How To Trick Procrastination

“Putting things off is the greatest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future.”

— Seneca, On The Shortness Of Life

In the last post of Stoic Answers, I wrote about How To Find Your Passion. The advice of that post, simply put, is to stop spending so much time in your head trying to figure out what you are passionate about, doing absolutely nothing in the meantime, and instead, take the negative approach to it. Which is to get yourself to work on whatever feels even tinily right and from there, figure out what you don’t like so you can figure out what you do like and then get closer to it day by day. This is the process of action, and it is far more efficient in actually living life instead of just thinking about it. With this approach, passion will find you, surely. 

Now, if you think this approach might be a better way to come about what you’re passionate about, you need to put yourself to work. 

Procrastination, at this point, becomes a problem. It becomes a problem because while you need to be taking action so you can live your life, this manipulative bastard (as I like to imagine it) will lure you into thinking that “there’s nothing wrong with looking at my phone just for 5 minutes”, oh but there is. Hardly you look at your phone just for 5 minutes. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tinder, you name it. They are literally designed to hook your attention for as long as they possibly can. 5 minutes then become 10 minutes and then half an hour until you need to do other urgent stuff and there they went, 30 minutes you could’ve spent working on something meaningful to you. Luckily, there’s a way to keep the good things about bought worlds. 

Delayed Gratification 

When I was a young boy, I used to play a game in which I practiced delayed gratification without even noticing. The game consisted of doing stupid challenges before I could eat one dish I loved, like mashed potatoes or pizza. I had to go to the garden and touch the tree, then go to my room and settle the toys I was going to play with later, and then touch something from the living room. When I’d finished my “mission”, I could go and have the first bite, which was glorious. Haha, I did it just for fun, but that my friend was delayed gratification on its full splendor. 

Delayed gratification consists of delaying the price once you’ve done something. We love to play games. Scientists have shown consistently how learning becomes far more efficient when it is gamified. You don’t even notice that you’re learning something while you’re playing, because you’re just having fun. This is the secret sauce of the success Duolingo is currently having, kudos for them. 

You can gamify anything. Do you like Facebook a lot? Maybe it’s not Facebook, but what about 30 minutes on your PlayStation? Or 30 minutes chatting with your best friend? Why don’t you use this as a price? 

Doing this the right way

Everyone’s different, but most people can concentrate on 50-minute time stretches until their heads begin to burst. Knowing this, play your game by doing 50 minute stretches with 5 or 10 or 30 minutes (depending on the activity you’re doing) of price. For example, if you’re learning to program or you’re writing a book, set 50 minutes on your timer and do absolutely nothing but work, once the time is over, you are free to play with your phone or whatever, guilty free, which is infinitely better. What’s great about this is that you’ll come back more efficiently to work because you gave your brain time to rest. You are working intelligently and having fun at the same time. 

So there you have it. To trick procrastination, used delayed gratification. You can only have the price once you’ve done your meaningful work. You’ll have fun and you’ll feel proud of yourself. Ah, that’s better. 

One last thought

I want to finish this post with one of Seth Godin’s quote, for I find it highly relevant for the topic at hand, living your life fully. Here it goes: 

“The job is what you do when you are told what to do. The job is showing up at the factory, following instructions, meeting spec, and being managed.

Someone can always do your job a little better or faster or cheaper than you can.

The job might be difficult, it might require skill, but it’s a job.

Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people.

I call the process of doing your art ‘the work.’ It’s possible to have a job and do the work, too. In fact, that’s how you become a linchpin.

The job is not the work.”
Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

When I talk about taking action, I do not only talk about working on your job harder. What I’m trying to say is that you need to work on your work, the one that you force yourself to do, typically when you’re tired after having worked on the job that pays the bills, for now. This is the kind of work that matters and that’s so painfully easy to procrastinate in. Nevertheless, this is the most important, this is the kind of work that leaves a footprint, and we need you to do it.

Thanks for reading,

Ricardo Guaderrama

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How To Find Your Passion, No Bullshit

Follow your passion, follow your bliss, once you realize why is that you’re in this world, everything will be easy. God, every time I hear this bs I feel like vomiting. 

“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”― Mark Twain

This kind of advice does not seem to be fit for the 21st century or any century really, or maybe it has some truth in it, but later in life, once you’ve realized a few things, but first, you need to realize a thing or two about life. 

It must be fantastic to wake up when you’re 15 years old knowing that you want to be an astronaut and that’s it, decision made, you’re going to be an astronaut.

But this is obviously not how it works. First, you need to throw in the fact that you’re more highly or less likely to become an astronaut depending on your household’s income and the thousand other factors that don’t determine, but that do influence if becoming an astronaut happens or not. Like when I was in 4th grade and decided that I wanted to build a spaceship. Some of my friends hopped in and began drawing the interior rooms, some others were planning the food supply for the trip to the moon (hey, we were being conservative on our goals) and so on until… Other kids found out about the idea and laughed about it, real hard. People don’t like to be laughed at, so most of my friends backed down and left me alone with my spaceship. I’m 29 now, and I still remember everything, it stung real good. 

