On Procrastination3 min read

Articles on procrastination have been popping up quite a lot on my newsfeed lately, so here’s me jumping on that bandwagon – something a little different from the usual economics article you’d expect.

The first line of defense against procrastination is the strongest defense.

  1. Don’t let that first wall come down – don’t act on that initial thought. Once the first wall is broken, the rest are almost sure to crumble.

Self-control is a very delicate thing. We all wield the power to choose what we want to do, but once we give up on that power, even just for a bit, we become incredibly hypnotisable to taking incrementally larger steps towards doing what we rationally would not and should not do. It is like saying yes and yes to that salesman at your door as he talks about the weather and some of your concerns and soon you may find yourself parting with your cash. It is you clicking on Facebook to respond to a notification and finding yourself looking at photos on your newsfeed and soon you are on Youtube and 9Gag and everywhere else except what you are supposed to get to.

(Intuitively I think this has something to do with minimising cognitive dissonance. Once we take an action to do something, we have aligned our thoughts to be consistent with that action and thus we find it easier to take further steps)

A strong first line of defense could be built by setting up barriers to entry to distractions. This can include using website blockers, placing objects of distraction out of sight/ somewhere inaccessible, turning off phones, having specific locations for specific activity. More abstract and metaphysical approaches can involve practicing mindfulness and meditation – becoming more aware of where your attention is going to and learning how to insert pauses between intention and action; voicing out your values and beliefs can also help distance yourself from distractions.

2. Install fail-safes – someone or something to pull the plug on you when you cross that first line. This could be anything, but all you need is a pattern interrupt. It could be an alarm sounding off, reminding you that you should be doing something else. It could be a friend giving you a nudge and telling you to go back to your work. A procrastinator’s best tool is regular alarms to disrupt your thinking.

  1. Practice makes perfect. You are unlikely to be able to suddenly stop your habits of procrastination. It’ll take time and it is extremely important to recognise that and be kind to yourself. People often aim for perfection and reject or criticise anything less. But the end result is often self loathing and disappointment. No good comes from self-blame here. Accept that you have made a mistake and that no one is perfect. If you have hurt someone along the way, apologise; ask for forgiveness; but most importantly, forgive yourself.

& remember that your time and attention are more precious than anything else. Thank you for spending some of that on reading this blog.

Till next time, dream economics.

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