Are you an expert like me at procrastination? This is a skill I have mastered – that magic 10,000 hours they say it takes to master anything; I have that in spades! TikTok is my nemesis, as is any shiny thing that catches my eye.
I had a nickname when I used to live in Melbourne, Australia. It was Magpie. For those that don’t know, Magpies are birds that are attracted to shiny things – that’s me for sure. I can be starting to do some work, and I will get distracted into something else – way more fun, of course. I ended up shouting at myself – the words were often “For f*ck sake, Simon, Focus!”
Let’s delve into our tendency to procrastinate. Is the answer to us becoming a person that can get a task completed today instead of last minute of the next day? Can we stop procrastinating by understanding the opposite of procrastination?
I’ll make you a deal: if you can’t complete a task or assignment quicker, or you decide I am full of BS, I’ll eat my hat (not really). But if I describe you so far, let’s get cracking and solve this together.
Table of Contents
What is Procrastination?
I think that the vast majority of us know this feeling, that ‘OMG, where did the time go’ feeling.
Procrastination in action is not just about being lazy or lacking willpower. It’s a complex psychology that affects us all to some degree.
The Psychology Behind Procrastination
Procrastination is often a coping mechanism for dealing with emotions like fear, anxiety, imposter syndrome, or self-doubt – it is linked to our sense of self. For me, the fear side is multi-faceted, and finding the root cause got me to the point where it is less of a bad thing.
It’s not that we don’t want to accomplish our tasks; the thought of doing them brings up unpleasant feelings we’d rather avoid. We need to ensure we don’t go to the opposite side and start to pre-procrastinate.
The Impact on Success and Well-being
The consequences of procrastination can be far-reaching; it can sow the seeds of doubt and magnify any underlying anxiety.
Procrastination used to (and sometimes still does) affect my mental health. You may also find that it strains your relationships and even hinders your career growth (this one, I know). I had to learn to build my leadership principles and daily habits around being more productive and knowing when my most productive time is (the 5am club for me).
I am sure my evolutionary ancestors were laughing when unpleasant tasks would one time stop me in my tracks.
Pre-crastination: The Opposite of Procrastination
The opposite of procrastination is simply doing things immediately or being ultra-productive (sometimes with negative outcomes). But that’s a surface-level understanding. The opposite isn’t just about action; it’s about doing things as soon as possible, even it it sacrifices quality or requires additional energy, It’s sometimes called pre-crastination.
Doing a task sooner at the expense of other things is its own reward for your brain and a nice dopamine hit.
Why Understanding the Opposite Matters
Let’s talk about the concept of conscious action. Not the opposite of procrastinate, but a middle ground. It is the place in between where you are both productive and efficient. To get here, we need to understand the opposite of procrastination.
It’s not just about getting more done; it’s about getting the right things done, and completing tasks sooner and efficiently. This also means you need to stop precrastinating too. The task is not the most important thing; it’s about how you advance in that task and the bigger goal.
The Benefits of Conscious Action
When you act consciously, you’re not just ticking off tasks on a to-do list. This approach has significantly improved my productivity and well-being. There are many tools I use to help me, from kitchen timers, to journals, and productivity frameworks.
Sometimes, going a little slow and waiting can generate a greater outcome and ultimately be faster.
Real-world Examples and Case Studies
Take Steve Jobs, for instance. He was known for his minimalist approach to work, focusing only on a few projects but executing them exceptionally well. That’s conscious action in practice. Or consider mindfulness experts who advocate for “being present” in whatever you do. They’re promoting conscious action, whether it’s washing dishes or leading a business meeting.
4 Steps to the Opposite of Procrastination and Conscious Action
Here is the fun part, getting down to the nitty-gritty. Enough with the chit chat, Simon, I can hear. How do I integrate this conscious action mumbo jumbo into my daily life? Carry on, soldier, I got you!
Here are some practical steps for completing tasks consciously that have worked for me and could work for you, too.
Step 1: Identify Your Goals
Before you can act consciously, you need to know what truly matters to you. Take some time to identify your top goals in life and work. This will serve as your guidepost for taking meaningful actions and completing tasks.
Step 2: Be Mindful of Your Actions
Once you know your goals, the next step is to be mindful of your actions. Ask yourself, “Is the task I’m doing right now aligned with my goals?” Is it a priority? If the answer is no, it might be time to reevaluate and adjust your to-do list. Detach yourself from the outcome and do your best.
