How To Stop Procrastinating And Do What’s Important

“I’m going to stop putting things off, starting tomorrow!”

–Sam Levenson.

I used to be a BIG procrastinator. I never did things until they absolutely needed to be done. If I was at an average weight I wouldn’t start working out until I got fat. If I had homework I wouldn’t start doing it until my favorite TV show was over. I never did things until the last minute and as you can imagine that produced a lot of unnecessary stress.

I’m still not perfect, (I’m supposed to be a morning writer and I didn’t start writing this until 12:30), but I’ve improved my habits and learned a lot about procrastination in the last few years. We’ll discuss some of the things I’ve learned and the strategies I’ve used to improve this area of my life below.

What Causes Procrastination?

Laziness

Being lazy is probably the most frequently recited response for procrastinating. It makes sense too. “Why didn’t you empty the dishwasher?” “I didn’t feel like it.” Willpower’s a limited resource so if you’ve already used all of yours for the day than I could see how this excuse makes sense.

However, I’ve seen lots of extremely disciplined people (myself included) who’ve put things off in the morning before they’ve even had a chance to use any willpower so I don’t think the majority of procrastination is laziness.

Priorities

Ahh… I think we’re getting warmer now. Is it a coincidence most people struggle to wake up at 6 A.M. on an average day, yet they’re perfectly capable of waking up at 4 A.M. to catch a vacation flight to Hawaii? I think not.

One of the biggest reasons most people procrastinate is because they’ve got their priorities mixed up. They’re too focused on instant gratification rather than long term prosperity.

Humans have evolved to want things now rather than later (because our ancestors had short life-spans) so we naturally tend to take the path of least resistance.

“So evolution has screwed us over, and we’re all doomed to putting things off and procrastinating the rest of our lives?” No. Although at first it may seem so, it actually hasn’t, and here’s why.

The Secret To Stop Procrastinating Is…

To make whatever needs to get done the path of least resistance. YESSSSS! BRILLIANT! EPIPHANY!! Waaaaait, huhh?

People are naturally “lazy.” We conserve energy and never do more than we have to. Along with being slaves to instant gratification, that’s the reason so many people are obese. Fortunately you don’t have to be one of them.

All you have to do to stop putting things off is to make it harder to procrastinate than to actually do what you need to do. This may sound impossible, but it’s not as difficult as you think. There’s just a couple things you need to do to make this happen.

Cultivate A Burning Desire To Change

Change comes from within. If there’s not something inside of you that’s screaming for change it’s not going to happen. You NEED to want it. Desire has to come from you. It can’t come from me, your mom, your dad, or anyone else.

With that being said, I can give some advice from the strategies I’ve used to cultivate this desire within myself. Feel free to use any of these strategies, or create your own, but ultimately you’ll get out of these exercises what you put into them.

1. Sit in a quiet room and think. Question everything about the reality you find yourself in. On the backdrop of billions of years, isn’t it crazy that somehow you were lucky enough to be born in a golden age, where (if you’re reading this) survival is all, but guaranteed? What are the odds of you being born into a reality where you have access to the internet and the mental capacity to even think about the origin of reality?

And what about the afterlife? Is it real? Does a magical god in the sky exist? Is Duality even real? Is it possible that myself and other people are mere reflections of your own consciousness?

Am I just an imaginary dream character writing strange philosophical thoughts in some strange reality occurring within the depths of your mind? And if so, what’s going to happen when you die, and leave this reality?

Will you end up in an everlasting cycle of strange realities occurring within your head? Will you ever know if anything is truly real?

Really get into it. These thought may seem strange now, but I can tell you from experience they get even weirder the farther you dig down. Unfortunately, I can’t give you any answers on the true basis of reality. Like desire, that’s something only you can create.

2. I’m not sure there’s any way to truly know the nature of reality, but if you’ve done step one to the best of your ability you’ve likely found one that resonates, or makes more sense to you than the rest. If the previous step only made you unsure of yourself for the time being just pick the belief system that you believe will best serve you.

Getting clarity in this area of your life is extremely important because it’s going to dictate how you live your life. If you believe in the afterlife, you’re probably going to carry out your life in a much different fashion than if you believed we’re all doomed to just fade into nothingness one day.

Now regardless of what you believe the true nature of reality to be I’m going to ask you to once again find a quiet room and some time to think. Once you’ve done that here’s some questions you need to ask yourself.

How do I want to live my life? What’s important to me? Would I rather spend most of my life just having a good time, or trying to change the world? Do I care about leaving behind a legacy?

Do I want to have a family? What do I want to spend the rest of my life doing? What life values are most important to me (love, travel, adventures, learning, teaching, etc.)?

There’s TONS more you’ll benefit from asking yourself, but I’m sure by now you get the gist of it. There’s no right, or wrong answers, and you may not even be able to answer most of the questions you’re asking yourself, but that’s ok. Do your best, and be willing to be completely honest with yourself.

The more critically you force yourself to think, the more you’re going to get out of this exercise. Trying to answer some of these questions may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but the clarity you’ll develop as a result will be well worth it.

3. Now that you’ve sorted out your beliefs on the nature of reality, and prioritized what’s most important to you I have but one exercise remaining.

I want you to imagine yourself on your deathbed. You feel weak. You slowly feel yourself letting go, and you know you have only a few minutes before it’s your time. What regrets do you have? And more importantly, what can you do TODAY to prevent yourself from having those regrets.

If done properly this exercise has the capacity to motivate you like nothing else, and it’s consistently helped me identify what’s most important for me as well.

Leverage Evolutionary Pressure To Take Action

Now that you’ve cultivated a burning desire to change, and you know what you want it’s time to actually make it happen. We can HOO HOO RAH and get pumped all day, but ultimately if you don’t know what you want or you’re not taking action you’re wasting both your time and your potential.

Of course, just attempting to take action usually doesn’t work. We often get sidetracked, or hit roadblocks and give up.

The key here is that before you attempt to take action you need to craft an environment for yourself, that’s conductive to your success.

Different goals have different ways you can use evolutionary pressure to push yourself to greatness. If you’re trying to lose weight set a $1,000 bounty for your family if anyone catches you eating candy.

If you’re out trying to meet girls give your friend $500 under the agreement that he’ll give $50 back for each girl you talk to. If you’re rich or money is meaningless to you have your friend punch you as hard as they can every time you go more than two minutes without talking to a girl.

If you’re late to work everyday because you hit the snooze button make the commitment to go to bed an hour earlier and use four alarm clocks. Yes. Four. Two alarm clocks is for jokers.

Some of these may seem so extreme to the point where it seems like I’m just kidding. I’m not. They’re hardcore because that’s what produces results. You’re not going to risk $1,000 for a candy bar. You can’t have an out. Success has to be the only option.

If you’re not willing to put yourself into a harsh environment that forces you to do stuff you won’t do it. People are naturally lazy. I don’t care how gifted, or talented you are, you’re not an exception.

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