I recently spent three years of my life living in a world where decision-making was governed by finely honed skills put to work by people who were focused, clear-minded and highly motivated to get the outcome they wanted. In that time I started and scrapped the first half of my book twice, I spent entire weeks wondering whether I could even do justice to the high-quality material I had gathered and decided, more than once that this was a book too far, that the subject was too complex and the scope too wide for me to finish.
Now, The Sniper Mind did come out and all this is just a slightly amusing incident in the course of its completion. But it did not feel so at the time. I actively had to borrow some of the skills and mindset of the snipers I was researching to get the job done. And, in the process I understood some things about procrastination that have completely transformed it for me.
But until that happened I too was fully immersed in Charlie Brown’s universe where the very idea of what I had to do threatened to overwhelm me to the point that I could not do it until, paradoxically, I had ample time, space and mental rest to consider it at length.
Psychologists view procrastination as an emotional response that makes future efforts all that much more difficult and negatively impacts decision-making. And studies suggest that we are all affected by it which would mean that the mechanism that drives it is more or less universal and augmented or mitigated by our ability to exercise emotional control.
Tim Urban is someone who has experienced procrastination at a deep enough level to be familiar with its workings. The folks at “Real Simple” see procrastination as having biosystemic origins and a time-management cure. While other researchers consider it to be more integral to the decision-making process and therefore good in itself.
Uncertainty is present in every decision we make. Because we are hardwired to avoid uncertainty when we encounter it we feel fear. Fear then begins to shut us down unless we take steps to counter it. Procrastination, from my point of view, happens when the task we face appears so difficult that we put it off until we can no longer defer the effort required to do it and the consequences of not doing it are going to be worse than not doing it.
This is indirectly supported by research and studies that have shown that the importance attached to a particular activity is in direct proportion to our likelihood to procrastinate. Where do we go from here? How do we intentionally and successfully tackle something like this? The answer lies in the reward system in the brain. In the element of “fun” we imbue everything we do and our sense of urgency in life, in general.
If we change how we see the value of the things we do we are likely to approach them with a much different attitude. If we truly consider the context of our lifetime the sense of urgency will be a constant without it, however, hurrying us up to the point that we cannot enjoy what we do.
All of this requires a little rewiring of the mind. A little hands-on approach in the control room of the self. Without being hyper-disciplined or super-focused we can learn to enjoy what we do, regardless of what it is and, in the process, make life itself, fleeting as it may be, feel like a lot of fun.
I know you did not procrastinate when it came to making the decision to make lots of coffee today and make sure you have a surfeit of cookies, donuts, croissants and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.