Now that I remember, it’s funny how at that age, I couldn’t conceive the possibility of my spaceship’s plans not happening, I just had to put the time and the effort and that was it, right? 

But no. Look, the point I’m trying to make here is that, although you have tremendous leverage over your life and the way it is headed, you’re still going to experience things that are going to mold it. For good things or for bad things. You’re going to be given scripts that will stop you and scripts that will encourage you. 

So, knowing this, being able to tell what your passion is, is really not that easy. What if it’s something as stupid as the spaceship and people laugh about you? 

Something to take into account. The answer to that? 

You’re gonna have to deal with it. It’s not your fault, hell, it’s not even their fault. Just realize that ultimately, the decision to believe your shit falls on you, not on others. 

Growing up

I really love growing up. Growing up functions like a bullshit filter. You begin to realize the shit that you like and the shit that you certainly don’t like. 

And this is key. 

When you’re young, and people tell you that you need to find your passion, it’s really hard advice, because you don’t know shit. 

I remember that whenever my ex-girlfriend asked me what I wanted to do, I got pissed off. Because I didn’t know, and let me tell you a secret, I still don’t. Now, as back then, I have an idea of where I want to go, but it’s hard to articulate, but at the same time, I know for sure what I don’t want. This is the filter of growing older, getting to know those things that you don’t like.

There comes a point in life where you have to begin to pay your bills. This day is not going to wait for you to discover what your passion is. It will just ask for bucks, and if he doesn’t get them, he gets pissed off. 

So, you go and do what all of us are doing, because really, you don’t have any other choice, you get a job. It can be a fancy one, or it can be a shitty one. Either way, you’re going to find out what you like and what you don’t like. If your job is pretty shitty, hey, everything else at least is better. So, you’ll strive for something else. And you will fall into the trap. The trap of money.  

Money is great, there’s no denying it. I prefer having it than not having it. But it still is a trap. It will feel good for a while, but once it becomes normal, you’ll begin to wonder what the heck are you doing with your life. Don’t worry, this existential crisis is good. What you do with this crisis, is extremely important though. 

A decision

I want to make a slight pause here to clarify something. There are two kinds of people in the world. 

“Often a very old man has no other proof of his long life than his age.”
Lucius Annaeus Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

The people that live, and the people that just surf through life. I’m expecting that you are one of the people who live, or that at least wants to live. 

Here comes a problem. When you feel that you haven’t found your “passion” yet, you might feel that you cannot begin living, like when my girlfriend asked me what my passion was and I didn’t know what to respond. So you can be wondering for ages about what your passion is. 

Do you know something? Fuck that. 

You don’t need to have a passion to live greatly, right now. You don’t need to be ashamed of a passionless clerk job either. Life is hard without a job, so getting one is the first step. 

Stop trying to find your passion, instead, let it come to you. 

Move 

“Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.”
Alfred Adler

You need to move. Staying static will only make you go into your head and wonder for hours and hours about what your passion is and what’d be cool to be. 

But there is a far better and more efficient way. Get your ass on it. 

“If you wish to be a writer, write.”

Epictetus

Give it a go and see if it’s for you, if not, eliminate. 

Another way is getting a job to pay the bills and become financially independent. I’d say this is a terrific way of doing it because once you see what work, real work is, your mind is going to stop wandering and will instead begin to find solutions. Fast. 

Why do you think I’m writing this right now? It’s already my sleeping time and I have to get up early tomorrow, plus exercise and everything else. But, I haven’t written in Stoic Answers for about a week now and not doing so makes me really sad. But today, honestly I felt angry. I love writing here and will not let my other responsibilities win over. Plus, I now realize something that I do like by doing other things that I don’t like. 

I’m happy right now for my path is getting clearer. I know now where I want to go. But for that to happen, I have to keep moving. 

So how do you find your passion? The way you do it is you give it a finger and you begin to move instead. 

If I’d ask you, right now. What’s the next step, I’m sure you could come up with something. There is always something. We always know what the next stair is, you just need to take that step. 

“Can anything be more idiotic than certain people who boast of their foresight? They keep themselves officiously preoccupied in order to improve their lives; they spend their lives in organizing their lives. They direct their purposes with an eye to a distant future. But putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining?”
Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

Please, please, stop looking for your passion, let it come, and it will come, but only if you move. 

One last thing. I need to clarify, again, that all the information that I provide in Stoic Answers is nuanced and subjected to further discussion. Read the blog with that state of mind and you’ll gain a lot more from it. Nothing said here is final. If it serves you in whichever point of your life you’re at the moment, great. If not, leave a comment below so we can discuss it!

Thanks for reading,

Ricardo Guaderrama

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