The Curse of Procrastination

I had originally read Mel Robbins’ book, “The 5 Second Rule” last year.  I bought the Audible version and I really enjoyed her delivery, it might be the single best Audible narration I’ve heard – it’s like she’s telling a story.  After listening to the book I didn’t delete the local copy, I kept it on my phone and when I picked up my iPhone X, I made sure to sync a copy locally from the cloud.

In retrospect, it was my subconscious mind telling me that I needed to listen to it a second time to get everything from it.

And this past week, I listened to it again.
It’s not new for me to re-read or listen to a book two or three times.  In fact, I listened to “Unscripted” by MJ DeMarco three consecutive times when it came out in May 2017.  I also re-listened to “Influence” and “Pre-Suasion” by Robert Cialdini last year as well.

I think it takes two or three reads or listens to pick up the subtleties of a book and for it to really sink through into your brain.  My mate Ben Settle says it takes him ten times through a book or an audio program before the message becomes part of his muscle memory.

The takeaway from that is, to get the gist of something, you need to read it or listen to it more than once because you miss a ton of stuff the first or even second time through.

But why was my subconscious telling me to listen to that boo again?

I think I worked it out today while I was waiting for the bus and thinking about the things I needed to work on when I got home…

Procrastination.

One of the topics that Mel covers extraordinarily well in her book is the idea of procrastination.

As a kid, I was a bit of a riddle, wrapped in an enigma for my friends and family.

When I applied myself to something, I had an outstanding work ethic.

In an issue of the now-defunct Casual Marketer Monthly Newsletter, I related a story about how when I was a kid I loved hockey.  My hero at the time was Mike Bossy and one summer I went to a hockey show where he was signing autographs, so I asked him how he learned to shoot as well as he did.  Bossy told me that as a kid, he would get some pucks and he would take 100 shots a day of wrist shots, slapshots and snapshots and over time, it built up his muscles, accuracy and release.

I took that advice and decided to not do 100 of each shot every day that summer, I would do 1000.  And every single day that summer, rain permitting, I would go down the back of the apartment building we lived in with a bag of pucks and for hours, I’d shoot.

By the time hockey season rolled around, kids my age were struggling to shoot the puck over the net from 20 feet out, I was able to whip it over the net from 100 feet away with relative ease,  It had nothing to do with talent, I just did deliberate practice every day.

I have tons of those stories throughout my life where when something clicks, I just decide to do whatever it is and I make it happen.  Even these emails are an example of that – we’re now approaching day 700 of writing one of these every day.

But, the flip side of that was also true.

When I don’t want to do something, I am a lazy bugger.

In fact, growing up, for every time someone called me determined, there were probably three other people calling me lazy.  It drove my parents nuts.

As I got older, I had a high school guidance counsellor tell me that I wasn’t “lazy” at all, I just got bored easily and that my personality was such that I didn’t yearn for the approval of others, so I didn’t feel the need to do things that didn’t interest me.

Honestly, that notion stuck with me right up until I read Mel Robbins’ book last year for the first time.  It was a beautiful excuse, right?  I was smart, so things that didn’t challenge me intellectually were boring and because I give absolutely zero fucks about what other people think of me, I “decide” not to do stuff.

How bloody convenient for me?

Mel Robbins though talks about procrastination in a different way – she cites research that says there are two types of procrastination.

The first one is stress relief.  We put off doing something that confronts us or makes us do something we find stressful, so we allow ourselves to do other things that relieve stress.

She talks about how her life was a total mess and she would just hit the snooze bar on her alarm to avoid having to get out of bed.  She didn’t want to confront the day, so she procrastinated on everything, starting with just getting up in the morning.

The second form of procrastination is more deliberate.  When you have something that you need to do that requires creativity or innovative thinking, it is actually a good thing to sometimes just let it sit for awhile and ruminate.  That intentionally not pressing forward allows your mind the capacity to wander and come up with creative ideas and outcomes.

Lately, I’ve been procrastinating on a few things… I could delve into a bunch of detail about what they are and why, but those are probably stories for another day.

But subconsciously, I think I recognized it and my lizard brain decided it needed to listen to what Mel Robbins had to say about getting stuff done, creating momentum and overcoming procrastination.

So I did… And then today it finally registered.

I get a lot of stuff done during a day… I write these emails which are like a 1000 words, I work full-time, I participate in the Casual Marketer Facebook Group and today for good measure, I smash out a promotional email on Udemy.

But I can do more.  Seriously.  I’m not being a killjoy or a martyr, I waste an inordinate amount of time pissfarting around essentially procrastinating.  Rather than tackling the thing I want to do next, I talk to people in the office, go for coffee, watch an episode or three of Hell’s Kitchen or whatever I’m into on the idiot box at the moment and generally, I fritter away three or four hours a day that should be spent being productive.

Now, before you roll your eyes and think, “You can’t work 16 hours a day…” I agree with you and I don’t, but the 10 or so hours that I do work, I’d say I spend three or four of those not REALLY working.

If I can figure out how to fix that unproductive time then I can do what Mel suggests and set a “clocking off” time where I can look at all the cat memes and stuff that I want!

That’s the thing, if we all look at just how productive we REALLY are, I bet you would find a ton of procrastination going on.

That’s the point of this post – it’s about reframing how we think about procrastination.  Life is stressful and as online business owners, many of whom are doing their business as a side hustle, we’re under a fair bit of stress.  Sometimes sitting down writing that blog post or updating those videos is actually pretty stressful to think about because of the hill we think we need to climb.

And that’s why we procrastinate.  We get the dopamine hit of doing something fun and not doing the hard thing… Of course, that, in turn, makes the stress even greater and we procrastinate even more.

The key is breaking the cycle and that’s what I think my subconscious was trying to tell me.

2 thoughts on “The Curse of Procrastination”

    • I think accepting that procrastination is a way of avoiding the stress of having to do something we don’t necessarily WANT to do is a good start.

      Then understanding that the thing we do to procrastinate is giving us a dopamine hit is reinforcing the bad behaviour is also pretty important.

      For me, it’s about time management – setting myself up with blocks of time to get things done and just doing them.

      I’d be lying if I said I had it beat, but that’s the process I’m going to follow to see how it goes.

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