Day 6 of 14 - Present Self vs. Future Self
"It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end." - Leonardo da Vinci
This is #6.
Originally I wanted to start out today's article by just listing all my favorite YouTube channels and explain why I like them. However, because I created this website to reflect on my own behavior in the first place, I am going to combine the list of favorite YouTube channels with a few thoughts on procrastination.
First and foremost: What is procrastination?
Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing a task or set of tasks. [...], it is the force that prevents you from following through on what you set out to do. - James Clear
In more scientific terms, procrastination refers to a phenomenon called "time inconsistency". Behavioral psychology research has shown that the human brain usually values short term benefits over long term ones.
Think about it this way: most of us set out to achieve some more or less specific goals in life. These goals are meant for our Future Self. The Self we want to become. The better Self. But ultimately only our Present Self can take action. Whenever you are on the brink of making a decision for your Future Self you are in the present moment. Therefor, your Present Self and Future Self are constantly at odds with each other. "Do I fall for that extra piece of chocolate or do I withstand the temptation to achieve my goal of becoming a healthier me?", "Do I spend that 60 EUR on a new pair of jeans or do I put it into my savings account?"
I have made similar mistakes in my 20s in regards to saving money for when I'm older. I'd rather spend it on things that gave me short-term pleasure. I do partially regret that, but we all get smarter and wiser over time (hopefully...).
I figured out two different ways of overcoming this type of procrastination. The first one is related to pain and I guess it's definitely not for everyone. I'm not talking about physical pain but the kind of pain that creeps up from your stomach to your chest, tightens your whole body and makes you feel really uncomfortable. The combination of an approaching deadline and the amount of work I still have to put in whatever I wanted to achieve gives me that kind of pain. Less work - more pain. More work - less pain. Since my professional career has shown me that I deliver better results under a certain amount of pressure, I have learned to embrace that pain to a specific extent. It may be unpleasant at times but the right amount of pressure can evolve into a world of creativity and productivity. The unconscious telling the conscious "I've GOT to DO something" is the trigger that gets me going. But you better not miss that signal!
The second way of overcoming procrastination is by telling myself that I am already the person that I want to be. I stopped telling myself "I want to speak Finish", instead I tell myself "I speak Finish". The brain doesn't differentiate between something that has really happened and something that you only tell yourself. So, ask yourself: "Who do you want to become?" - and be that person. You want to be an athlete? Tell yourself you are an athlete and act on it. You want to eat less sugar? Tell yourself you are a health conscious person and get rid of all the sweets in your pantry (but not by eating them, of course...).
To amplify the positive effects for your Present Self, even though you are acting on behalf of your Future Self, can also help. This can be achieved by combining certain tasks that you want to do in the present with things you know are good for your Future Self.
Take this example: you want to work out to create a fitter and healthier Future Self but you also want to lay on the couch and listen to that amazing audio book? Create a rule that you are only allowed to listen to that audio book while working out.
Another example: you need to start ironing your own clothes because the laundry shop is closed these days but you also want to watch that new Netflix show? Only watch the show while ironing your laundry!
You get the idea... Combining good/useful habits with bad ones can be beneficial to get things done and stop procrastinating.
Here's another method that could work as well: you can make the consequences of procrastination more painful. If you usually go running alone - because nowadays it's better to do that - you probably don't feel much of that procrastination related pain if you skip tomorrow's run. But you could also schedule a run together with a friend. Now, if you need to cancel that appointment, the pain of doing so might increase and it becomes more likely that you stick to your plan.
I am going to finish this article with a method that I am probably going to try out myself as soon as the next opportunity arises. It's called the "Ivy Lee Method" and consists of five simple steps to get your schedule for tomorrow sorted.
At the end of each work day, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
Repeat this process every working day.
The benefits of this method are pretty straight forward: it's simple, it makes you take tough decisions, it removes the friction of getting started and it stops you from trying to multi-task.
Another method is Warren Buffett's so called "2-List" strategy which is probably even simpler: write down your top 25 goals/tasks, circle the top 5, move the rest to the "avoid at all cost" list...
Now, as promised, I'm going to share some of my currently favorite YouTube channels to feed that procrastination monster of yours:
Knowledge and Self-Improvement
TED Talks: https://www.youtube.com/user/TEDtalksDirector
Great Big Story: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCajXeitgFL-rb5-gXI-aG8Q
Matt D'Avella: https://www.youtube.com/user/blackboxfilmcompany
Nathaniel Drew: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrdWRLq10OHuy7HmSckV3Vg
Tim Ferriss: https://www.youtube.com/user/masterlock77
French Guy Cooking / Alex: https://www.youtube.com/user/FrenchGuyCooking
Binging with Babish: https://www.youtube.com/user/bgfilms
Linus Tech Tips: https://www.youtube.com/user/LinusTechTips
Marques Brownlee: https://www.youtube.com/user/marquesbrownlee
Dave Lee: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVYamHliCI9rw1tHR1xbkfw
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMtFAi84ehTSYSE9XoHefig
The Graham Norton Show: https://www.youtube.com/user/OfficialGrahamNorton
Finanztip (German): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-muQylmRx61Mt6U1oDSEVA
Graham Stephan: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV6KDgJskWaEckne5aPA0aQ
Drivetribe: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChiwLDIBJrV5SxqdixMHmQA Carwow: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUhFaUpnq31m6TNX2VKVSVA
Here are some of the sources that I have used to write this article:
And you can find a lot more helpful advice on how to break bad habits and create new, better ones in these books:
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey (Amazon Affiliate Link: https://amzn.to/3bzSBAJ)
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (Amazon Affiliate Link: https://amzn.to/2QSTDzS)
Atomic Habits by James Clear (Amazon Affiliate Link: https://amzn.to/3dEvUNp)