It’s ironic, but I’ve been procrastinating writing this article all day. By reading it, you’re probably procrastinating too.
Procrastination refers to the voluntary postponement of an unpleasant task, often against one’s better judgement.
Have you ever wondered why you procrastinate? And what you can do about it?
In a hilarious TED talk, the incredibly influential writer Tim Urban reveals the number one reason why you procrastinate, and what you can do about it.
Urban is the writer behind the blog “What But Why”. In its best months, it gets over 10 million unique visitors and has an influential readership including Elon Musk and Chris Anderson.
Anderson gave Urban the opportunity to deliver a TED talk, and he didn’t disappoint. The TED talk has now been viewed over 13 million times (see the video below).
Urban says you procrastinate because of what he calls the “instant gratification monkey”. This is the part of you totally focused on the present moment to the detriment of your future self.
As Urban says:
“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.”
We also someone else within you guiding your decision making, called the “the Rational Decision-Maker, who gives us the ability to do things no other animal can do. We can visualize the future. We can see the big picture. We can make long-term plans.”
While often there is an overlap between the Instant Gratification Monkey and the Rational Decision-Maker, at many times in our life it makes sense to do things that are more challenging.
Here’s what Urban has to say about this:
“But other times, it makes much more sense to be doing things that are harder and less pleasant, for the sake of the big picture. And that’s when we have a conflict. And for the procrastinator, that conflict tends to end a certain way every time, leaving him spending a lot of time in this orange zone, an easy and fun place that’s entirely out of the Makes Sense circle. I call it the Dark Playground.”
Everyone experiences being in the Dark Playground. It’s when we’re having fun that is unearned, and we’re usually experiencing it with a sense of guilt, dread and anxiety.
Urban says that every procrastinator has a guardian angel when we’re in the Dark Playground, and it’s called the Panic Monster.
The Panic Monster is what scares us into action. It’s the panic that comes from knowing we have a deadline to meet, or a responsibility to fulfill.
The key point is to be aware of the Panic Monster and start letting it have more control in your life.
“We need to think about what we’re really procrastinating on, because everyone is procrastinating on something in life. We need to stay aware of the Instant Gratification Monkey. That’s a job for all of us.”
Here’s the brilliant TED talk. It’s well worth continuing to procrastinating whatever you’re meant to be doing and taking the time to watch it!