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From Procrastination to Motivation

From Procrastination to Motivation

Life has various responsibilities that are no fun, so our procrastination may kick in and we put off doing what we need to do. As pointed out by Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation *, anything that has a low value or measure of enjoyment is what makes some of us vulnerable to procrastination.  

Steel identifies several strategies for making our responsibilities more enjoyable or meaningful, thereby reducing the risk of procrastination.

“Games and Goals”

Is there a way to make what you need to do into a game, perhaps by pushing yourself to do it faster or sooner than usual? For example, could you tidy the house and wash the dishes in less time, or do the laundry on Saturday morning instead of leaving it to when you’ve run out of clean clothes.

Linking your responsibilities to overarching life goals may help to motivate you. An example is mowing the lawn so your grandchildren can kick a ball around in the yard so that they get some exercise and fresh air outdoors to make them healthier.

It also helps to establish specific goals, such as “cleaning out the garage this Saturday morning starting at 10 o’clock”.  As well, use approach goals rather than avoidance goals: e.g. having energy rather than not being tired; an inviting home for guests rather than not dirty and untidy.

“Energy Crisis”

Steel points out the importance of taking advantage of using the peak energy time of your day to tackle your responsibilities. For most people, your mind is at its most efficient for about 4 hours, a few hours after you wake up. I’ve learned that the only way I can make sure I do my exercises is to do them in the morning.

Otherwise, any fatigue of mind, muscle, or motivation will sap your energy and increase your aversion to doing the tasks you need to do.

Stress, too, can readily lead to procrastination. Focus on getting enough exercise and sleep, eating three meals a day, including some fun in your day, and scheduling your responsibilities for your peak energy time of day.

“You Should See the Task I’m Avoiding”

You may find sometimes that you get busy doing something productive while you procrastinate. Examples would be mowing the lawn instead of digging the new bed, or responding to e-mails instead of writing the report. If you have a big task to do, start your day with it rather than opening your e-mail! And turn off the sound that alerts you to a new e-mail.

“Double or Nothing”

Steel points out that people who procrastinate are very poor at rewarding themselves when they do complete a task. Instead, we should tell ourselves what a clever diddums we were to finish it, and also give ourselves a concrete reward, for example eating ice cream or reading a novel or making a frivolous purchase.

An interim approach is to incorporate something enjoyable while you do your task, such as listening to music while you clean the house, or exercising with a buddy.

By rewarding ourselves – with positive self-talk and external treats – when we fulfill our responsibilities, we develop learned industriousness. We get really good at “work before play” and dramatically reduce our procrastination habit.

“Let Your Passion Be Your Vocation”

You will be motivated and not likely to procrastinate if you have a job that fits who you are.

Finding out who you really are and what your life’s calling is can take many years. For me, it wasn’t like finally finding the golden treasure, but more a case of getting closer and closer to my truest essence – and it’s still a journey!

Steel recommends being realistic about which jobs are in demand that fit your interest theme, and what your abilities are that you can really excel at.

Combining Expectancy, Value and Impulsiveness

To sum up, Steel explains that three factors contribute to procrastination: whether or not you expect success, what value or measure of enjoyment you experience (this blog), and your level of impulsiveness, which I’ll talk about in my next blog.

* 2010. Piers Steel. The Procrastination Equation. Random House Canada, 253 pp.

  • Melli
    Posted at 23:01h, 14 October

    Many thanks, this site is very practical.

  • Jonathan R Willison
    Posted at 09:49h, 29 October

    I am very good at procrastination!