Mindset Series: Solving "I'll start tomorrow" procrastination
We've all been there.....
There's an important presentation you're supposed to be preparing for but the new series on netflix is too fascinating and you postpone starting today.
You have a bootcamp class coming up in an hour but this heavy blanket of reluctance sets in your stomach - somehow this is the last thing on earth you would rather be doing. Never mind that you were so excited about doing this for the last 1 month but man! today, you just don't feel like it. OK, let me skip today, tomorrow will definitely be there!
Listen, there's nothing wrong about taking a break once in a while.. and it's not the end of the world .
However, when one part of you knows that "this is the right thing you should do" and you still don't do it.. you end up feeling guilty , helpless and worse giving up on doing that thing altogether (e.g. setting a new habit) . This is what I don't want you to do.. and hopefully what am writing below will help you see this in a different light.
First, Why is "I'll start tomorrow" procrastination so common
Let's take the example of you skipping your workout "Just for today" because you've had a long day with back to back meetings and are tired... why is it so much easier to say/ imagine - I'll just do this tomorrow?
In psychology , there is this notion of empathy gap (More about Empathy Gap by Decision Lab)
. You are much more at ease assigning tasks & goals to your future self. because you are not empathetic to it. You feel the pressures and cares for today will magically disappear and this causes you to give in to instant gratification for your current self but assume your future self will not have the same issue. Therein lies the root of "I'll start tomorrow" procrastination. This is especially true for goals/ milestones that don't have a specific deadline. If there is a deadline (e.g. deck due tomorrow) - even if you procrastinate , you ultimately get down to it and get it done. For more creative endeavors e.g. starting a business, prioritizing health or family which don't really have a clear deadline , this sort of procrastination means you are putting off doing this for a long time .. maybe it will never happen. (See this hilarious TED video for Tim Urban that speaks about this)
OK, What are some ways to fix "I'll do tomorrow" procrastination
Read tomorrow's blog about this... just kidding :)
Here are a few ways I've used to get over this. Does that mean I never do this? No - I still do this :) However, reviewing this principle and doing below has certainly helped minimize instances where I do this...
1) Awareness is light :) : Every since I came across this concept of Empathy Gap - it was like a lightbulb went off. So now whenever I hear myself saying "I'm so tired today how about I skip this just for today...." I recall this principle and try one of the techniques below. Just this awareness has helped me get over the hump on some days (if the effort is minimal e.g. taking a glass down to the kitchen from my office once am done with it :))
2) Mel Robbins 5 second rule- I came across Mel Robbins counting backward method this last year and it has proven to be surprisingly effective. Say, you want to get up early everyday to work on your blog or even do a dreary task like doing laundry.. just count backward from 5 to 1 and propel yourself and do that thing.
Why this works: As I've mentioned in my previous post action breeds motivation.
So by counting backward (you know action is coming) and then taking action at the end of it (however small) you are beginning to build up momentum.
See a summary of her book here
Starting is hard .. but once started we usually are able to sustain that momentum.
3) Start small... for 5 minutes: Sometimes when faced with a daunting task (e.g. preparing for a big presentation) that you know will take an hour or so of prep - you may drag your feet. Maybe you don't know where to start, maybe you don't want to start because you know it will be time consuming :). In such situations , I usually like to tell myself "Let me just do this for 5 minutes. At the end of it , I can stop and do something else". Setting up a small amount of time to do something automatically makes it go from impossible -> possible. You can do anything for 5 minutes (5 youtube shorts:)) Once you start doing it .. you are hooked and before you know it you're actively engaged !!
(Fun fact: I started writing this blog using this 5 minute rule 40 mins ago. Now 40 mins later am still going strong. Now, that's some real time proof for ya! :) )
4) Just show up : On days when I feel like skipping a workout class because I've had a long day (I usually work out in the evenings) - I tell myself " OK am just going to show up and if I do a totally shoddy job because I am <Insert Emotion / Excuse here :)) > , that's ok"
So I wear my shoes, I show up to the class and just do it. 99/100 instances I also end up doing a great job ... once again proving that starting is the toughest thing to do. In the end I leave the class feeling energized and ready to take on the world.
Summary: If you find yourself doing the "I'll do this tomorrow" procrastination , know that its super common.Use the techniques above the next time you find yourself saying this and watch your procrastination blues disappear :).
Would love to hear if this article resonates with you and techniques you follow to get over this..