How to Stop the Procrastination Cycle

Like a snowball gathering speed, sometimes the motivation builds after you get started.

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The more we avoid something, the higher our anxiety, and so we put it off further.

To stop the procrastination cycle, we need to first identify the reason why we’re avoiding a task.

Usually, it’s about prevention or promotion:

  • Prevention Focus: when we avoid doing something to prevent a loss. For example, you have to create a presentation for work but are afraid it won’t be engaging

  • Promotion Focus: when we see a task as a way to end up better off than we are now — like training for a marathon — but can’t summon the motivation to get started

Emotions play a key role both in promotion and prevention focus. It’s the “feeling like” part that is the trickiest.

But here's the secret: you don’t have to feel like getting something done in order to actually get it done.

If you think something is boring or unpleasant, you need to take your feelings out of the equation and decide in advance exactly when and where you’ll do it.

Say, every day at 7:00 am, you’re at the gym. No emotions. There’s no lying in bed, staring at the ceiling and weighing the pros and cons of exercise. Save yourself the decision fatigue and commit to your previously-determined schedule.