You could argue that procrastination is the antithesis of willpower. While willpower is doing hard things even when you don’t want to, procrastination is purposefully delaying doing tasks you don’t want to do.
Procrastination does to your willpower what eating candy while streaming Netflix from your couch does to your physical fitness. It develops a habit of avoiding challenges and discomfort. It fosters the habit of reaching for an easy burst of entertainment whenever you’re bored, discouraged, uncomfortable, or tired. Your ability to do hard things goes down like an unused muscle and your limits shrink in around you because they are not being pushed or explored.
This isn’t to say that procrastination is always bad. In fact, it can increase creativity when done in the right circumstances, as Wharton professor Adam Grant argues in his book, Originals, and his TED talk.
But chronic procrastination often comes with a regular feeling of guilt. It can hold you back both from accomplishing the task in front of you and also, from doing the most challenging tasks that stand in the path to your goals.
In this week’s willpower workouts, we’re going to work on weeding out procrastination.
Day 31-35 Willpower Workout:
- On Day 1, you can only procrastinate (intentionally put off something you should do at that time) 3 times.
- On Day 2, you can only procrastinate 2 times.
- On Day 3, you can procrastinate just once.
- On Days 4 and 5, you cannot procrastinate at all.
For the sake of this workout, you can continue to do what Grant describes in his research on procrastination and creativity: table ideas for a time and then revisit them with a fresh perspective.
Evaluating Your Workout:
- Take note of what you use your procrastination passes on each day. What makes it feel necessary to use one of your few passes on that activity?
- What did you do to get through without procrastinating?
- Try to become aware of times when you procrastinate without even becoming conscious of the fact that you are procrastinating. Increase your awareness of times when you’re doing tasks that are not top priority. This is often an example of procrastination.
It’s easy for a certain amount of procrastination to happen without us really knowing it is happening. This workout is an opportunity to increase your awareness of those moments and re-calibrate your standard.
Willpower Workout in Action:
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This is day 31-35 of a 40-day journey to explore your limits. If you’d like to receive a daily email with the willpower workout of the day, you can sign up here to start at Day 1 with the first workout:
If you’d prefer to jump in where Matt is right now and then make up the other workouts on your own schedule, sign up here:
- Day 1: Overcoming Boring Tasks
- Day 2: Concentrating While Taxing Your Body
- Day 3: Overcoming Offense
- Day 4: Staying Productive When You’re Not Seeing Progress
- Day 5: Pushing Past Feeling Depleted
- Day 6: Focusing Amid Distractions
- Day 7: Cold Water Challenge
- Day 8: How to Do Your Least Motivating Task
- Day 9: Going Beyond Failure
- Day 10: Asking For and Giving Constructive Feedback
- Day 11: Beating Disgust
- Day 12: Resisting Bad Habits
- Day 13: Stretching Your Habit-Forming Muscles
- Day 14: Going Without Sleep
- Day 15: Dealing with Discouragement
- Day 16: Enduring the Physical Discomfort of Fasting
- Day 17: Overcoming Temptation
- Day 18: Ending Bad Habits
- Day 19: Doing Very Easy Tasks
- Day 20: Memorization Challenge
- Day 21-25: Increasing Focus Time
- Day 26-30: How to Quit Later