Inner Space
Hi, I’m Diana Demco and this is the Inner Space newsletter about my reflections on living an examined life. If you're new, you can find old editions here. You're getting this email because you signed up on my website. If you'd like to unsubscribe, click here.
If I needed to choose one universal behavior pattern that anyone can relate to, I'd probably settle on procrastination.

procrastination, def. = the art of delaying or postponing something
Procrastination visualized
You've most certainly been lured in the procrastination spiral, resulting in avoiding a school or work assignment or ignoring an upcoming deadline until the last minute.

Hell, maybe you're procrastinating while you're reading this. 🫠

When we're procrastinating, we know we're not supposed to be doing it. We're aware it's detrimental to our goals and the person we want to become. And what's worse, it doesn't even feel good. You must know that feeling of guilt that looms in the back of your mind when you're busy distracting yourself with other activities. Procrastination kills our joy for life.

But why do we do it? Where does it come from? And how can we slay this dragon once and for all?

I think first we need to recognize that our brain thinks it's a smart move. In its logic, it says, why work for 5 days on this assignment, when I can just relax for 4 days and cram everything in the last day? It's not a bad rationale, but the results are usually detrimental.

There exist many theories and explanations for this behavior, among the most popular being:
  • a tendency to self-defeat
  • prioritization of short-term goals
  • avoidance
  • perfectionism
  • lack of motivation
  • anxiety towards the task
Other reasons are likely to be at play, or a cluster of motives that reinforce each other, with some being more surface level, others more deep seated. Whatever it may be, attacking the problem from only one angle is doomed for failure. It's likely that the system of causes that is preventing you from being productive has taken a life of its own and a holistic approach to overcoming it is needed.

I've personally been affected by this damaging behavior for some years now, with it being the worst when I was plagued by depression. I tried to overcome procrastination by taking a surface-level approach that only deals with the immediate causes of my behavior. The most recurring sources in my case were perfectionism, an ambiguous goal, feelings of uncertainty and anxiety towards the task. It wasn't until I addressed the root of the problem that I saw a drastic change in my life.

One thing's for sure: productivity tips and quick hacks have never worked in tackling my procrastination problem. Building better habits, keeping yourself accountable, breaking down tasks into smaller sub-units, working on self-discipline are all great and worthwhile endeavors, but depending on the type of procrastination you're dealing with, they will act only as a band-aid.

In my experience, your best chance for taming procrastination is to:
  • recognize when procrastination is taking hold of you
  • identify the nature and immediate-cause of procrastination (is it anxiety based? or due to perfectionism?)
  • address the root cause (maybe behind perfectionism is a self-esteem issue)
  • work on solving the root cause
  • set up systems in order to make it harder to resort to procrastination (ie. remove distractions)
I think it's also important to recognize that a tendency to procrastinate may never fully disappear, even after we've address our major underlying issues. What we can hope is to learn to keep it under control.

Or maybe you're one of the lucky people who thrives under pressure and produces their best work in the last days before a deadline, in which case perhaps you don't even need to cure procrastination, because for you, it's a feature, not a bug.

Timeless Content

My Algorithm for Beating Procrastination
LessWrong | 8 minute read
If you're a analytically inclined, you may enjoy this post detailing a step by step process to getting to the root of your procrastination and then overcoming it with a rational approach.
While I don't agree that this is analytic approach can actually address the underlying issue of your procrastination, I think it has its merits in certain situations.

Picture of the Week


Quote I'm reflecting on

Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone. (Pablo Picasso)

Questions for you to ponder

Is there a common denominator to the tasks you keep putting off? What can this reveal about the underlying causes of your procrastination?
Thank you for reading.

Until next time,
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