The First Step Toward Ending Procrastination

In this post I am going to:

  • Illustrate a root cause of procrastination
  • Show a simple way to improve your emotional state
  • Stress the importance of action, regardless of inspiration

This post doesn’t address all the complexities involved in procrastination, but it does get to the root of one major cause.

Tell me if this story sounds familiar to you:

You need to work on a project. It could be any project, for school, for a customer, for an employer, for your spouse, or for yourself. Maybe it’s new software, a blog post, negotiating a lease, developing a brand, or getting in shape.

Your logical mind knows the project is within your abilities, that working on the project will be interesting and rewarding, and that you’ll find satisfaction upon completing your project.

But knowing the above doesn’t matter—you procrastinate anyway.

Why do you procrastinate even when you know taking action will be rewarding?

You have an emotional hang-up. It feels like a tightness in your chest—like a cross between fear and guilt. It’s an emotional dam in your creative stream. You want to bust that dam and get the stream flowing before you act.

So you tell yourself, “I don’t feel like doing this right now.” You aren’t lying to yourself—you feel sick about it, so you blow it off until you feel better. You find a distraction that gives you immediate relief, a video game, a night out, food, television, surfing nonsense on the internet, or even drugs and alcohol.

You’re hoped “a little fun” will make you feel better so you can get motivated. But now you’ve taken a night off, and when you face your project, that same ugly feeling returns, only more intense this time, and you escape into another distraction.

But you remember working on projects in the past, and it wasn’t bad. In reality, working on the project made you feel great. So why don’t you do it?

It comes from years of mental programming. As a child you started saying “I don’t feel like it” to your parents, other kids, and your teachers.

You’ve made it a habit to avoid things you don’t feel like doing.

You came to believe you had to feel a certain way in order to take action. Somehow your learning process was interrupted. You began to look for stuff “you felt like doing” and did only that.

But you got it wrong. You judged the worthiness of an activity based on the feelings you had before you acted. Emotional health is developed by acting and thinking in a way that is likely to result in a positive emotional state despite your feelings at the moment.

How you feel right now doesn’t matter. If you want to feel happy and free…

All that matters is the likely result of the next action you take.

I am not asking, “Is it likely to make you feel good for the next five minutes?”

I am asking, “Is the next action you take likely to result in confidence, pride, esteem, and happiness in the long term?”

Live in the now. It is the only place you can live. But use your thoughts and actions to build a better tomorrow. You were born to create tomorrow. Don’t leave it to chance.

One more time…

If you feel unmotivated and uninspired, act anyway. Get moving and motivation and inspiration will follow.

10 thoughts on “The First Step Toward Ending Procrastination”

  1. The idea of the post is valid, is something the world really needs right now. I have, however, found some shades of contradiction. How can you say “How you feel right now doesn’t matter. If you want to feel happy and free…” ? A more properly way of putting it would be maybe: “What you THINK right now doesn’t matter. If you want to feel happy and free…”
    The mind is in continous searching of the activity (useful or NOT). So let your mind take a break and find the magic of the present moment. Act impecabily and don’t let the past or the future make you lose your focus.

  2. I am blown away that there are no comments on this post yet. I have recently found your site and feel that this is one of the best posts I have ever read reagrding the subject. Keep up the great work. I will be back.

  3. You are so right with this :) And i like your final advice a lot: “If you feel unmotivated and uninspired, act anyway. Get moving and motivation and inspiration will follow.”

    Great post.

  4. @Mike, I was wondering about the lack of comments too. I thought maybe I said something stupid and didn’t see it. Thanks for the comment.

    @Alex, No Alex I meant “What you feel right now doesn’t matter.” Sometimes I feel afraid, but I’ll never feel brave if I don’t act in spite of the feelings I have now.

    @Anca, Action is the single most important part of changing the way you feel. I’ve beaten depressed times many times simply by getting out of bed and doing something I didn’t feel like doing. It could be making a phone call, cleaning the house, writing in a journal. Action, action, action. Keep moving.

  5. Oh my God, this is absolutely spot on. You want to feel a certain way before starting something. And sometimes, you actually do feel that certain way, and then get loads of stuff done. Thereby perpetuating the myth to yourself.

    It’s always starting that’s hard. Maintaining is easy. It’s the same with everything, going to the gym, working on a website, doing housework (ESPECIALLY doing housework, for me!).

    Sometimes you don’t need any special tricks to get past some particular problem, you just need to understand it more.

  6. thank you ever so much for the light you shed on this issue – i had bookmarked this page for a long time but only now came to read it – absolutely wonderful – thank you

  7. “Activity is king.” (Taylor Parkes).

    At your funeral service, no one is going to talk about how you felt and how that’s the reason you didn’t do anything great (and shouldn’t have been expected to). They’ll only talk about what you actually did.

    It’s the only thing that matters.

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