The cost of evolution: why it is pointless to fight procrastination and thank God
Every time I was about to start writing this article, something happened that required urgent intervention. A Facebook tab that was accidentally left open flickered — and now I’m already, I don’t remember why or how long ago, pointlessly scrolling through the social network feed…
As a result, I was irritated by the realization of my time wasted, and now I’m upset and can’t collect my thoughts. I’m going to get some tea. But I will not waste time and while the kettle is boiling, I will check my email directly in my smartphone. Oh, how many letters! I should have answered. Okay, I’ll answer later, when I at least start writing this article…
Damn, the kitchen was a mother — tidy up, it’s very long. Oh, shit! The trash can is full, you need to take it out, and on the way back to pick up the bills from the mailbox. By the way, about the mailbox: a couple of emails about work should still be answered right now… Or first hang out the Laundry?
Although … I’d better start the article anyway, so I don’t have to answer stupid emails that can wait until tomorrow.
If you have noticed something like this, you may have already searched for the answer to the question: “how to stop procrastinating and start living”-and even, perhaps, found it. Repeatedly. Thus postponing the layout of the budget, or the layout design, or the creation of the best resume in the world.
The irony is that spending time trying to figure out how to stop spending it “going nowhere” rarely helps. Therefore, this article will be useful for those who are used to evaluating themselves sensibly, and for those who value their time and work for results.
No one likes procrastination
By procrastinating, we avoid performing certain actions by replacing them with others. Moreover, we sincerely believe that we should perform exactly the actions that we shirk, and not those that we actually perform.
And the realization of this fact makes us unhappy. Although from the point of view of banal logic, everything should be the opposite. If you have avoided something unpleasant and difficult, you should be happy. But procrastination is not so simple.
We evaluate procrastination negatively, equating it with laziness. It seems to us that procrastination is exactly what lies between us and a bright future.
But, despite its bad reputation, sometimes procrastination is not so bad and even helps us cope with things.
Battle of power
Procrastination is the result of an eternal and inevitable conflict within our head. It’s almost literally a battle between two parts of our brain for influence on our behavior.
On the one hand, the so — called limbic system-a complex of brain structures that are involved in regulating emotions, motivations and managing its overall adaptation to environmental conditions-is powerful, and this is where the pleasure center is located.
On the other hand, the limbic system is opposed by the prefrontal cortex, also known as the center for making informed decisions.
The limbic system struggles to get short-term pleasure right here and now, and the prefrontal cortex works in a disciplined way for the long term, blocking the limbic system’s urge to drop everything and rearrange the alarm clock for another half hour.
The prefrontal cortex is what really distinguishes us from animals whose behavior is governed solely by impulses. Unfortunately, unlike the ancient limbic system, the prefrontal cortex is the latest and most vulnerable invention of evolution, and it does not work automatically.
We really need to consciously force ourselves to focus on useful and necessary tasks every time in order to bring them to the end.
At the same time, as soon as we relax and turn off consciousness, the limbic system takes over — and we are dealing with procrastination.
Basic level of consciousness
Thus, procrastination is a biologically conditioned and obligatory part of ourselves, a basic principle of our behavior. This is a fact that needs to be accepted. Fighting procrastination the same way we fight bad habits is simply pointless.
“Most of the great people I know are terrible procrastinators,” says American entrepreneur, essayist, and programmer Paul Graham. — Is it really that bad?”
Most of those who deal with the “problem of procrastination” concentrate only on one idea — how to get rid of it. And there are a countless number of recipes. But it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, because you’re definitely not doing anything else at this time.
So the question is not how to stop procrastinating (spoiler: no way. — Primas’. BP). The question is how to procrastinate correctly.”
A, B, and C
Let’s say you realize that the New year has passed and it’s time to throw away the tree, but instead you:
— sit on the couch and review the new year’s light on the First channel (that is, do nothing)-a-type procrastination;
— sit in social networks, read something, listen to music, watch “Sherlock” and swear about it in the comments, chat with friends (that is, do something less important)-B-type procrastination;
— you do not want to take out the tree so much that you sat down at the computer and wrote “an offer that can not be refused” for one of your most important clients (that is, you did something more important)-C — type procrastination.
The latter method of replacing one action with another is useful procrastination.
“It’s like a’ mad Professor ‘ who forgets to shave, eat on time, and even figure out where he’s headed while his mind is busy solving useful and important tasks,” Graham cites the example.
Deceptive sense of employment
C-procrastinators can procrastinate with triple energy, but in most cases they do not waste time in vain: they postpone small things in favor of working on big things (although try to find time and remove the Christmas tree at least until the may holidays).
What are small things? Graham aptly defines them as”work that has no chance of being marked in your obituary.”
It is not easy to determine what is the most important thing for us. But it is very easy to determine what they are not: cleaning, social networks, a fair amount of business correspondence, and so on. small tasks that steal our time and leave a deceptive sense of employment.
Of course, we have to clean up, respond to stupid emails and congratulate friends on their birthday, but putting them off for a while to perform important tasks, we do not lose much.
In contrast to small routine cases, real cases usually require more time and the right mood. If you are finally inspired by an important project or have the strength to take it on, there is nothing wrong with putting everything else on hold.
Yes, it is possible that during the time you spent on an important project, something else will be added to the need to take out the Christmas tree (wash the floor, make a report for the accounting Department, answer a lot of letters), and solving these tasks will take more time in the future. But you can handle them with less energy, knowing that the main thing is finally done!
And here useful procrastination gives us another very significant advantage.
Indeed, serious and important tasks will not solve themselves. Little things are quite another matter.
If you do not spend time on a lot of routine things, a fair part of them will disappear unnoticed, and you just do not have to do them. Never.
Or you will have to, but in the long term you will save both time and effort.
— At least a third of the emails that you copied and did not respond to will lose all relevance in time, and you can simply delete them without any remorse.
— Or you will have to answer, but you will still save time, because you did not participate in multiple transfusions from empty to empty and came closer to the real solution of the question.
— It’s the same with most work negotiations, daily reports, and other “empty work” that takes time and wastes effort.
— The same with household chores: you can take out the tree in a couple of days as part of the weekly cleaning, and if you’re lucky, your household can do it for you.
Quantity vs. quality
And vice versa. Let’s say you are determined to be your own boss — and no more procrastination. As a reasonable and systematic person, you have made a list of things to do for the day and stupidly try to do one after another.
— Most likely, the lion’s share of cases in your list will be made up of small and simple cases.
— Performing each individual small task takes less time and effort than solving any important task, so at first you take up the little things with enthusiasm, quantity replaces quality, but you think that you are doing well.
— After a while, nature takes its course, and you begin to procrastinate.
— After a while, your conscience begins to torment you.
— You make an effort and in the remaining time try to close as many items from your list as possible. Most likely, these will be “simple” items, because they require less time and effort.
— By the end of the period (whether it is a day or a week) , you realize that you are terribly tired, but you do not remember why. After all, the little things that you scrupulously performed, were forgotten, without bringing much satisfaction.
— Because difficult and important tasks that have been postponed due to lack of time, effort and intention are likely to remain unresolved and hang over you like a sword of Damocles.
And this is only if you are somehow struggling with procrastination. Most of them will just sit down in social networks in the best case in half an hour after the start of the working day.
If the latter are not complete idiots and idlers, and especially if they know how to procrastinate correctly (C-type) or at least with pleasure, the result of their efforts will be no worse than those who tried their best not to lose focus on a pre-made plan.