Why Procrastinators Procrastinate

pro-cras-ti-na-tion |prəˌkrastəˈnāSHən, prō-|
noun
the action of delaying or postponing something: your first tip is to avoid procrastination.

Who would have thought that after decades of struggle with procrastination, the dictionary, of all places, would hold the solution.
Avoid procrastination. So elegant in its simplicity.
While we’re here, let’s make sure obese people avoid overeating, depressed people avoid apathy, and someone please tell beached whales that they should avoid being out of the ocean.
No, “avoid procrastination” is only good advice for fake procrastinators—those people that are like, “I totally go on Facebook a few times every day at work—I’m such a procrastinator!” The same people that will say to a real procrastinator something like, “Just don’t procrastinate and you’ll be fine.”
The thing that neither the dictionary nor fake procrastinators understand is that for a real procrastinator, procrastination isn’t optional—it’s something they don’t know how to not do.
In college, the sudden unbridled personal freedom was a disaster for me—I did nothing, ever, for any reason. The one exception was that I had to hand in papers from time to time. I would do those the night before, until I realized I could just do them through the night, and I did that until I realized I could actually start them in the early morning on the day they were due. This behavior reached caricature levels when I was unable to start writing my 90-page senior thesis until 72 hours before it was due, an experience that ended with me in the campus doctor’s office learning that lack of blood sugar was the reason my hands had gone numb and curled up against my will. (I did get the thesis in—no, it was not good.)
Even this post took much longer than it should have, because I spent a bunch of hours doing things like seeing this picture sitting on my desktop from a previous post, opening it, looking at it for a long time thinking about how easily he could beat me in a fight, then wondering if he could beat a tiger in a fight, then wondering who would win between a lion and a tiger, and then googling that and reading about it for a while (the tiger would win). I have problems.
To understand why procrastinators procrastinate so much, let’s start by understanding a non-procrastinator’s brain:

Pretty normal, right? Now, let’s look at a procrastinator’s brain:
Notice anything different?
It seems the Rational Decision-Maker in the procrastinator’s brain is coexisting with a pet—the Instant Gratification Monkey.
This would be fine—cute, even—if the Rational Decision-Maker knew the first thing about how to own a monkey. But unfortunately, it wasn’t a part of his training and he’s left completely helpless as the monkey makes it impossible for him to do his job.

The fact is, the Instant Gratification Monkey is the last creature who should be in charge of decisions—he thinks only about the present, ignoring lessons from the past and disregarding the future altogether, and he concerns himself entirely with maximizing the ease and pleasure of the current moment. He doesn’t understand the Rational Decision-Maker any better than the Rational Decision-Maker understands him—why would we continue doing this jog, he thinks, when we could stop, which would feel better. Why would we practice that instrument when it’s not fun? Why would we ever use a computer for work when the internet is sitting right there waiting to be played with? He thinks humans are insane.
In the monkey world, he’s got it all figured out—if you eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired, and don’t do anything difficult, you’re a pretty successful monkey. The problem for the procrastinator is that he happens to live in the human world, making the Instant Gratification Monkey a highly unqualified navigator. Meanwhile, the Rational Decision-Maker, who was trained to make rational decisions, not to deal with competition over the controls, doesn’t know how to put up an effective fight—he just feels worse and worse about himself the more he fails and the more the suffering procrastinator whose head he’s in berates him.
It’s a mess. And with the monkey in charge, the procrastinator finds himself spending a lot of time in a place called the Dark Playground.*
The Dark Playground is a place every procrastinator knows well. It’s a place where leisure activities happen at times when leisure activities are not supposed to be happening. The fun you have in the Dark Playground isn’t actually fun because it’s completely unearned and the air is filled with guilt, anxiety, self-hatred, and dread. Sometimes the Rational Decision-Maker puts his foot down and refuses to let you waste time doing normal leisure things, and since the Instant Gratification Monkey sure as hell isn’t gonna let you work, you find yourself in a bizarre purgatory of weird activities where everyone loses.**

And the poor Rational Decision-Maker just mopes, trying to figure out how he let the human he’s supposed to be in charge of end up here again.

