"I can do anything in the world... as long as there's something more important I'm supposed to be doing instead!"
"There's no limit to what you can do, as long as it isn't what you're supposed to be doing."
The other reason why it doesn't work in the long-term is that you will always be working on things that are adjacent to what's truly important.
Clairvoyance is a better solution. Ever get stuck in a circular argument? After a while, you realize its going nowhere and you walk away. Procrastination, at least in my mind, is almost the same thing. If I let myself observe the mundane things I do, I'll eventually get sick of myself and stop doing it.
Success in dealing with procrastination really a question how viscerally you feel a dead-end coming, and also making the necessary adjustments to remove triggers if its difficult to stop yourself in the act.
It looks simple, but the answer to that question isn't always easy. Sometimes the "smallest step" really isn't; then you have to drill down to get to a smaller one. Sometimes its not clear which step should be first; a list of potential steps is beneficial in those cases.
I think most procrastination stems from a combination of unclear goals and getting stuck; for me the above method gets rid of the second aspect and lets me move without having a clear idea which direction I'm going.
Later you find that the first five steps could in fact have been done in ten minutes total without deep thoughts required.
Slow movement is better than no movement. Also it often makes it easier to pick up speed afterwards.
At any point in time, you have so many things you are supposed to be doing. By telling yourself that you have to do something and letting it get away with doing something else, you are basically letting yourself chose something more enjoyable to do. It is not self deception. It is giving yourself some amount of freedom.
Everyone is different. Everyone has different tastes. Real change is hard. Real change also takes time to implement. A hack is much easier and it works right now, and it also buys you time to make real change without the wait. For example I used to be late a lot for everything, socially and professionally. As a trick, I'd just adjust the time on my watch about 37 minutes later than the actual time. Yeah in my mind I knew it that my watch was set 35 minutes ahead, but I didn't know that immediately when I woke up and it would give me the push to stop messing around and get ready to go for the times when I was awake since it was a odd number ahead and I used an analog watch.
(Ironically, here I am, reading this article about how to do the things I am suppose to be doing with at least 5 things that need to be done before this week is over)
For me, the most helpful thing has been to become more aware of the fluctuation of my own energy/motivation levels, and managing them instead of thinking I should be super-motivated all the time. My subconscious knows which tasks will be a pain to get through and I know I'll tend to procrastinate on those things. So I have to make sure I seize those hours when I have high energy and get the tougher things done. Then when I have less energy later I won't feel bad spending that time doing smaller things or even chilling. Hopefully this creates a virtuous cycle of confidence, which results in progressively more energy and motivation in the future.
In contrast to your experience, I've found this to be an exceptionally poor strategy during uni. It led me to stay up late and wake up early trying to get things done, then to fall asleep in lectures (I once had a professor throw chalk at me). It led me to ruin relationships as I imposed stress on others by failing to deliver on things. Doing this to people is a really shitty feeling.
The combination of sleep-deprivation and self-loathing made it very easy to fall into the escapism and thus more procrastination.
People are wildly different. It always exacerbated my cravings for news, sugar, etc.
And I don't think the self-deception for me is on purpose. It just happens to my natural, procrastinating self.
So the thing we're fighting is also self-deceivement, and that doesn't make it easy to beat.
Granted, this feels insane as I type it, but it also sounds like it might work quite well :)
And to self medicate, you'll do immediate gratification stuff - more procrastinating. It's a vicious loop and goes hand in hand with many negative habits.
No idea how I am still employed.
Of course, there is the possibility that you start doing X and just find you don't know what to do with yourself in those minutes. That's useful information! You've just discovered that you don't know enough about the task to get started. Now your task is to write a coherent request for help/clarification.
Not sure how applicable it is outside of just-do-it work (paperwork, emails, etc) though. I've used it in my design work, for example, but I'm concerned I'll spend too many cycles on spinning my wheels on rather than thinking deeply about the problem and solving it simply.
As far as thinking deeply about the problem, I've found that is helped by first getting your brain into the task by doing a pomodoro and, if you still feel the desire to procrastinate, either talking it through with someone else, going for a walk, or both.
[Posting webarchive.org link as the HN attention seems to have dropped the site]
I'm not sure if the full interview is available elsewhere without a paywall.
I felt that way since I know the word "procrastination". When I talk about "procrastiantion" with other people I propose exactly this definition: Procrastination is a way to get stuff done, only that it's not the stuff with the closest deadline.
> Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.
This is why I felt the idea of the "instant gratification monkey" doesn't fit my definition of procrastination so well. It's not just a pet in my head, but also friends, flatmates and co-workers whom I doing favors while I'm procrastinating.
Anecdotal example: When somethings broken in our flat, my flatmates asking me when I have much work to do, because then will be the time when I will fix the broken stuff instead of doing the actual (paid) work. There's also the joke about me that when I stop doing (paid) work the whole house will go down because I will have less motivations to fix things.
But there's also a dark side of this kind of behaviour: When I call it a day and review the things I have achieved that day, all the things I got done can easily drown in the sea of things which I have not but were on the top of the ToDo list. Sometimes this is the moment where "panic monster" is seeing its chance.
And yes, even reading article about procrastination is still procrastination in the sense of my proposed definition.
That said, I think a lot of procrastinators could use this intentional strategy to get more done when we are working. For instance, I can see how this might help me out. And hey, I'm a big believer in doing whatever works, even if it seems silly on the surface.
Edit: And I also had a huge issue before with concerning myself about the "right time" to do a thing. The right time is now when I have the energy and there are appropriate external conditions(time of day, weather).
What helps for me is exactly the opposite: deciding this important task does not have a clear path forward and therefore go write down each and every question I have about it and need answered before moving forward or explicitly decide I don't have the proper energy/focus for it at that time and move on to something easier.
It was really bizarre to experience. However, to be honest, I don't need laser focus most the time, and like the sort ambling approach he discusses. My strategy for the next few months is going to be using it one day a week, for sweeping up the boring things (that otherwise haunt my waking life).
Sorry to hear about the rough experience, I could definitely see myself tumbling down that path if I had started using it in college.
I honestly don't know how people think this will work. You know you changed the time, so people quickly just adapt to the new 'running late time'
Then you suddenly have to remember that this clock does show the correct time, which increases the stress level even more than the previous "10 minutes fast" phase.
Not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but an intesting experience nevertheless.
I hypothesize that it's effective not because I'm fooled, but because there's both an instinctive/intuitive process and a cognitive process that occurs when glancing at the clock. The former yields a sense of urgency while the latter is busy doing clock arithmetic.
When I'm razor focused on the task at hand (i.e. NOT procrastination), there's no "creative" freedom to capture a tiger by his tail and follow him wherever that may lead.
I feel like it probably works better for people only balancing a few tasks that aren't interrelated.
I have found myself inadvertently taking advantage of my procrastination in this way before, and it's useful to codify it in the language this article uses.
EDIT: The horrible website is one I have respect for, archive.org, which didn't use to have this eye-gouging UX. I'll send them a friendly feedback email about it.