Have you ever been in a situation where you just finished work and had a few hours left to invest in something else? Have you ever had a whole weekend available at your disposal, to do whatever you wanted, but on Sunday evening you realized you didn’t do anything?
There are moments in our lives when we procrastinate even though we have free time. And we do it consciously or unconsciously.
For sure it happened to you too and it will happen again, especially if you don’t do something about it.
But what can you do? Maybe you have tried to improve your situation and lower the amount of time you spend procrastinating but didn’t succeed. This being said, is there more to try and are you willing to experiment more?
Why do we generally procrastinate?
Let’s assume you are not a lazy person. If you are, you shouldn’t be here. After all, lazy people don’t read articles that are longer than 1000 words.
But let’s assume you are not a lazy person. Therefore, what are the reasons people who aren’t lazy procrastinate?
- You may not have the energy to do the things you want to do.
This happens mostly right after you finish your day at work, get back home, and have zero energy for anything else.
- You don’t know if you should do something or not.
This happens when you question and doubt yourself. If the things you want to do are questionable to you, it means you may have some self-trust problems and you should start from there.
- You don’t have the clarity on what things you should do or how to approach them.
This happens to creative people. Excuse me, to insanely creative people. It usually happens because you have tons of ideas and you don’t know how to pick only one and stick to it for a specific period of time.
- You don’t feel motivated all the time.
This happens because you don’t have a clear schedule for your activities so you decide if you do something or not based on the mood of the moment.
These are only a few of the reasons why people generally procrastinate, even when they have free time.
The amazing energy towards our passions disappears when we have free time
You may be a passionate person, with more than three powerful passions. But when you finally get to have some free time, you don’t feel like you want to do anything related to your passions.
There were times when you were able to work hard and you could have felt how your body was filled up with this amazing energy when you were shifting your attention to your passions.
There may be a few reasons why this is happening, but before you search for any reasons, you may want to look at the main activity you have right now in your life. In most cases, that’s your 9-to-5 job.
If you love what you do at your 9-to-5 job, you may not have that energy of love available for other projects, even though they may seem important to you. On the other hand, if you hate your 9-to-5 job, you may use it as an excuse to be busy all the time, even if you’re not. For example, after you get home from your job, you feel like you shouldn’t do anything else because you have to have your mind clear for the next day.
Nevertheless, any of these two perspectives are not helping.
Instead, you shouldn’t think as much. I’ll talk about this later but for now let’s focus on making a difference between your job and whatever else you want to do.
You are not your job and your life is more than just your job. You have passions and interests which need to be fueled if you want to feel happy and satisfied with your lifestyle.
Therefore, it would be helpful if you could see it as a refresh.
Right after you leave your office, think of it as a small fresh start. Breath in. Breath out. Then leave all your job-related-thoughts at the door of your office and generate new ones that are related to your passions and interests.
Force yourself to start anything
It may feel too hard to just get yourself involved in the things you want to do when you feel like there’s no energy left.
But you should know there are two types of energy that you can generate: physical energy and mental energy.
When you feel like you don’t have enough energy, for sure you’re talking about the mental one, the one that is generated by your brain. But there’s another one that’s generated by your body.
Your body moves even if you sit in front of your computer and start writing. And if you are passionate about writing, that’s what you should do. Just sit in front of your computer, open your writing software and start writing.
Whatever you want to do, force yourself do to it for at least 15 minutes. The rest of it will come to you naturally. After all, a body and mind in motion tend to stay in motion.
More importantly, you’ll notice how one energy can activate the other.
In my case, when I start writing even though I don’t feel like doing it, I end up generating mental energy. What I do with my body generates thoughts and emotions that my mind uses to build up energy.
What you tell yourself is important
When it comes to procrastination, you should understand that what you tell yourself is important. To be more specific, the way you tell yourself what you tell yourself is important.
For example, let’s say you want to lose weight and you decide to start running. Maybe two-three times a week – Monday, Tuesday and maybe Saturday.
When Monday comes, you know you have to run, but what do you tell yourself?
- Today is Monday, therefore I should go running.
- Today is Monday, therefore I am running.
If ‘I should’ is present, convert into ‘I am’. This way, you focus on what you are instead of what you should.
But that’s not all because, even though you may tell yourself that today you are running, you may decide not to do it.