 

Given this predicament, how does the procrastinator ever manage to accomplish anything?
As it turns out, there’s one thing that scares the shit out of the Instant Gratification Monkey:

 

The Panic Monster is dormant most of the time, but he suddenly wakes up when a deadline gets too close or when there’s danger of public embarrassment, a career disaster, or some other scary consequence.
The Instant Gratification Monkey, normally unshakable, is terrified of the Panic Monster. How else could you explain the same person who can’t write a paper’s introductory sentence over a two-week span suddenly having the ability to stay up all night, fighting exhaustion, and write eight pages? Why else would an extraordinarily lazy person begin a rigorous workout routine other than a Panic Monster freakout about becoming less attractive?
And these are the lucky procrastinators—there are some who don’t even respond to the Panic Monster, and in the most desperate moments they end up running up the tree with the monkey, entering a state of self-annihilating shutdown.
Quite a crowd we are.
Of course, this is no way to live. Even for the procrastinator who does manage to eventually get things done and remain a competent member of society, something has to change. Here are the main reasons why:
1) It’s unpleasant. Far too much of the procrastinator’s precious time is spent toiling in the Dark Playground, time that could have been spent enjoying satisfying, well-earned leisure if things had been done on a more logical schedule. And panic isn’t fun for anyone.
2) The procrastinator ultimately sells himself short. He ends up underachieving and fails to reach his potential, which eats away at him over time and fills him with regret and self-loathing.
3) The Have-To-Dos may happen, but not the Want-To-Dos. Even if the procrastinator is in the type of career where the Panic Monster is regularly present and he’s able to be fulfilled at work, the other things in life that are important to him—getting in shape, cooking elaborate meals, learning to play the guitar, writing a book, reading, or even making a bold career switch—never happen because the Panic Monster doesn’t usually get involved with those things. Undertakings like those expand our experiences, make our lives richer, and bring us a lot of happiness—and for most procrastinators, they get left in the dust.
So how can a procrastinator improve and become happier? See Part 2, How To Beat Procrastination.
———
* A lot of you are probably reading this article while in the Dark Playground.
** I spent two hours in the Dark Playground right before I drew the Dark Playground drawing, because I was dreading having to draw the signpost, which I knew would be hard and take forever (which it did).
While they’re ruining your life, you might as well cuddle with them:
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  • Anonymous

    I was trying to work and then I said to myself “Well it’s tuesday, let’s check wait but why !”. Damn Monkey

  • Anonymous

    just realized how reading this article caused me to procrastinate.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16170709946387827041 The Dude

    My wife sent this me with the comment “it’s YOU.” She was underselling.

  • Anonymous

    Where is the unnecessary masturbation Food court??

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16769941024254602225 Wait But Why

      I remembered that my grandmother recently learned that this blog existed and knows how to access it.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14039306872053242798 Samuel Zamora

      Hahaha… thats a pity!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07065829060476417723 Kimberly Davis

      The Instant Gratification Monkey is a Bonobo.

    • Anonymous

      “unnecessary” masturbation? I don’t follow.

      • Anonymous

        As in, you have nothing left to do so you just masturbate. you’re not horny or anything. it’s just a way to pass time.

    • Anonymous

      yes this

    • Anonymous

      This is a great post … EXCEPT … equating depressions with apathy is really, really far afield. Kind of frustrating to a person (me) who struggles with it a lot. A person with depression may give the appearance of apathy, but that’s not the whole story. It’s kind of like saying a procrastinator is getting a lot done: look at them checking the fridge! checking their email! drawing pictures of their IG monkey!!!

      Many of us depressed folks feel like we care a lot more than the people around us do. Sometimes I even find myself wanting to withdraw (therefore appearing apathetic) just to avoid (what appears to me at that moment to be) the shallow, self-serving apathy of others.

      Please note the parentheses and don’t flame me. :)

    • Anonymous

      Oops … put that don’t-say-we’re-apathetic post in the wrong place … sorry.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14976258086837788270 My Bad Self

      Am I the only one who needed to look up “bonobo?”

      bo·no·bo /bəˈnōbō/ n: bonobo; plural: bonobos 1. a chimpanzee with a black face and black hair, found in the rain forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).

      [Kimberly: Quelle coïncidence. I registered for “Blogger” just last night in order to respond to this blog. I wondered why some people have photos by their replies and happened to click on yours first. What are the chances the first profile I happen to explore belongs to a person who attended the same university I happen to be attending? Weird. Small world. I’m a senior in Accounting/Finance, by the way. Also, per the topic of this blog (I’m not kidding), this is my fourth year as a senior. It’s okay, though. I only have one year left.]

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14976258086837788270 My Bad Self

      @Anonymous: “…’unnecessary’ masturbation? I don’t follow.”

      Walking my dogs one day, listening to my Sansa Clip FM radio, NPR’s Splendid Table did a show on “leftover wine.” By the time I got home, I was so confused I googled the phrase (with quotes).