Step 3: Break it Down
Big tasks can be overwhelming, which has a tendency to lead us back into the procrastination loop. Break them down into smaller, manageable tasks that you can tackle one at a time, consciously. This is your first step toward overcoming procrastination.
Step 4: Reflect and Adjust
At the end of the day or week, take some time to reflect on your actions. Were they aligned with your priorities? If not, what can you do differently next time?
There is a lot of psychology behind getting a task completed without waiting for the sake of delay.
Overcoming Challenges in Practicing the Opposite of Procrastination
While the concept of conscious action sounds great in theory, implementing it can come with its own set of challenges. Trust me, I’ve been there, and it’s a serious problem many of us face. Simply changing our psychology around waiting to do a task at the last minute is not an overnight thing
Some of the most common challenges include distractions, lack of focus, and even self-doubt. I know imposter syndrome has played a role for me in the past. It’s easy to revert back to procrastination when faced with these obstacles, making it challenging to overcome procrastination and what’s called precrastination.
The Science Behind Procrastination and Its Opposite
Studies from Pennsylvania State University and other institutions have delved into this topic; they offer valuable insights.
Working Memory and Physical Effort
Research shows that our working memory plays a significant role in procrastination and its opposite, often called pre-crastination. The studies suggest that tasks requiring extra physical or mental effort are more likely to be procrastinated on.
Nine Experiments and the Nearer Bucket
In one of the nine experiments conducted, participants were likelier to choose a bucket closer to them than a bucket further away, even if it meant carrying it a longer distance with significant weight. This behavior is an example of hastening subgoal completion and can be considered a form of pre-crastination.
Harried Lives and Extra Rewards
In our harried lives, the concept of pre-crastination offers an extra reward: the satisfaction of completing tasks sooner rather than later. It’s a cheerful readiness to act, even if it means putting in extra physical effort.
Conscious action asks you to be productive, efficient, and aligned to your goals. It’s a delay to carry out a task may get you to the same point quicker in the long run.
The Impact on College Students
Procrastination is more than just a problem for working professionals; it’s also a severe issue among college students.
This environment brings its own set of challenges that can exacerbate procrastination and make it difficult to complete assignments without delay.
The Struggle with Deadlines and Assignments
College students often juggle multiple assignments, exams, and other responsibilities. The pressure to meet deadlines can lead to anxiety, making it even harder to complete tasks and assignments on time.
Real-world Example: Carleton University Study
A great example of how procrastination can impact productivity and overall well-being is a Carleton University study that found students who procrastinate experience negative outcomes, including lower grades and increased stress levels.
Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination in College
Thankfully, the principles of conscious action can also be applied in the academic setting. Students can make significant progress in overcoming procrastination by identifying priorities, breaking down tasks, and taking meaningful steps.
Study with a buddy, or even set up a Zoom or Facetime call with someone. You don’t need to talk to them. The psychology of knowing someone can see you working is huge. You will feel a sense of obligation towards them.
So, do you understand your tendency to procrastinate more? Remember, the opposite of procrastination can be just as damaging as the procrastination you are doing now.
Shifting from procrastination to conscious action can carry meaningful personal and professional benefits in our lives. So, what’s your next step?
Will you continue to let procrastination hold you back? Will you embrace its opposite? Or will you take conscious action? In other terms, the choice is yours, and I’m here to support you every step of the way.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an alternative for procrastinate?
An alternative for procrastinating is “delay” or “defer.” These terms are often used interchangeably with procrastination.
What is it called when you can’t stop procrastinating?
When you can’t stop procrastinating, it’s often referred to as “chronic procrastination.”
Is procrastination the opposite of motivation?
Procrastination is not the opposite of motivation. While motivation drives you to act, procrastination is the delay or avoidance of action. They are related but not direct opposites.
What is worse than procrastination?
What’s worse than procrastination is “paralysis by analysis,” where overthinking prevents any form of action.
What are the four levels of procrastination?
The four levels of procrastination are:
– Mild Procrastination
– Moderate Procrastination
– Severe Procrastination
– Chronic Procrastination
Is procrastination ADHD or anxiety?
Procrastination can be linked to both ADHD and anxiety. While ADHD may cause impulsivity and distractibility, leading to procrastination, anxiety often leads to avoidance and delay.