This Sunday, Skullcrusher Household is presenting a three-hour class on beating procrastination by cultivating positive motivation.
850 Williams Way, Apt 4.
Mountain View, CA 94040
When you get here, you’ll see a blue garage door with a turtle on it. Go up the stairs to the left, pass the monkey-pony monster by the door, and come right in!
Last week at our IFS practice group we had a full-house of attendees, and there was one issue that was especially popular. Quite a few of the people who came independently picked it to address. It’s the same problem that has come up the most often with the clients I’ve worked with individually. Want to guess what it is?
You know how it goes. You know what you’re supposed to do. What you should do. What you’d be the happiest if you did. Maybe you can imagine yourself doing it, making forward progress, and moving towards the outcomes you care about in your life. Or maybe you have an idea of the result you want, but you find yourself getting stuck when you try to sit down to start. It all still seems murky, and you can’t quite see how it would go.
Practicing regular procrastination is like having your very own choose-your-own-least-favorite-emotion adventure:
Frustration: You don’t understand why you can’t just do it. You know you want to do the thing—it’s important. You can hear yourself making excuses, feel yourself getting tired and bored, and none of it is helping!
Fear: It’s scary not to get work done. Maybe you’re worried about the consequences at your job (or school), or maybe you see that opportunities are passing you by. You’re starting to worry that it’ll be this way forever—that you’ll never be able to apply yourself to anything again.
Guilt: You feel like you’re letting other people down, and maybe you are. As the time passes you wish that you could go back and make it so you’d been working, but you haven’t been. You feel a painful pull when you realize that you’ve been breaking promises to yourself again and again.
Shame: “What’s wrong with me for acting like this?” You get a sick sense of dread when you think about someone finding out what you’ve actually been spending your time on. What would they think? What sort of person would act like that?
Maybe you’re feeling all of them. I know I have.
Because procrastination is widespread, the internet and bookstores are littered with advice about what to do. Make lists and don’t bother prioritizing, prioritize ruthlessly, set a timer, formalize the problem as this thing called akrasia, model it, and understand its nature, procrastinate more strategically, or just do it. There’s good material out there. And I would be willing to bet that diving headfirst into the literature about procrastination is usually just another way to procrastinate.
Overcoming procrastination is a big topic, and we can’t cover it all in one class, so we’re tackling one foundational chunk that you absolutely need to achieve your goal and have fun while doing it.
Cultivating Positive Motivation
Once you know that doing something is important, it’s tempting to frame the problem of getting yourself to do it in terms of self-discipline. But knowing that something is important is one thing. Being excited about it, drawn to it, thinking about how you can’t wait to work on it… that’s a different beast. You’re not looking to crank up your self-discipline, you’re looking to actually want, on a gut level—not in some abstract sense—to work on your project.
One of the most dangerous illusions you get from school is the idea that doing great things requires a lot of discipline. Most subjects are taught in such a boring way that it’s only by discipline that you can flog yourself through them. So I was surprised when, early in college, I read a quote by Wittgenstein saying that he had no self-discipline and had never been able to deny himself anything, not even a cup of coffee.
You want intrinsic motivation. That’s what works and lasts.
So, this Sunday, we’re going to lead you through a series of three exercises that will identify and multiply your own positive intrinsic motivation.
1. Future Self Guided Visualization
A cool hack for communicating with our best guess about how we’ll be when we’re older and wiser. And once you’re there, talking to your image of future self, you can get clearer on what it is you really care about having and why it’s important to you. I think of it as learning to talk to my CEV. This exercise will be led by Shannon Friedman.
2. Subgoal Creation
Once you’ve clarified your values, it’s time to retackle the project you’ve picked and break it down into actionable steps with realistic deadlines. Defining the right subgoals and choosing the right deadlines is somewhat of an art, so we’ll guide you through the process. This exercise will be led by Will Ryan.
3. Concretizing the Outcome
To get started and build momentum, use specific small steps and short-term deadlines. To keep your brain churning away at a project over time, you need a clear mental representation of your goal state backed by emotional power. We’ll show you how to ensure that your focus is in the right place. This exercise will be led by Divia Melwani.
Suggested donation is $20-30.
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. Since our last class, we have added a new instructor (roommate and collaborator), Adam Widmer, to our team. Until this past Monday, he was leading a weekly meetup in New York about rational self-improvement. He is a professional IFS practicioner. He’ll be there on Sunday, so you’ll get to meet him when you come!