      Wikipedia said, “Leftover Wine is a live album released by Melanie in 1970.” That made the confusion worse, so I dug deeper. I found a few jokes about “spare change,” and a reference to punk rock group, “Leftöver Crack,” but nothing to explain what NPR meant by “leftover wine.”

      I used to think I was smart, but that episode truly broke me. Some mysteries I just can’t solve.

    • Unnecessary masturbator

      Unnecessary masturbation was my go-to to relieve the stress and pressure of all the college work I had to do that I wasn’t doing because I was stressed lol… dark pattern. It relieved my stress but also made me feel tired and more like sleeping rather than focused and excited about doing work, as I ideally should be. Ritalin would have helped, or if I cared more (apathy). While I knew the problem and the solution was to simply “work”, the work didn’t seem fun or interesting, so I didn’t have the emotional heart/gut buy-in to do it, because I was taking classes I was forced to take for General Ed. even though I really wanted to just study business in college. I felt like I was doing high school all over again, which was a waste of time and therefore, unnecessary.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12246312296456939738 Mat

    “So how can a procrastinator improve and become happier? That’s the topic of next week’s post.”

    I see what you did there. :)

    As a career procrastinator, I simply found that line amusing. That’s part of the self-loathing thing, though. You learn to recognize what might appear to be excuses for the type of behavior you yourself own, and get that certain little twinge of guilt at knowing that you may just use that line in as a defense.

    In any case, I thought it a very cogent article. I’ve only recently become less of a procrastinator. It might be chemical, it might be age, it might be the stresses of being a father for thirteen years – whatever it was, I highly value the level of patience and perseverance I’ve recently been able to attain.

    I can’t stress any more than you already have, however, that procrastination isn’t something someone intentionally “does” as much as it is who they “are”. Brilliant point there, I have to say.

    Looking forward to next week’s installment.

  • Anonymous

    This Blog has become part of my dark playground…I have to slap my monkey! ;-/

    • Biffster

      I see what you did there. ;)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09626201936480993602 waitingfortheworld

    love this so much. Literally wait for this all tuesday for it to enter my dark playground!

  • Anonymous

    Guilty as hell! Definitely in the dark playground!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13336119841502558952 Pam Collins

    I am the total opposite of a procrastinator, but I feel for you – that is not a fun place to be at all – thanks for explaining it in such a coherent way. Also, you might spend lots of time in the dark playground, but your posts are brilliant and I look forward to them every week (or almost every week ;-)

    • Anonymous

      Ok if u are no procrastinator how did u got this far in this particular article? 2nd thought – if u do it for somebody else maybe u sent him/ her just hte article

  • Anonymous

    You forgot about reddit highway built nearby your dark playground!

    • Anonymous

      Reddit takes up a huge percentage of my dark playgound time.

  • Anonymous

    So right on about the procrastinator. I’m typing this comment sitting in my bed with a list of things-to-do, and thinking about YouTube-ing last night’s X-Factor.

  • Anonymous

    “* A lot of you are probably reading this article while in the Dark Playground.”

    So busted…

    Oh, and I work from home. My entire life is the dark playground.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09564313515382960087 Tehreem

      plus 1..!

  • http://theinternetandtheunicorn.blogspot.com/ The Internet and The Unicorn

    you have best blog ever! I hang onto every word.
    http://theinternetandtheunicorn.blogspot.com/

  • Anonymous

    I read this article with the voice of the Panic Monster. My panic rose with every paragraph as I tried not to glance over at the project that is due later today.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely Brilliant!! I haven’t laughed so hard in quite a while.

  • Anonymous

    I totally climbed the tree in college and didn’t come down. I want somebody to chop down the tree and kill the monkey.

  • http://exquestation.wordpress.com/ exquestation

    my procrasturbation is at dangerous levels – so much so i’m lost in a weak fountain of nothing

  • http://iwonttakeit.wordpress.com/ iwonttakeit

    Currently trying to stay out of the Dark Playground. Not being all that successful seeing as how I’m at work…Tomorrow will be better. Yeah, tomorrow…

  • Anonymous

    This blog is everything that I am.

  • Anonymous

    This is easily the best blog on the internet….if I was creative enough to write like this, I probably would be writing about 75% of the topics that you have touched on. So spot on, can’t wait for next week. Let’s see if I can get some work done on MY thesis this week!

