Through our Reflections series we share nuggets of wisdom from our ongoing research for the Holstee Membership as well as personal experiences that have changed how we see the world.
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September 24, 2017

Why do we procrastinate? (Part I - The Problem)

Cecilia in Buenos Aires, Argentina recently replied to our 'Ask Us Anything' prompt with the following question:

“I was just wondering about why we procrastinate our important goals. Is it self sabotage? Not being really honest about what we want?”

Tim Urban, one of my favorite minds — and a legendary procrastinator — tackled this question in a blog post and this fun TED Talk.

Tim breaks procrastination down in the same way that he breaks down a number of mind-bending topics on his blog Wait But Why — with simple stick figures and relatable stories.

For procrastination, he introduces us to three main characters: The Rational Decision Maker, the Instant Gratification Monkey and the Panic Monster.

The Rational Decision Maker is the one with the plan, the one who has the list of things that need to get done and wants to work on them.

The Instant Gratification Monkey lives in every procrastinator’s mind. He has other plans and often “takes the wheel”. But,

“The Instant Gratification Monkey does not seem like a guy you want behind the wheel. He lives entirely in the present moment. He has no memory of the past, no knowledge of the future, and he only cares about two things: easy and fun.”

The Instant Gratification Monkey is hard to tame, but according to Tim, there is one thing that can scare off this distracting monkey and that is the Panic Monster.

“Now, the Panic Monster is dormant most of the time, but he suddenly wakes up anytime a deadline gets too close or there's danger of public embarrassment, a career disaster or some other scary consequence. And importantly, he's the only thing the Monkey is terrified of.”

In his blog post, Tim shares three reasons why procrastination is no way to live:

“1) It’s unpleasant. Far too much of the procrastinator’s precious time is spent toiling...

2) The procrastinator ultimately sells himself short. He ends up underachieving and fails to reach his potential, which eats away at him over time and fills him with regret and self-loathing.

3) The Have-To-Dos may happen, but not the Want-To-Dos. Even if the procrastinator is in the type of career where the Panic Monster is regularly present and he’s able to be fulfilled at work, the other things in life that are important to him — getting in shape, cooking elaborate meals, learning to play the guitar, writing a book, reading, or even making a bold career switch — never happen because the Panic Monster doesn’t usually get involved with those things.”

We don’t focus on what's important because the Instant Gratification Monkey tells us it’s easier and more fun to do other things.

But how do we stop procrastinating? Tim wrote a follow-up article and we will dive into a few highlights in our follow up post: Why do we procrastinate? (Part II - A Solution).

Dave Radparvar
Co-Founder, Holstee

P.S. The goal of the Holstee Membership is to help you set aside what’s urgent so you can focus on what’s important. Learn more →

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