A lesson on Productivity from a serial Procrastinator!
Procrastination is perhaps the biggest, most common pitfall that we all indulge in. What is more frustrating, is the fact that we all know that we are procrastinating, yet, we have no way of falling out of it! I know procrastination too well, so well that I was the one who put the ‘pro’ in procrastination!
Let’s rewind to the year 2014. I was sailing through the fourth semester of my engineering. My happy-go-lucky attitude in the previous semester had caused more ruin to my GPA than I could’ve ever imagined. Fourth semester had to be the semester where I redeemed myself! A goal of such magnitude obviously required a lot of work!
When I began preparing for my exams, the previous semester’s failure played in my head. My brain said —
You got bad grades in the basic courses! How do you think you can ace the advanced ones?
I tried my best to curb that thought and continued focusing on the books in front of me. In two minutes however, the focus broke and I was searching for my papers from the last semester. Stupid old me didn’t realize that the papers from the last semester could do NO good to me!
After spending hours looking for something that I had no use for, I decided to call it a day. I had an important lecture to attend early next day and I had no intention of missing it. As I lay asleep, the thoughts of a wasted day haunted me. For a person trying really hard to improve his/her GPA, every day counts! (stop smiling, you NERD!) These useless thoughts suddenly started building on each other. What started as a small thought about a wasted day, joined with the thought of past failures and resulted in a thought of eternal failure! I stayed awake for over 5 hours thinking about scenarios that hadn’t happened yet! That night of ruined sleep, eventually led to a lazy day. I missed the lecture I tried so hard to attend!
The first thing that I did after waking up, was analyze the events of the past day. This time around I forced myself to be logical. As I reflected back to the instance of me looking for papers I didn’t need, I realized that it was an obvious instance of procrastination. The whole snowball of negative thoughts that prevented me from sleeping was also an example of procrastination! I was constantly procrastinating and I needed a way out.
The easiest way out was Google! I googled the symptoms of my persistent problem and began researching the results, like my life depended on it. It was mostly routine information and casual motivation, until I came across one article about the research of Procrastination. The article spoke in length about the positive correlation between stress and procrastination.
Procrastination is the mind’s way of indulging in easier tasks when the stress of difficult tasks is too high. In other words, procrastination is our mind’s way to relaxing from a stressful situation.
This was the missing piece in the puzzle!
- When my mind drifted into the past and reminded me of my failures, I got stressed. As a result of that stress, I indulged procrastination by looking for my papers from the previous semester (easier task) instead of studying for my current semester (difficult task).
- When I got stressed about wasting the whole day, my mind indulged in procrastination by thinking about possible scenarios in the future (easier task) instead of fixing the current scenario (difficult task).
As I understood that stress was the trigger for procrastination, I tried my best to prevent the stress from getting the best of me. Each time I was faced with the stress of past mistakes, I made a conscious effort of accepting that mistake and prevented myself from a downward spiral.
As and when I killed stress at its origin, procrastination found it difficult to grow on me.
Now for the lesson I promised —
- Each time you catch yourself procrastinating, stop and ask yourself —
What am I stressed about?
- Once you know the answer to that question, do everything in your power to prevent yourself from overthinking about it!
- Last, but far from the least, ask yourself —
How can I reduce this stress?
- Now that you know the answer to reducing your stress, the procrastination should ideally diminish.
Thank you for reading! If you like the post, do show some love. If the lesson helped you, share it with your friends. If it didn’t, tell me why the lesson failed you. You can always find me on LinkedIn.