Procrastination is one of the main obstacles to being productive.
Even if a person has a truly important task that they need to complete, they choose to do something else more appealing (at least in the moment). They delay, postpone, and avoid what they need to do and do what they want to do now instead.
For example, everyone knows what they need to do — exercise, read books, eat healthily, organize their space, plan their days, etc. — and yet they procrastinate by watching TV, bingeing on Netflix, sleeping in, scrolling through social media, eating junk food, leaving things unorganized, etc.
Though people know what’s important and beneficial for them, procrastination just tends to outweigh better judgement, and it’s quite clear why.
These “need to dos” need to step up their game.
If these two were locked in a contest, the “want to do nows” would hands-down beat the “need to dos” because of how people perceive them right at the outset.
People see “need to dos” as boring, complex, scary, and tiring while the “want to do nows” seem more interesting, convenient, tempting, and fun.
It’s just human nature to avoid the uncomfortable especially when there’s another option that is comfortable (and readily available!).
How to overcome procrastination
One solution to overcome procrastination, therefore, is to reframe this way of thinking. We can do this by attaching a stronger “why” to our “need to dos” by making it something we really need to do because it will lead us to what we want the most.
Let’s take the following example: exercise (what we need to do) versus watching Netflix (what we want to do now).
(As I’m typing this, I’m already tempted to close my laptop, jump in bed, and turn on Netflix to watch reruns of The Office.)
With exercise, you have discomfort, sore muscles, and exhaustion all wrapped up in one little activity whereas with Netflix, you have comfort, relaxation, and entertainment in just a few clicks of a button.
But as I mentioned, one way we can help exercise step up its game is by connecting it to something we want the most.
Exercise would be something we want the most once we remember that it can help us increase our vitality, energy, confidence, endurance, metabolism, and stamina. It will give us a sharper mind, a stronger body, and even bragging rights if you’re being honest.
All of a sudden, exercise stands a chance against Netflix which does not give us any of these benefits in the long run.
Another example is publishing a blog post (what we need to do) versus endlessly scrolling through social media (what we want to do now).
Scrolling through social media is easy, fun, addictive, and entertaining whereas publishing a blog post requires research, organization of thought, actual writing, designing graphics, and strategic promotion.
What we can do when faced with this dilemma is reframe our thinking and instead, treat publishing a blog post as something that can lead us to what we want the most.
As bloggers and business owners, a blog post can be our way of teaching and helping others about a topic, establishing our authority in our niche, and promoting our products and services.
This will then lead to more exposure, clients, customers, and profits, which will help us gain freedom (time and money) and continue to do what we love to do.
How this helps
Reframing your mindset this way is beneficial in at least two ways:
01. It simplifies your choices into only two—something you want now versus something you want most. That’s it. No excuses or other factors involved that could cause you overwhelm or "analysis paralysis." It highlights your priority and contrasts it with your non-priority.
02. It subtly guilts you into thinking rationally because what you want the most *obviously* outweighs what you want at the moment.
The bottomline here is that once you know something will lead you to what you want the most, you have a greater chance of getting it done ASAP. The better choice becomes clearer and you can pick longterm achievement over short term satisfaction.
In other words, it becomes easier to not procrastinate.
Test it out
Now, try to conduct this experiment using a task you’re procrastinating on right now.
Do you have a proposal you need to finish? A desk you need to organize? Bills you need to pay? A blog post you need to publish? Good habits you need to develop? A flight you need to book? An email you need to reply to? A call you need to make?
Think of ways you can associate this task with something you want the most.
Don't you want optimum health, relationships, peace of mind, and happiness? Wouldn't you like to be more productive, accomplished, organized, successful, efficient, effective, profitable, mindful, purposeful, or something else?
Bonus points if you associate what you want to do now with something you want the least—
Being a bad role model, laziness, inefficiency, ineffectiveness, feeling unaccomplished, feeling left behind, feeling stuck, feeling out of control, etc.
So the next time you’re faced with the temptation to procrastinate and choose something you simply want to do now, first pause and think of ways you can reframe your “need to do” as something you actually want the most.
Share in the comments below: What is one task you're procrastinating on right now? What are ways you can associate it with something you want the most?