  • Mike

    It’s like you’re in my head, calmly observing my instant gratification monkey while he does his thing, keeping my life a constant exercise of extinguishing fires only as a result of the tireless efforts of my panic monster (who is woefully overworked).

    Kudos on an excellent post. That you are able to churn out these wonderfully written, thought provoking and entertaining posts as regularly as you do is a testament to how far you have come. Good on you. The follow through is an obvious and marked departure from the worst kind of procrastinator. You’re in much better shape than some of us out there.

    As to the omitted over-indulgent-and-excessive-masturbation-that-makes-you-question-your-own-sense-of-sexual-propriety tea cup ride, I find it usually sandwiches both sides of the depressing nap action slingshot as well as being disproportionately interspersed throughout the measure of time spent in the dark playground, often built into travel time from one productivity wasteland to another.

    Thanks for brightening my day and being a constant beacon for the monkey to steer towards.

  • Anonymous

    I just signed onto the mallist and, in view of today’s post, was HIGHLY amused to find that it is managed by “MailCHIMP” (emphasis inserted).

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14976258086837788270 My Bad Self

      @Anonymous: Before I’d read your post yesterday (24+ hours ago), I’d never heard of “MailChimp.” If you’d asked me, I’d have wagered the words “mail” and “chimp” were syntactically incongruous, and had likely never been used in the same sentence together, ever, in the entire history of the English language, much less used together in the same compound word.

      Then, as I was working last night, listening to the same classical radio station I’ve listened to a thousand times before, what do you think I heard? You guessed it: “Tonight’s program brought to you in part by MailChimp…”

      Isn’t that cool? No? Maybe we should look into this…

      You’d think I’d learn to expect the unexpected. Fortunately, humans are surprisingly adept at overlooking inconvenient data, such as evidence that our existence is fully comprised by a quantum web of universally interconnected inevitability that if acknowledged would invalidate not only our concepts of choice, self-determination, and dignity, but also any notions of right and wrong, hope, or anticipation. Did I say “fortunately?” In truth, such acknowledgement would also have advantages, such as neutralizing fear and shame, and all perceptions of loss, regret, sadness, and despair. That might be a profitable trade, depending on how my day was going.

      William James (father of Pragmatism as a movement in philosophy) once wrote, “The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” Would William James have commented on MailChimp’s sudden brand-proliferation? Perhaps the dual appearance of MailChimp in my world only SEEMS to indicate the existence of a universal interconnected web of cosmic inevitability. If we presume the universe is infinite, we may safely also presume that anything is possible. Whew! Don’t bother checking my math. If I’ve overlooked anything significant, I assure you I would have noticed. [See what I did there?]

      Similarly, Albert Schweitzer (theologian, physician, and medical missionary) wrote this: “Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.” If that’s true, then I thank my lucky stars I haven’t learned to expect the unexpected. Let’s I hope I never do. Except for stock market crashes (if I ever own stocks). Or pedestrians entering the roadway when I’m operating a motor vehicle. There’s nothing wrong with defensive driving. Right?

      What about “defensive living?” What if MailChimp is an NSA surveillance platform? Should I fear this possibility, or overlook it? Perhaps I’ve already overlooked it in the past, and I’ve been happier all this time because I’d forgotten. Wisdom and happiness may be incompatible. Let’s overlook that possibility. Entertaining dangerous ideas is procrastination in the extreme.

      I’ll stop now. Carry on.

  • Anonymous

    Just happened yesterday when I had to give a presentation for university and haven’t started until … the night before? Also – haven’t started writing my bachelor thesis until 2 days before deadline (and yes, I managed it, and yes, I scored okayish). Y U DOING THIS INSTANT GRATIFICATION MONKEY

  • Anonymous

    You captured it perfectly. Now I understand the phrase “monkey business”! With that kind of insight I’d love to hear your thoughts on “ok, what now?”.

  • Anonymous

    Busted. Accurately, totally, unquestionably busted.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03898758744033180790 Caroline V

    im scared…i need to shoot that motherf****** monkey

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for giving me a language to describe my vicious cycle. You actually described it so perfectly that I am a little pissed off that I have to wait til next week to hear the end of the story. Which then makes me wonder…did you put it til next week because the monkey says its okay? =)

    Seriously though, this might have changed my life. Thank you so much.

  • http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/ one more

    The worst part for me is postponing doctors’ appointments.
    I have so many I should visit and I never get around to it. I think one of my moles is about to turn into skin cancer, seriously.

    Why do you make us wait until next week for part 2????

  • Anonymous

    Procrastination is a luxury. It is very mich a firstt world issue.

