This post is an entry in the 2nd Stratejoy Essay Contest. Throughout the next month, we will be featuring each finalist writing their answer to the question: What would your TED Talk Be? On September 13th, we will open the voting to YOU, our community, to select the winner of the $500 prize.”
*A WORLD WITHOUT PROCRASTINATION*
“Why do it today if I can do it tomorrow?” they might say with a laugh. Or “I reallllllly should be doing that report (or putting on dinner, or starting on that email) … but I’ll just check Facebook first.”
Joking might help you feel better in the moment. It’ll get you empathy from your fellow procrastinators. Make you feel like the in-crowd of the procrastinators’ club. But I’ve learned that behind the mask of someone who jokes about procrastination is someone who is feeling a lot of shame. Most procrastinators find procrastination debilitating.
My dream is a world without procrastination.
Take a moment to imagine how many hours you procrastinate each week? 1 hour? 5 hours? 20 hours?
Then imagine that number multiplied by the number of people in your city or town. Huge, huh?
Now, imagine the statistics for the entire world …
Think of all the wasted energy, broken dreams, unexploited potential, caused by procrastination. It’s ironic, because in my experience, procrastinators tend to have huuuuge reserves of talent, skill and passion.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not wishing for a world where we-never-ever-waste-a-single-moment, where our every minute is on-task and ultra-focused. No, not at all. What I’m dreaming of is a world where procrastination is a choice, not a default position when things get too big, hard or scary.
Procrastination is not your fault.
What if I told you that procrastination is not your fault. That it’s biochemical. That there are physical reasons why you procrastinate. That it’s not all in your mind. It’s actually in your brain.
A brain that hasn’t evolved to deal with the bombardment of Twitter feeds, Facebook status updates and mega amounts of email. A brain that loves routine, but in our increasingly flexible world, can’t find any regular routine.
There’s an expectation that you’ll work it out on your own. But I hate to tell you, you probably won’t.
There’s lots of advice out there on how to beat procrastination.
There are some great things out there, and there are some not-so-great things out there. Let’s start with the not-so-great. Long webpages of advice. Lists of tips (like “55 ways to beat procrastination”). Suggestions of thinking hard to get to the root of the problem (nah, it just leads to analysis paralysis, which just makes your procrastination worse).
As for the good advice, here are some of the better ideas. Break a big task into smaller tasks. Reward yourself. Do one thing at a time. Do your most important tasks first. Get an accountability buddy. Don’t check your email til 10am.
(and yes, there’s a but)
… left to our own devices, we procrastinators struggle to put this advice into practice, right?
The best advice for conquering procrastination is to take action.
Yes. Action is the magic word.
The antidote to procrastination is action. Breaking a big task into smaller tasks, and actually starting.
It takes between 2 weeks and 2 months to change a habit, and it’s not easy to do it. Especially on your own.
So an accountability buddy makes a big difference. The problem though is that you’re dependent on one other person. If they’re generally unreliable, or occasionally get sick, or go through a period of being unmotivated, it affects you. And unless you set up really clear boundaries from the start, it’s too tempting to get too social, and chat about your weekend (or your boyfriend troubles, or your latest tv show) instead of taking action.
My dream is an online community where people take action on the mundane, everyday tasks … simultaneously.
Instead of having to do it on your own, why don’t we harnass the potential of community? My idea is to create an empowering online space where you simply log in and type in your action tasks.
Let me give you an example. If you’ve got a report to write, or a paper due for class, you could type: “My first 15 minute action: open a new Word document and draft the first 2 paragraphs”. Then you set a timer and go and do it!
After 15 minutes (this is an approximate time, by the way, nobody is going to be standing over you with a stopwatch), you check back in. You could write “Done. Next 15 minutes …” or maybe “Got half of it done. Next 15 minutes, write paragraph 2 and 3”.
There’s no judgment whether you get it all done or not. There is no right or wrong. It’s just a chance for you to think out loud, stay honest with yourself, and keep moving forward. It’s about progress not perfection.
My idea is called Action Power Hour.
It’s pretty self-explanatory. Take action. For an hour that’s super power-ful. Easy.
A regular time each day where people from around the world log in and get moving on their big goals or their mundane tasks.
You could use this time to do yoga, to meditate. To plan your week. To do their quarterly reflection. To do work projects. Or an email power-hour (maybe even clear your inbox!).
Action Power Hour can be used for whatever is important for you, whatever you need extra accountability with.
It’s like positive peer pressure.
There’s no cross-talk, which means you don’t get a chance to give advice or encouragement. Yes, I know, it’s not how we operate in the social media world where we can interact by ‘liking’ and commenting and messaging whenever we feel like it. But there’s a reason for this – this online space is a Distraction Free Zone. It’s your chance to focus only on one thing at a time (your task) and let other people focus on theirs. It’s like each person is in their own bubble. Our presence lets them know they’re being witnessed … but silently.
This is like a gym for your mind. You turn up, and because everyone else is working out, you join in too. Together, each person is strengthening their focus muscles.
And before you think it’s all super serious, there’s no reason why you can’t do your check-ins with “Next 15 minutes: have a break – make a cup of tea, dance to 2 songs and check my phone messages”.
Action Power Hour. Helping create a world free of procrastination.
Erin lives in Sydney, Australia. Every morning over breakfast, she gets to watch the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean.
During the long Aussie summer, you’ll find her hibernating during the day, emerging at night to swim at the beach, dance salsa or watch foreign films. As Chief Encouragement Officer at activate28, she loves to *pause for applause* and celebrate teeny-tiny moments of progress. Action Power Hour is her big dream. Join her at www.activate28.com
*This post is an entry in the 2nd Stratejoy Essay Contest. Throughout the next month, we will be featuring each finalist writing their answer to the question: What would your TED Talk Be? On September 13th, we will open the voting to YOU, our community, to select the winner of the $500 prize.*