Top TED Talks on How To Be a Productive Procrastinator

Learn strategies to procrastinate productively

Why are you procrastinating?

Procrastination occurs when there is a delay between intended behaviour and action. Put simply, procrastination is avoidance or delay between the task you need or want to do and when you get it done. Here a few common procrastinator behaviours:

  • Doing low priority tasks at the expense of a higher priority task
  • Reading all your emails without taking any action
  • Waiting for the “right time” to start
  • Putting off doing something on your to-do list until later even though it’s important
  • Talking about or over planning the task rather than starting

Productive procrastination

The above behaviours are all discussed in the following 52 minutes of TED, TEDx and TedxYouth talks on procrastination. Choose one or watch them all. Either way, in less than an hour from now, you’ll have proven procrastination busting methods that will motivate you to study smarter, get work done or make a hard decision!

1. An End to Procrastination – Archana Murthy (15:55)

Archana explains how as a student she invested much time, effort and resources into procrastination, leaving tasks until the very last second. To combat her high impulsivity and lack of self-discipline, she developed a personal guideline inspired by the Bhagavad Gita:

  • Set a concrete, specific goal
  • Only feelings of positivity are allowed
  • Acknowledge emotion – either satisfaction in effort or feelings of guilt for non-effort
  • Take time out to feel grateful for the work done or even the opportunity to do it
  • Keep a reflection journal

She talks about there being two types of procrastinator – the situation procrastinator and the chronic procrastinator. She believes that a chronic procrastinator must confront emotions rather than avoid them and rewire the relationship with getting work done.

2. Why we procrastinate – Vik Nithy (9:50)

For Vik, procrastination is about the decisions we make and the argument we have in our head about working vs playing. As a psychology student, he explores how the prefrontal cortex, the limbic system, and the amygdala (different areas of the brain) affect procrastination. His answer is to engage metacognition (thinking about thinking) and use this human ability constructively to plan goals, time, resources, process, handling distractions and even for failure.

3. The vaccination for procrastination – Bronwyn Clee (9:09)

Brownyn asks us to consider a few questions: At those times when we get caught up making decisions, who is it making decisions – is it your conscious or unconscious mind? Are the decisions based on fact or fear? Reality or illusions? She shares her journey dealing with procrastination panic attacks that she overcame with this 5-step vaccination for procrastination method:

  • Give yourself permission to change
  • Get specific about what you want to change
  • Identify something you can do to create the change you are seeking
  • Take action – even small steps
  • Rinse and repeat – move onto the next decision

4. The fundamentals of procrastination – Neel Deshpande (4:49)

In this quick talk, Neel proposes that many of us live in a procrasti-nation. This becomes a problem when the kid with a lot of homework due on Monday turns into a worker with a pile of work to do on the last day of the month. His answer to deal with distractions is with ‘incentive based effort’. That is, giving yourself or your workers treats and incentives as a reason to work and a motivation to get work done in good timeframes.

5. Inside the mind of a master procrastinator – Tim Urban (14:04)

If you want to lighten up about your procrastination tendencies while procrastinating, then watch this TED talk where well-known cartoonist and blogger. Tim Urban entertains and enlightens us on how the procrastination monkey battles with the rational mind and is ultimately motivated only by the panic monster. He reminds us that humans are unique in being able to visualise the future, see the big picture and make long-term plans. Tim encourages us to start now to make a difference to the time we have left to live our best lives.

Procrastination handled!

Congratulations, now that you’ve handled procrastination, you can get on with productively doing the next task on your action list. Who knows? It could be you on a TED stage yourself one day.

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