The next time you’re about to chastise yourself about procrastinating on something… I want you to take a deep breath and calm down.
First of all, everyone procrastinates.
Take Mozart, for example. Massive procrastinator. He wrote the overture for his famous opera Don Giovanni the night before it premiered… and it’s been said he might’ve been hungover while doing it. During the premiere, the ink on the music sheet had still not dried.
Victor Hugo had to strip naked and lock himself in a room to avoid the temptation of going outside (yeah, this was before YouTube and whatever else we have today at our fingertips). Only when he was done with his work for the day, would the servants be allowed to return his clothes to him.
Then there’s Bill Clinton. Think of the man what you will, but he was the leader of the free world at one point… and he managed to accomplish that feat while being a massive procrastinator. His aides reportedly had to give him deadlines that were weeks or months ahead in hopes of getting stuff done on time. Still, he tended to finish things at the very last minute. Even Al Gore, his vice president, called him “punctually challenged”.
The list goes on.
Da Vinci only completed 20 total paintings in his lifetime… because he preferred doodling.
The Dalai Lama had a hard time focusing on his schoolwork and meeting deadlines (now, he teaches about the perils of procrastination).
Margaret Atwood (one of Canada’s most celebrated and prolific writers) spends the morning procrastinating and worrying, and then “plunges into the manuscript in a frenzy of anxiety around 3pm”.
My point is… everyone has their own working patterns. Just because you don’t belong to some guru’s “5am club” (or is it the 4:30am club nowadays? I can’t keep track), doesn’t mean you can’t get stuff done. You can.
Which means that you’re more than capable of achieving your goals - financial, health, relationships, or whatnot - despite procrastinating every now and then.
Again, everyone procrastinates.
What, then, is the “secret sauce” that makes some procrastinators leave a legacy for centuries (literally!) and getting absolutely nothing meaningful done?
1. Flow state
Have you ever been so immersed in an activity so that things happen almost effortlessly and time seems to disappear? You’re 100% focused, involved, and thoroughly enjoying the thing you’re doing… and when you come out of it, you feel exhausted, but somehow still energized, too?
Congratulations, my friend.. You’ve experienced the flow state.
It’s a pretty mythical beast - especially, when it comes to experiencing it “on demand”.
Most people have no problems entering the flow state when it comes to their favorite video game, for example - but when it comes to things that would really move the needle, such as setting up a lead magnet to build their email list, or coming up with a new product, or researching and figuring out a new training routine for their next fitness achievement… they struggle to put in even 15 minutes of focused work.
Well, it’s not their fault.
Turns out flow state has a certain set of prerequisites that must be met.
Your skills need to be matched to the task. In other words, if you have no idea about how lead magnets work, you won’t be able to enter the flow state and create one… or if you have no idea about fitness, you won’t be able to magically enter the flow state and create a meaningful fitness routine for yourself. The solution here is to lower the difficulty of what you intend to accomplish. For example, instead of setting out to create a lead magnet, set a goal to research lead magnets for 90 minutes.
You can also grow by stretching your skills a little. If you’re trying to do too much right away, you’ll be overwhelmed (for example, if you’re trying to deadlift a 1,000lbs, you’ll be overwhelmed - if your name is not Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson). However, make sure you stretch yourself a little every time… that will also help foster the state of flow.
Always have a clear goal of what you need to accomplish, and how will you know when you’re done. For example, I had a goal to write this email and now I’m just about done, and I’ll know when I’m done. There will be no ambiguity. That helps my state of flow.
Eliminate distractions. Multitasking, your phone, even your family… flow state is easily interrupted.
Most importantly, focus on the process, not the end state. For example, if your goal is to write a lead magnet that will contain 5 tips on how to be more productive, look at what you need to do (research, outline, write), and then just work through all the parts of the process without being attached to any outcome.
Do this and the fact that you only “worked” for 2 hours a day (while procrastinating for 10) will have no impact on the amount (or quality) of work you’ll get done.
Remember Victor Hugo who had to strip naked, hand off his clothes to his servants, and if he wanted the clothes back, he had to do the work for the day?
That’s pre-committing. Without going into all the details about how our willpower works, for our intents and purposes here it’s just important to know that it’s way easier to make a decision once than it is to make it over and over again. By giving his clothes to his servants, Hugo made one decision that freed him of having to make the decision of whether to work or to go outside over and over again.
I don’t advise you to surprise your family by getting into your birthday suit, but perhaps there’s another way for you to precommit?
Bottom line is this.
Even though you may think of yourself as a master procrastinator, it might not matter as much as you think.
As long as you utilize the flow state and pre-commit to certain outcomes, you can tap into your full potential. When you focus that potential into creating needle-moving outcomes that get you closer and closer to your goals...
Then, the sky’s the limit.