For sure you’ve had days where you promised yourself that you would do something but then you didn’t do it anymore. Maybe you’ve forgotten or maybe you decided to do something else. Either way, you’ve found yourself an excuse for not doing it.
If you want to avoid that from now on, creating yourself a list of arguments for whatever you want to do is going to come in handy. It shouldn’t be anything special about that list – just write down on a piece of paper your arguments for whatever you want to do and review it when you come up with an excuse for not doing it.
Create yourself a calendar
Not just a random calendar, but one when you are active.
For this type of activity, you can use the Seinfeld calendar. I’ve been using it for years and it helped me a lot when it came to setting a goal and achieving it.
Here’s how the calendar looks:
As you can see, there’s more than just the calendar.
There are a few fields that you’ll have to fill in but you can do just fine without them.
The sole purpose of this calendar is to help you do something every day, for 30 days. Therefore, after you set yourself the type of activity you want to do daily, right after you do it, you’ll have to put a big fat X on the calendar, for that specific day.
I’ve used this calendar for the following activities:
- losing weight;
- cold showers;
Actually, in 2017 I set myself one 30-day challenge for each month of that year and I achieved some pretty things with the help of this calendar. You can read more about my experiences from back then by reading this book.
WARNING: The Seinfeld calendar may cause you frustrations
When you use the Seinfeld calendar, after a while you’ll be able to look back at your activity and see how much you achieved from what you set yourself. If you won’t see that many X’s on your calendar, you may end up not feeling good about yourself.
That being said, if you feel motivated by not achieving something, then the calendar may help you. At the same time, if you feel motivated by seeing your recent-past results, then the calendar may help you.
On the other hand, if you find frustration in not having results and not being able to keep up with whatever you set yourself, then it may not be a great idea to use the Seinfeld calendar.
Journaling about it will make you understand what you are doing wrong
I’ve been writing for more than 10 years and the experiences I’ve had with journaling are amazing.
I’m not always journaling. I only do it when I feel like I need to do it. But every time I did it, it helped me a lot with understanding the situation I was in.
You may ask yourself what you can write in a journal so you can better understand what you are doing wrong.
Write there everything you experience, from negative to positive thoughts, from obstacles that keep your procrastination active to whatever gives you motivation and inspiration to start and keep working.
Here’s an article I recommend you read: 7 things I use my notebook for. At the end of the article, you’ll find a list with 26 things you can write in your journal.
To get the most out of your journaling experience, you should review it by the end of every week. Make sure to look for things that have improved, things that you can improve, and things that have changed.
Play by one single rule: you either do nothing at all or you do what you have to do
Limiting your decisions can be an important factor in overcoming procrastination.
While this rule seems to be a little extreme, it provides you only two choices: you either do nothing at all or you do what you have to do.
Yes, you can do nothing at all as much as you want. But for how much will you be able to do nothing at all? You’ll get bored and you’ll want to do something, anything, just to have something to do.
Doing nothing doesn’t mean watching TV, reading a book, or staying on Facebook. Doing nothing means doing nothing. Period.
Eventually, you’ll get tired of doing nothing and you’ll shift your attention to what you have to do. You may do it for 15-30 mins and get back to doing nothing. But that’s all right. It’s not like ‘doing nothing’ has changed and now it’s an entirely different thing. You’ll get bored again.
And just like that, you end up in a loop where you either do nothing or you do what you have to do. And you’ll jump between these two activities until you realize you’ve been doing one thing only: the one that you have to do.
Try to focus on being disciplined, not motivated
Discipline is mostly about routines, which people hate. But routines help build habits, and habits create discipline.
For many people, an alternative to discipline is motivation. And while motivation may be good, it always comes and goes, it’s never the same and it’s most of the time connected to something else, which means it’s external.
People are motivated by many things, and they use that motivation to make a change, get something, or just feel good overall. But all the things that provide motivation to you are external.
Instead, you should try to see discipline as a viable alternative to motivation.
While motivation has to do with the energy you get from an external source, discipline is about creating a schedule with the promise that you’ll do your best to stick to the schedule.
It shouldn’t be something bigger than what you can handle. Actually, it should be so easy for you that you would want to do it every day, for at least 30 days (or a period of time that will help you get what you want to get).
When it comes to discipline, I use the Seinfeld calendar and I’ve already talked about it.
Therefore, I encourage you again to create yourself a schedule instead of looking for motivation. You may feel motivated from time to time but you shouldn’t let your results to be decided by how you feel.