Beating Procrastination During the work is a Major Point to improve Productivity.
- The blank screen, the empty page, the unfilmed video are results of Procrastination. Whenever we sit down to start writing or creating anything. We’re often paralysed by a force stopping us from starting. Stopping us from typing that first word, writing that first page, or filming that first video. Now the most common question I get asked on the internet is,
- “How are you so cool?” But the second most common question is, “How to end procrastination?” And the answer is in this book, “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield.
- He says that most of us have two lives, the life we live, and the unlived life within us. And between the two is this thing called the resistance, and that is the secret
- To overcoming procrastination. And this is a surprisingly life-changing insight. I first read this in 2017 and it completely changed the way that I approach life and meaningful productivity. And it kinda helped me stop being a chronic procrastinator. So in this article. We’re gonna talk about three key points from the book that have helped me beat procrastination. And hopefully they can help do the same for you.
1) Know the enemy.
- So To understand Procrastination. The first question we need to address is What is resistance? Resistance is the negative force that’s actively working against us to stop us from doing the things we want to do. It doesn’t stop us from watching Netflix or from playing video games, instead, it stops us from doing anything that we know in our hearts is gonna level up our lives. Like resistance isn’t that feeling that we get when we can’t be bothered to clean the desk or can’t be bothered to…I don’t know, wash the dishes, that is resistance with a small R, but resistance with a big R is the resistance that… That force that’s holding us back from doing creative or entrepreneurial things or things that require any level of risk-taking or putting ourselves out there.
- And whenever we try and do any of this stuff, we always have to go up against this hill of procrastination that’s a constant battle. And there’s a nice quote from the book where he says, “We don’t tell ourselves, ‘I’m never going to write my symphony,’ instead, we say, ‘I am going to write my symphony, I’m just going to start tomorrow.’ I’ve heard this a million times, of people being like, “You know what?” “I wanna start my website at some point.”, but you know the timing’s not quite right.” “Oh, I haven’t quite got the gear, I haven’t quite got the kudos, why would anyone care what I have to say?”
- This is all resistance, it’s all that procrastination that’s building within us. But what fuels resistance is fear. Resistance is activated by fear and gains strength whenever we give in to that fear. Creating a cycle that we fall into and which leads to resistance becoming even stronger as our fear becomes even greater. But as he says in the book, fear is a very good thing, because when we feel scared about doing something, it usually means we should just do the thing.
- He writes, “Remember one rule of thumb, the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” And in a way, resistance is that compass that points towards the thing in our life that’s actually most important for us to do. Like I never feel any resistance towards sitting down and playing “World of Warcraft,” but I do feel resistance towards sitting down and writing my article, and that tells me that sitting down to write my article is currently the most important thing I need to be working on. And the key rule of thumb here as Steven Pressfield writes, is, “The more resistance you experience, the more important your unmanifested art or project or enterprise is to you.” And since I first read this in 2017, I’ve actually started using this as a model.
- In a way a model for decision-making. Like if I feel scared about doing something, then more often than not I will try my very best to actually do the thing, and so far in my life, I have never done something that I’m scared of .but I’ve always regretted not doing something that I was scared of. So now that we’ve done step one, which is knowing our enemy and we’ve defined resistance and figured out what it is, it’s that source that makes us procrastinate, we need to figure out some ways of dealing with it. And the first one is key point number two in this article, which is
2) Become a professional.
- In the book, Pressfield introduces the idea of the professional versus the amateur. An amateur takes action whenever inspiration strikes. Or when they’re in the right mood, they’re not committed, and the goals are focused on fun, money and status. A professional shapes their life so that the work is a priority. They are determined and committed to succeed by following their inner drive and creative spirit. Now, our boy Steve says, that the only way we can deal with resistance is if we become a professional with our work rather than an amateur.
- And I think… I think it’s interesting how he doesn’t define professional as being someone who makes money from the thing, ’cause you can wanna make money from a thing but still treat it like a complete amateur. But instead, a professional is someone who does it for the sake of doing the work. And takes pride in the work itself. There is No such issue of Procrastination. And there are a few other traits that professionals have when it comes to doing their job. Like if you’re a professional, then you’ll show up every day to your job no matter what, you wouldn’t just go to work because you don’t feel like it. If you’re a professional, you work through adversity and you’re open to criticism because you always wanna improve.
- Whereas if you’re an amateur, then you feel like. If you draw something or make a video and someone gives you bad feedback. Or you get a bad comment, you get like really kind of woe is me and like it hurts your feelings and it like ruins your life. Because you’re treating it like an amateur. Whereas if you treat it as a professional, you would be more inclined to grow from the feedback. A professional as well will understand that fear is just part of the work.
- Like if you’re a doctor and that’s your profession, you know that you’re gonna be stepping outside your comfort zone. Whereas if you approach things with an amateur perspective, like starting a youtube channel or whatever, as soon as the going gets tough, then you’re gonna fold like a cheap suit, as they say. And finally, if you’re a professional with your work, you recognise that facing resistance is a daily battle.
