How many times have you made promises to yourself and broke it? How many times have you set goals but decided to let them slide? How many times have you said to yourself “This time I am definitely going to do this!” and you didn’t? If you find these situations familiar, perhaps it is time to stop this endless streak of procrastination once and for all.
In Book 12 of the Odyssey, Odysseus and his crew encountered the Sirens. These beautiful, naked women tempt passing sailors with their irresistible, captivating voices which entraps them until they blissfully starve to death. Odysseus, having known this in advance, filled his men’s ears with wax to block out their mesmerizing voices. He tied himself to the ship’s mast such that he could hear the song but unable to act upon his desires. His strategy worked and he travelled on without falling prey to these attractive temptresses.
These ingenious strategies can be adapted to our modern world to defeat the numerous advanced temptations surrounding us:
Odysseus bind himself to the mast to prevent himself from giving in to temptations. William the Conqueror destroyed his own ships when he made landfall in England. By removing his means of retreat, his troops have no option but to win. Sun Tze’s Art of War: Throw the troops into a position from which there is no escape, and even faced with death they will not flee.
Applying this principle to procrastination, we too, can enforce precommitment to protect ourselves from our own desires. If social media is distracting you, get a friend or family to reset your Facebook/Twitter password and return you only after you have achieve your goal. Addicted to online computer games? Muster your willpower, then delete the character account/save game with all your hard-earned in-game items and you will instantly lose all interest in the game. Throw away all the unhealthy snacks in your cabinet to prevent yourself from munching on them. Install programs that will limit your access to internet during hours where you need to focus on your studies or work. Buy an alarm clock without a snooze button.
Instead of putting a barrier between you and your temptations, poison simply makes your temptation painful to act upon. Place a bet with your friend that you will lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks or you will pay him $10,000. Transfer a sizeable sum of money to your friend and commit that if you fail to submit your project or report by a reasonable dateline, the money is for him to keep. Buy a SnuzNLuz alarm clock whereby a tap on the snooze button results in a significant donation from your bank account to a charity you detest. Whatever poison you use, make sure the disincentive is significant enough to deter you from your temptation.
The idea is to satisfy your needs in a safe controlled manner before they evolve into an irresistible, wrecking force. Often, all you need is a small treat but in a state of deprivation, you dive into a sizeable feast.
Never go grocery shopping with an empty stomach. Sleep early if you have problem getting up. Relief your sexual urges when you forsee sirens coming your way. Snack on healthy snacks before you get too hungry. Remember to schedule your recreational activities in your planner before you fill it up with chores.
The article is adapted from The Procrastination Equation by Dr Piers Steel