“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” Mark Twain
Twain is hilarious. When you think about doing something you’d rather not, the areas of your brain associated with pain are activated. Your brain naturally tries to shut off this negative stimulation by redirecting your attention towards other, more pleasant things. This pain response is the insidious driving force behind procrastination:
You feel unease after observing or thinking about something you don’t want to do.
You try to counteract the negative sensation by shifting your attention.
You feel happier because of this.
However, procrastination-based happiness is temporary. Research tells us that the ‘neuro-discomfort’ associated with something you’d rather not do starts to fade away not long after you start working on what you initially were averse to doing.
A popular productivity tool used to help counter procrastination is the Pomodoro Technique, developed in the late 1980s. The method involves using a timer to set an interval over which you concentrate on what you’re working on without interruption, usually lasting 25 minutes. This time is a comfortable duration over which anyone can maintain focus.
Importantly, once the timer ends on a particular cycle, you give yourself a small reward in the form of a few minutes break to, for example: browse the web, take a walk, grab a coffee or snack, do some stretching. This technique effectively amounts to an intense, undistracted 25-minute mental workout, followed by a brief, five-minute respite period of mental relaxation.
You can then repeat this process as much as desired. It sounds like such a simple system because it is, and you’ll be surprised by how powerful it can be in keeping you focused on what’s most important. Next time you’re struggling to force yourself to stay on task, try to complete a 25-minute Pomodoro instead. Hopefully, by then, you’ll have gained some momentum and will impress yourself with how much you go on to achieve in that sitting.
The technique’s name comes from the tomato-shaped kitchen timer the method’s creator Francesco Cirillo uses. Any timer will do. Just make sure you commit to a strictly distraction-free burst of concentration.
Why We Procrastinate
Procrastination, in many circumstances, has nothing to do with laziness, a lack of work ethic, or your ability to be productive. It is entirely due to the difficulties in your life. Making to-do lists, purchasing new planners, and attempting all of the time-management tactics will never help if you procrastinate until you address the fundamental reason for your procrastination.
What you “love” to do isn’t your passion. Passion is nothing more than energy. If something excites you, go with it. Avoid it if it dissipates you.
Pivot or Persevere?
Also, pay attention to what you do while you are procrastinating. It may give you an indication of what you really want to pursue.
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