Let’s get one thing clear. I am the worlds biggest procrastinator. There may be others that think they can challenge me on this title but I know that I could beat them hands down with my eyes closed. I procrastinate like a well practiced professional.
That feels good. To get that out in the open and to embrace the fact that I procrastinate on such a huge level makes me feel much, much better. I can feel the weight lifting from my shoulders.
But even as I sit here writing these words for you, I am procrastinating. I have a deadline to hit, (I like my blog posts to go out every Friday morning) it’s the same deadline every week and as usual, I have left it to the last minute!
I would much rather be sat watching the latest box-set on Netflix, or surfing the internet, watching TED Talks, checking my emails for the millionth time and refreshing my Facebook feed every three seconds to see if one of my friends has liked that video I just posted.
Don’t get me wrong either. I don’t like doing it.
In fact, it takes me to a dark place where I feel guilty about procrastinating. It becomes painful after a while. The feeling where I know I have to be doing something important but just can’t help myself from clicking on the link for baby monkey riding a pig backwards. I could watch that for hours, it’s an amazing mix of cute and hilarious all at once.
I do watch it for hours.
What is Procrastination?
Wikipedia, the font of all human knowledge says this about it.
is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. Sometimes, procrastination takes place until the “last minute” before a deadline. Procrastination can take hold on any aspect of life—putting off cleaning the stove, repairing a leaky roof, seeing a doctor or dentist, submitting a job report or academic assignment or breaching a stressful issue with a partner. Procrastination can lead to feelings of guilt, inadequacy, depression, and self-doubt.
Well I think they hit the nail right on the head there. We all do it, we put things off until the last minute, when we then stress about it, run about (metaphorically at least) until at last, the fear of not doing the thing that we must get done overtakes the procrastination and we pull an all-nighter, working 15 hours straight until we are finished.
What the heck causes us to procrastinate?
I know what causes me to procrastinate.
Dave, as you can see is a sloth and as a sloth, he likes to do well…sloth things.
Dave likes to do anything other than what I (Tristram) need him to do. Dave likes to keep me warm and cosy, out of harm’s way and generally not doing what I know as an adult human in a modern world, I should be doing.
And there we have it.
The answer. I want you to look again at my last sentence and really read what I said. No, really read it.
Still not there yet?
There’s answer. Dave isn’t from the modern world. He is from a time when we weren’t capable of coherent thought or complex planning.
Dave is there to keep us safe.
In this article it’s author believes the reason why Homo Sapiens survived other types of humans was because we had the brain capacity to make complex plans and the ability to form language to communicate these plans.
Cal Newport in this article goes to build upon this and believes that the human brain is so hardwired to form amazing, complex plans that when we don’t, the brain is telling us that the plan is rubbish, we shouldn’t bother and rearrange our sock drawer instead of doing that report for the Boss.
For example, when we set high level goals (lose weight) but don’t give ourselves the systems and stages along the plan for getting there, our brains tell us that we will never achieve our goal and not to bother. Hence why I spend hours watching daytime TV and brushing the dog’s ears.
He has a lot of hair on those ears.
If you would like to know more about how to set achievable goals, then check my post on this here.
What do I think?
Cal makes an interesting case but I don’t think he is quite on the money with what he’s saying.
Yes, as Homo Sapiens it is undeniable that we have the brains to form complex plans and communicate them to others.
But, I don’t think that the brain is telling us our vague plans aren’t any good by making us procrastinate.
I do however believe that Dave the Sloth, who has been a part of me since before there were humans, is there to watch my back.
To keep me safe at a time when I wasn’t capable of thinking about anything other than when to eat, sleep and…. you know what.
Add Dave to a modern world that has evolved so quickly our brains can’t catch up.
Where life is designed to catch our attention, from advertising, social media and everything in between.
Is it really surprising that we don’t get anything done?
I personally think it’s a miracle that we perform as well as we currently do and that we shouldn’t be overly harsh on ourselves or on our inner sloth.
Thank you, Dave, for looking out for me.
At least until I need to finish this blog.
Keep it simple
This is only part 1 of my journey into procrastination. In the second part I will look into how we can beat procrastination and get stuff done.
If you can’t wait until then, you can check out my blog on goal setting here.
I know that this blog will have rung a little bell in your head as we all have a Dave or an Edna inside our heads. Our inner animal doesn’t always take the form of a sloth as I know people that have wild chimps in there instead and that comes with its own very different set of problems. You can read more about this in the book The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters.
This was first published on Fitbox Blog in February 2018.