If it weren't for the last minute, I wouldn't get anything done.
Coming over to my place for dinner? Watch out you don't slip on the floor that was mopped 5 minutes before you arrived.
Travelling with me to Mexico? It's a gamble whether my freshly renewed passport will arrive on time via "super-express-you're-an-idiot-for-waiting-so-long-emergency delivery."
Riding in my car with the "empty" gas tank sign on? You'll thank me for the celebratory slurpee when we roll into the gas station on fumes alone. Just! Made it!
We all procrastinate in one way or another. And every now and then, we somehow convince ourselves that when there's a hill to climb, waiting it out will somehow make it smaller.
Take Victor Hugo, for instance.
It was the summer of 1830, and dude was under extreme pressure from his publisher to write his next book. After years of social galavanting, he finally put the pedal to the medal and wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame in just 6 short months. How did he do it? He got rid of his entire wardrobe and relegated himself to wearing a creepy and extremely hideous shawl until his book was done. Needless to say. No date nights or beers with the bros for Victor.
Why do we make plans, and set goals, only to procrastinate?
Well, one reason is that the human brain values immediate gratification more than future rewards.
It's easy enough to say you want to work out 3x a week, because you're envisioning what life will be like in the future. Come time to put your running shoes on, and all of a sudden, there is a whole list of other fun and relaxing things you'd rather be doing, right this moment.
Bridging the gap between where you are, and where you want to be, is hard. Which is exactly why the ability to delay gratification is one of the best predictors of success in life (if you haven't already, check out The Marshmallow Test and watch as pre-school children try to resist eating a marshmallow right in front of their faces - believe it or not, those who resisted eating it went on to be big shots).
So how do you ditch the procrastination, and start developing the healthy habits you want for your future self?
1. Turn good behaviour into the easier option
Increase the energy, effort and cost of a behaviour you're trying to curb, while reducing the effort required for good behaviour. Make it so that fruit is on the counter, and chips are still at the store. Leave your running shoes at the front door, and your slippers on the top shelf in your 2nd floor bedroom closet. Strategize. And make yourself believe that the good behaviour is less expensive than the bad behaviour.
2. Reduce the friction of getting started
Being in the middle of doing the work is often less painful than being in the middle of procrastinating about it. It's not the work itself that is hard. It's the getting started that's hard. So how do we take the friction out of the kick-off moment? Put every ounce of energy into building a ritual out of the habit you're trying to establish....and don't even worry about the results. Go to the gym at 9 am every Saturday. After a little while, the getting started simply becomes automatic. It's just what you do.
3. Schedule the shit out of your habits
Write it down. Get specific. And ideally, have someone else keep you accountable. Make your "Rollerblading Date with Michelle at 6 pm" as valuable as your "Meeting with Pam from Accounting at 2 pm." Getting your physical activity in your calendar will make you 2-3x more likely to follow-through. True story.
So if you're struggling with procrastination, and wondering how on earth you're going to prioritize your health once and for all, consider dropping off your entire wardrobe at Value Village, draping yourself in that ornamental rug on your dining room floor, and going to town on Kathy Smith step-aerobics in your basement, until you get there. Either that, or book me in for a gym date every Tuesday. I'll pick you up. You may even get a slurpee out of the deal.