The Instant Gratification Monkey

I was reading an online article from Tim Urban, who studied why procrastinators procrastinate.  He possets that they can’t help it.  In their brain the procrastinator has the Rational Decision Maker who steadily guides the mind in to doing what needs to be done, and then there’s the Instant Gratification Monkey who sideswipes things and sends the mind off wandering for some instant satisfaction for information or other, that takes us away from our steady path.

The Instant Gratification Monkey takes us off to play in what Urban calls the Dark Playground, that space where all the fun, new, shiny things hang out that distract us from what we should be doing. In the back of our minds though is this constant feeling of anxiety or regret for that looming deadline or that thing that we’ve been working towards for ages.  When that deadline approaches though, it’s time for a visit from the Panic Monster who scares us away from the Dark Playground back in to a sense of productivity to get things done.

Urban offers three steps to turn procrastination into motivation:

  1. recognise that you are procrastinating.  Being aware of something is usually the first step in resolving it. 
  2. Understand the reason for the procrastination.  Is it the task itself, or is it you? Is it that you aren’t enjoying it, not qualified for it, or feeling overwhelmed by it?
  3. Set objectives, tactics and rewards.  Depending on the reason for the procrastination in the first place it might be as simple as having a to do list if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or someone that holds you to account, or if you promise yourself a treat if you get that thing done.

There are times that I procrastinate.  It’s not usually because I don’t want to do something, more that I don’t want to do that particular thing right now.  I will send that email out but after I’ve watched this episode of that tv programme I like.  I will write that report just as soon as I’ve finished making lunch.  I will learn how to ring handbells properly, just as soon as I’ve written that report and sent that email.  Sometimes it can become a vicious cycle.

Other days, I can blast through even the most boring, or painful task without so much as a second thought.  It’s about the frame of mind that I’m in.  Sometimes, I find being in a particular place, or with particular people helps galvanise me into action.  Sometimes I just wake up and tell myself that today I’m going to power on through all that stuff and clear my to do list.

Today has definitely been one of the latter type of days.  I’ve finished the first draft of a strategy document.  I’ve documented a framework that I invented that supports that strategy.  I’ve been for a power walk.  I’ve read the next section on learning to ring handbells and had a few goes at it.  My Rational Decision Maker was in charge today.

I wonder if that means tomorrow I’ll be all out of juice and my Instant Gratification Monkey will be running the show.


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