Our conquest to overcome procrastination continues. Previously, we tackled the issue of low expectations. Today, we shall take a look at the disconnect between action and reward and how we can deal with it.
In a nutshell, we are more likely to procrastinate if the work we do now isn’t pleasant or if it doesn’t yield instant-gratification. This is the “disconnect” between the work we do and the reward we get. The reward is delayed, so we are more prone to distract ourselves with things that are instantly satisfying. Like sleep.
Procrastination, Laziness and You
1) Inject Meaning
One possible way to bring that feeling of satisfaction closer to the actual work process, rather than to the end of it, is to convince ourselves that the task we are doing has a meaning to it. Rather than view each task as a standalone objective, view it as a stepping stone to larger goals. Draw links to your current work and the overarching wants and desires you have. Thus the reward isn’t merely in completion, but in the process of completing the work. Every second spent on the work is a second advancing something you know you want.
2) Scale the Difficulty
Repetitive tasks are boring; ditto with easy ones. One tactic to get over procrastination is to make the work a reward in itself. This is much easier said than done.
However, one way to make a boring pile of work more engaging is to practice a concept called “Flow”. This is where the difficulty of a task tallies with your skill. Challenges stimulate action; easiness does otherwise. Of course, care must be taken as to not overinflate the difficulty of a task. If it overwhelms you, chances are you would be put off by it anyway.
In a state of flow, your mind is working in overdrive. Often times, those in a state of flow lose track of time and become totally absorbed in the task at hand. This is a good way to tackle boredom and apathy with a task, especially if the reward is delayed.
3) Make the Task Pleasant
In a dream world, filing taxes would be pleasant. In reality, if it wasn’t for the law looming behind our backs, we would avoid it like the plague. Some tasks are so mind-numbingly boring that we can feel our brain cells slowly committing seppuku as we progress. Naturally, we avoid them.
To counter this, make the task pleasant wherever possible. Sandwich frustrating tasks with real rewards; make those rewards contingent upon milestones in your work. This isn’t a full-proof method, but the basic idea is to do whatever possible to make the work bearable.