many times slower than if I'm in a room without it. So if I need to get something done, I shut down the computer, sit in bed, and work. Or go out into my living room, or go to a library or a cafe or something of the like. Other people need to medicate for it, and still others need to set specific schedules in order to keep their priorities in order. 

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IMO one of the keys to success in work, school, hobbies, sports etc is doing your work before you play. To help you do this try to get an accountability partner(somebody outside your household) and make it a goal to not get on the internet or watch TV or whatever else until you've completed your other goals for that day. Meet or talk with your accountability partner often. I talk to mine Sundays through Thursdays. I use Fridays and Saturdays as rest days.

I highly recommend trying it to see if it works for you. It has reduced the amount of time I spend procrastinating GREATLY... and I have yet to not meet a day's goals.

If you want you could also bet something like your fav. shirt or money that you have to give up on the 2nd day in a week that you didn't meet a day's goals.

If you can't find an accountability partner give these guys a shot: http://www.personalcheckin.com

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  • 7 months later...

IMO one of the keys to success in work, school, hobbies, sports etc is doing your work before you play. To help you do this try to get an accountability partner(somebody outside your household) and make it a goal to not get on the internet or watch TV or whatever else until you've completed your other goals for that day. Meet or talk with your accountability partner often. I talk to mine Sundays through Thursdays. I use Fridays and Saturdays as rest days.

I highly recommend trying it to see if it works for you. It has reduced the amount of time I spend procrastinating GREATLY... and I have yet to not meet a day's goals.

If you want you could also bet something like your fav. shirt or money that you have to give up on the 2nd day in a week that you didn't meet a day's goals.

If you can't find an accountability partner give these guys a shot: http://www.personalcheckin.com

In addition to this, I've adopted the following mantra: "If I want to become a great person then I have to reach my goals everyday."

I'm a disciple of causation!

Edited by dadmonson
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  • 2 months later...

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