procrastinate manWe’ve all been there.  A task is staring us in the face and we just don’t want to do it, so we procrastinate.  We do other, less unpleasant things and that ugly task languishes on the to do list.

In the back of our mind, we know that task we’re putting off is lurking out there. Perhaps we don’t focus on it constantly. Stretches of time pass without it clogging our brain. But then suddenly the realization hits that we still have to get it done.  Rather like when you wake up in great mood and suddenly remember that today is the day of your root canal.

Here’s a way to think…and do…differently.

When the urge strikes to procrastinate, ask yourself this question.  “If I wait two days to complete this, will the task be less unpleasant then?”

Most often the answer in the moment is, “no,” the task is still not going to be something we want to do. The passage of time usually doesn’t have a positive influence. So let’s just assume the task IS going to be unpleasant and will take an hour to complete.  Which means if we just do it now, we’ll be miserable for an hour. But by putting it off for two days we can now be miserable for an hour plus the two days we spent dreading it. When put that way, waiting sounds like a less than ideal choice, no?

But let’s turn the assumption in the previous paragraph on its head.  What if the task ends up not being as awful to tackle as we predicted it might be? Once we’re into it for three minutes, we find it was no big deal at all.  Now procrastinating for two days goes from being ridiculous to spectacularly ridiculous. Dread made us miserable for 2,880 minutes – instead of three.

Taking that first step to resist the urge to procrastinate sometimes takes tremendous willpower, but the rewards are pretty tremendous too.