- Like If I’m working as a doctor. When I wake up in the mornings and I think, “Oh, I don’t really feel like going to work”. I do it anyway, it’s part of the daily battle. It’s just what you have to do. When you’re a doctor and you… Someone asks you to put an IV or a cannula into a patient who you know has difficult veins, that’s resistance, you’re like, “Oh, I don’t wanna do this,” but it’s part of the work, it’s part of the job, this is what I have to do. And we wanna be kind of taking that sort of attitude towards our other like creative and entrepreneurial stuff.
- And obviously, there is some level at which you can take this too far. Like being so focused on treating your hobbies as a professional to the point where you’re doing it for eight hours a day. Is probably a little bit excessive. And there’s certainly something to be said for not monetizing all of your hobbies. Or at least not trying to make a living from your hobbies. Because like for me, a hobby is fun when it makes a bit of money. Like playing the guitar. If I could get paid a bit of money to play the guitar, that would make it fun.
- But if I was reliant on playing the guitar for earning a living, I’d be starving on the street and it would also make playing the guitar a lot less fun. So treating our creative and entrepreneurial stuff as a professional doesn’t mean it takes over our lives, it just means that we’re approaching it with a bit more of a professional mindset rather than the mindset of, “Oh, I’ll do my thing whenever I feel like it,” cause that doesn’t work if you’re treating something like a pro.
3) We need to ‘Banish the ego‘ to beat Procrastination.
- And he said that once we’ve become a professional, the next thing we need to do is recognise that the ongoing battle between the self and the ego. And the way I see this is that our ego is more focused on outer events and how other people see us, whereas the self is this inner calm that we have. Which is about the way that we see ourselves. When we’re led by our ego, our main priority is to maintain the status of the eye in the world. And we’re just focused on how external events affect us. Then everything is very superficial and covering level.
- Then we’ve got the self, which is made up of the individual and collective unconscious areas of our minds. Which includes our dreams, intuition, visions and aspirations. It encompasses the deepest form of who we are. And when we sit down to create. We’re attempting to channel the self. Because it’s through the self that we can defeat resistance.
- Now some of this stuff is a little bit woo-woo for my liking like Pressfield goes on about how creative endeavours are like a new plane of existence, and we’re all striving for that plane of existence, and resistance is like the devil that gets in the way, it kind of got a bit woo-woo at times. It’s kinda similar to like the growth mindset and fixed mindset stuff in a way.
- When we have a fixed mindset, and we get negative feedback or something, or we do something that we know is not very good, it shakes us to the core because it damages our ego. And it makes Procrastination.
- Whereas when we have a growth mindset to something, we recognise that if we fail at something, it’s just part of the process of improving over time.
- And another way that I think of this is when it comes to goal setting. So I found that for me, I get a lot more resistance. I.e., procrastination when I’ve got goals that are based on outcomes that are outside of my control.
- So for example, if I’m making my website’s articles, which is an easy example. One way of thinking about my goals for A4IB is to think about it. That “Okay, I want this article to get this many views”. Or, “I wanna hit this many viewers by the end of the year”. That’s a very outcome goal, and it’s very outside of my control. The only thing in my control is making the articles,
- But if I have a goal that, “I want this article to be really good”. Then that’s when perfectionism takes hold, that’s when I feel the resistance. That’s when I procrastinate so much to the point that I don’t even make the article. If you start thinking that, “This article needs to be good,” as defined by what other people think of it. It makes it hard to make the article.
- Whereas what I prefer is to have most of my goals being input goals. I.e., they are entirely within my control. They’re entirely based on inputs that I control. So, “I’m gonna make three to four articles a week for the rest of my life,” is an input goal. It’s something that’s broadly within my control. “I’m gonna write the best book that I can or… And a book that I’m happy with,” is an input goal, it’s a goal within my control. Whereas, “I’m gonna write a book and I want it to hit the New York Times Best Seller list. That’s very much an output goal and it’s broadly outside of my control.
- And I find that when it comes. Again to writing my book, any time I even think of that outcome goal. I feel the procrastination. I feel the resistance, I feel the pain, whereas when I imagine, “You know what?”. “My job is to is to just write the best book that I can”. It becomes a lot easier to do.
- And now I’ve realised that for basically whatever I do. If I’m struggling with procrastination. Usually, It’s the resistance getting in the way. And usually, it’s because I have some kind of outcome goal associated with the thing which for me is bad. It works for some people, but I don’t personally like it.
- Now we’ve talked about three ways of beating procrastination. Number one, Know the enemy, i.e., the resistance. Number two, Become a professional. And Number three, Banish the ego. There’s a lot more really good stuff about this in the book, “The War of Art,”
- Which as you can see is quite small. It doesn’t take very long to read.