The infamous ditzy Christmas-tree brain strikes yet again. There’s something important you should be doing. That finals paper. The job application. The long conversation. The really-critical-and-time-sensitive-obligation. The big thing you’ve been putting off for quite some time now. You know very well what it is.
Procrastination is a phenomenon that arrives in all shapes and sizes—a lifestyle Perceivers live and breathe. Dr. Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, identifies three primary types of procrastination:
Arousal: Chases after the adrenaline rush of finishing a project last-minute. (Winging it since day one, right?)
Avoidance: Driven by a fear of failure or success. Tries to maintain an effortless image of being lazy and unmotivated, but smart.
Decisional: Stubborn reluctance to make decisions on the whole, to avoid taking personal responsibility.
Tim Urban, famous for delivering his cheeky and viral Ted Talk, Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator, highlights the thought processes behind the worldwide phenomenon (and dark arts) of putting off everything until the last minute. And then winging it. The awesome supporting blog post can be found on his Wait But Why site.
Can you, curious INTP, overcome procrastination for good? The answer is yes. Let’s find out how.
1. Learn to prioritize
Energy and time are limited resources—and you’re well aware of it. By focusing on the ‘must dos’ instead of the ‘shoulds’ and ‘coulds’, you’ll retain your mental health in the long run. Rethink your perceived laziness into efficiency and get the ball rolling to build positive momentum. Reframe your lack of activity into opportunities to intentionally take action.
The sheer quantity of tasks on your plate at once can plunge you into a cloud of confusion. Worry and doubt sets in. The faint taunts of the imposter syndrome loom in the distance. The solution is to learn how to prioritize. It entails responsibility, which means you’ve got to hold yourself accountable for the outcomes of every situation.
What does prioritization look like? Let’s revisit Tim’s Eisenhower matrix:
Quadrants One (urgent and important) and Two (important but not urgent) are the areas you should aim to spend most of your time in. It’s easy and convenient to write them out—your trusty pen and paper works just fine. Reflect upon how much time you spend in the latter two quadrants (Three and Four), which make up the good ol’ realm of procrastination.
2. Gamify the process
INTPs are overrepresented in computer and video game communities (and for good reason). With the sheer volume of ever-shifting landscapes and factors to consider, it’s our kryptonite and one of our favorite escapism-inducing drugs of choice. Storylines that hold an infinite number of outcomes and possibilities. The wonderful illusion of control in an external state of chaos. Excitement from exploring all sorts of worlds and characters.
You can turn your studying or work into an immersive and engaging experience with a few simple tweaks. Try listening to epic instrumentals in the background or reframe tasks as levels to beat. You can even borrow the general layouts from your favorite games. Some more interesting suggestions to consider:
Personify your assignments and tasks with realistic challenges you’ll be up against
Create a rewards system where a successful completion of a task results in rewards according to difficulty (see the next point for an elaboration)
Set timed sessions with countdown clocks and fancy alarms for an additional motivation booster
For a challenge: Develop a narrative design tree (complete with branches and barks) and implement in your daily routine as needed.
The whole experience is, in the end, what you make of it—so use your noggin and switch on the fun.
3. Set timely rewards
Turn yourself into Pavlov’s dog by creating a system where you receive rewards for good behavior. If you’d like to take this idea to the next step, give the rewards without a set schedule—it’s quite a brain teaser! When rewards are given randomly, it increases the happy chemicals in the brain (think: social media likes and the lever-pulling gambling concept).
How, you ask? Here are some suggestions:
Catch up with a friend (or two)
Indulge in your favorite shows
Go on an online shopping splurge
Spend quality time with your cat, fridge, and/or computer
Enjoy the bliss of doing absolutely nothing at all
The sky’s the limit for your creative mind. Remind and encourage yourself to reinforce the specific short-term behavior you aim to secure into long-term habits.
4. Devise a Stress-Busting Plan
Plan? You gasp. We don’t do that here.
When we’re under stress, we tend to get stuck in an analysis paralysis web. The terms ‘plan’ and ‘goals’ may give you formal education flashbacks and cause you to shut down. Instead, think of it more like a mental list of activities to do when irritation or boredom begins to set in.
Throw in a 7-minute workout and crank up your favorite tunes
Text a friend you’ve yet to reach out to in a while
Solve a Sudoku or crossword puzzle
Do the laundry and/or wash the dishes
Organize, rename and move your files.
As you navigate through the tipsy-turvy highs and lows of consciously recalibrating your stress levels, there will be detours. Bottom line: Steer clear of short-term gratification over long-term improvement. A highly personalized and well-organized stress-busting plan will do the heavy lifting (of stress) for you, and prevent procrastination from knocking you down during times when your brain is fried or frazzled.
5. Use the 5-minute rule
If something important can be done in under 5 minutes (e.g. paying bills, doing laundry, washing dishes, sweeping floors, etc.), finish it immediately. It’s easiest to use this hack when you’re waiting in line, or for something to load (a movie, show, or game). Switch on your Quadrant 2 (important but not urgent) tasks during these quick breaks. Your future self will thank you for it.
Bonus: For periods of deep concentration, try the Pomodoro technique, where you chunk your time into 25-minute intervals of focused work, followed by 5-minute breaks, and a longer break after 4 consecutive Pomodoros. At the beginning, it’s a real doozy—almost military-like in nature. After a while, it becomes almost second-nature. Almost, because life happens. And Wikipedia.
If you have the strength to go cold turkey on all social media, even better. Discipline is challenging when you’re up against the boss—yourself. By plowing through the little tasks when they come up, you free up more space in your mind to deal with the most important ones.
6. Use positive self-talk
Encouraging affirmations works with practice. Positivity can be learned, through repetition and intention. By rehearsing positive phrases, you have the power to rewire your thought patterns and reframe failures in a realistic manner:
1) Instead of: “Why are you such a lazy couch potato with zero drive to do anything remotely productive?”
Try saying: “Today I will make an effort to complete my important tasks. Then I shall reward myself to pure, unfiltered laziness in all of its glory.”
2) Instead of: “It doesn’t matter—you’re going to fail anyway—why bother in the first place?”
Try saying: “There are more possibilities out there than I could imagine. This leaves plenty of time to test out the waters, and try as much as possible.”
3) Instead of: “I’m far too socially inept to go out and meet new people and network. Full stop.”
Try saying: “It’s worth the effort to throw yourself out there. Even if you make a complete fool out of yourself, it’ll be forgotten with time and open up new perspectives.”
The tone in which you speak to yourself will have substantial impacts on your long-term behavioral shifts. From motivation to self-esteem, your inner monologue directly influences how you make decisions and builds your character. By reprogramming our natural tendencies, we allow ourselves to accumulate good habits and decision-making strategies.
A recap of procrastination-busting techniques:
Learn how to prioritize
Reframe and gamify tasks
Set timely rewards
Make stress-busting plans
Use the 5-minute rule
Practice positive self-talk
With due patience and perseverance, you’ll find yourself conquering procrastination for good. Yes, it’ll jump back and bite from time to time. The key is to recognize its appearances and know exactly how to handle its explosive tantrums. Then, create a mental guide to handle similar situations. Et voilà: a path to self-control and emotional awareness.
You’ve probably been procrastinating on finishing this article and skipped straight to the summary. With 20+ tabs open. Perhaps you even caught this sentence only after skimming through the comments. A hundred percent shamelessly. What are you, a mind reader? Nah, just a fellow INTP trying to proofread and edit this piece, and (surprise, surprise) did the exact same thing.
How have you tackled your tendencies to put everything off until the last minute? Do you have anything to add to our list (the crazier, the better)? Share your thoughts in the comments below!