A little while ago I had written an article on how to beat procrastination, but damn... was I naive to think that I had conquered this demon. This demon seemed to have been lurking like the boogeyman in the closet, waiting for me to slip and shackle me again in its clutches. Procrastination, like any other habit, doesn’t go away. We are all procrastinators at the end of the day and we love to procrastinate. Someone who claims that they do not procrastinate is in a way lying or is not human, as believe it or not it is deep-rooted in our mental operating software.
Once I had made a helluva effort to get into the habit of doing something, a minor break resulted in me procrastinating to not doing that very same thing. Months and months of consistent effort got washed away and it became harder and harder for me to get myself to put in the effort. For example, writing this very article! I last wrote some 4 months back, and since the situation in my life altered; I easily got out of the habit of writing. Well, this keeps happening, doesn’t it? When you are in one situation, you are all gung-ho, take action and do something, then once the situation changes, you stop doing that thing and switch to doing something else. During this break, I realized that it is extremely easy to stop doing something that requires a consistent effort. In my book, Honey It’s Not About Six-Pack Abs I mention a ’21-day challenge’ tactic to get into the habit based on the age-old adage that – if you do something for 21 days consistently you will get into the habit. Whereas it may take ‘21 days’ to forge a habit but it only takes as little as a 4 days break to get out of a habit.
What helped me re-evaluate this procrastination phase (if I might call it that) was asking myself the question – whatever is it that I desire, is that very thing essential to me? I ask you - is what you desire to do, that requires you to put a consistent effort, really close to your heart? People often try to explain this on the bases of passion i.e. if you are passionate about something you would do that or conversely if you don’t do something you aren’t passionate about it. We have been conditioned into thinking that this feeling of ‘passion’ is something that we are born with or have to be born with in order to put our heart and mind into something. I feel, however, that passion mostly works in a reverse fashion (passion...fashion...sounds cool right, Lol!) You take action, and if you feel good or satisfied post that action, then your passion level for that activity will go up and you will feel motivated to do it again. Moreover, if you take action and that action has resulted in an outcome you desire or brings you closer to what you desire, your passion level and motivation levels will go up. However, if you do something that makes you feel not-so-good later, you will either stop doing that altogether or delay putting in the effort i.e. you will come what may procrastinate.
Greg McKeown in his book Effortless gives an interesting way out. He talks about taking the Minimum Viable Action at a particular moment. It’s an offshoot of the idea of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) mentioned by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup. The Silicon Valley and the start-up ecosystem swear by this idea of an MVP i.e. to create “that version of a new innovative product which allows an entrepreneur to collect the maximum amount of validated learning or feedback about the customers with the least possible development of the product” or in simplified terms to create the simplest version of that product. That’s exactly the way how procrastination should be dealt with.
See, procrastination is not bad the way it’s made out to be. Sometimes in order to put in an effort to do something that is essential for us, we must learn to procrastinate on procrastination only (Lol!) and take only the minimum viable action. Yes, it is hard or it may require will, desire, passion, discipline, and all the other verbs that people talk about in order to deal with procrastination, but at the very core, it doesn’t come down to any of these.
For example, the minimum viable action to go for a run may be to simply wear your running shoes. The minimum viable action to exercise may be to simply listen to your favorite motivational music. The minimum viable action to go to the gym simply may be to put on your gym attire. The minimum viable action to read a book that you have been procrastinating to read simply may be to keep that book on your side table. The minimum viable action to eliminate that back pain may be to simply do stretches for 5 min. The minimum viable action for living a healthy lifestyle may be to discard all the junk from the refrigerator. The minimum viable action to get active on Instagram may simply be to just post something. The minimum viable action for executing a large project may be to simply write the objective of the project. The minimum viable action to reconcile with someone may be to simply express.
For me, the minimum viable action for writing an article was to simply sit down and write a few words, to begin with. Then graduate to a few lines and so on. Even if it meant that I have lost the expression or it would result in a short or a shitty article after a long break, at the end of it, it still felt great to just start out. So, if you feel guilty about procrastinating on something you really really want to do, it may not require you to garner the passion or will or discipline to do that but simply may require you to come up with the simplest and the easiest version of that action.