    • Anonymous

      No it’s not

    • Anonymous

      Dear know it all, I don’t live in a first world country and trust me we procrastinate here too… Also it’s not a luxury. You didnt’ get the article at all.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10869316289037646059 el_monty

    Genius

  • Anonymous

    4 papers due in 2 days. Instead here I am reading this. I am dead.

  • Anonymous

    Wait you’re going to make me wait a week before telling me how to fix my life?!

  • Anonymous

    Actually, I couldn’t agree more. Great blog!

  • Anonymous

    As a lifelong procrastinator, I loved this post. But now that I’m into my mid-40’s, I’ve discovered that the reason I procrastinate is because I can. I’m generally smart and creative enough that I can crank out an acceptable product in flurry of last-minute activity. Sure, I could spend 3 or 4 days working on it and tweaking it until it’s done, but whenever I’ve done that I’ve found that the difference between it and the stuff I do at the last minute is negligible.

    As a result, I can pretty much goof off 3-4 days a week (like reading this site), work in short bursts, and still be considered one of the more productive people at my office. I’m sure if I weren’t as creative and/or intelligent, I would HAVE to do things differently, because whatever I would do at the eleventh hour would suck and I would suffer the consequences (bad performance reviews, firings), which eventually would cause me to change my behaviors. But as it stands…

    I procrastinate because I can.

  • Anonymous

    This is so brilliant! Bravo! Looking forward to next week’s post!!

  • http://laboccadelaverita.wordpress.com/ LD

    I have to go to a meeting as a national representative in 15 minutes, and haven’t finished my prep reading. But I read this ;) Damn you, monkey!

  • Anonymous

    This is my dark playground.
    Yes, I am at work.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01483330262437467280 Cole Hauptfuhrer

    I knew you were a kindred spirit, judging by your shifting subtitle – and “new post every Tuesday” is probably perfect, because posting twice a week at this quality would probably kill you (or, as tragic, your monkey).

    Just make sure you give the monkey its due: you’ll never see a non-procrastinator dream up anything as inventive as this blog, because it’s impossible to dream if you’re a one-dimensional doer. (The trade-off, as you’ve said, though, is that the potential will probably never be actualized so the procrastinating creative will probably never achieve peace of mind.) As they say: the Instant Gratification Monkey giveth, and the Instant Gratification Monkey taketh away.

    Can’t wait for your thoughts on how the hell to tame him.

  • Anonymous

    Hi, my name is G and I’m a procrastinator.
    I graduated uni with a GPA of 0.95 because half way through the course I stopped responding to the Panic Monster and started shutting down before due dates. As a result I failed and had to redo more than half my subjects and ended up with uni fees multitudes more than what normal people pay. I have a job now but nothing has changed. I don’t know it it ever will.

  • Anonymous

    thankyou for this post, its has really helped me realize my pattern of thinking. thankyou.

  • Anonymous

    Your procrastination is my profit… say youtube, facebook, wimp, twitter, tumblr.
    99% of the content on these sites is the “Dark Playground” for us…

  • Anonymous

    This is a really healthy exploration. You are on the right path.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16991442258049720368 ron boyer

    Takes a wee bit longer for all those electron thingies to get down the wire to Western Australia, so I don’t get this till now….Thursday night, then it’s golf on Fridays, then the weekend, so it’s Monday before I can put any of this stuff into practice and by then I’ve forgotten anything I might have read 4 days ago. Not sure if that’s what you’d call procrastination but it frustrates the shit out of me.

  • http://bignewblogoneverything.wordpress.com/ solomonfaust

    Procrastination pretty much derailed my life. I became increasingly immune to the spurs panic monster and got stuck in that tree for endless night after endless night. Basically, after several excruciating three years of gradual deterioration, I ended up failing a Bachelor of Arts I’d started with straight distinctions because I simply couldn’t submit work. Whenever people asked me why I was struggling, I’d say depression or anxiety in the hope they’d take me seriously rather than just assume I was lazy. Depression and anxiety eventually came too, but they were both products of that vicious cycle. Your description of it is spot on. Thanks for talking about this as the serious, crippling issue it is for some people rather than just a quirky annoyance.

  • Anonymous

    I would love to understand our reason for letting the monkey take control. For me, it was being overwhelmed and intellectually over-challenged at an elite US engineering school after coming from a small town college in Europe. I only got into the extremely fancy university because I can present myself very well and had a super-prestigious fellowship for the same reason. Obviously, that did not help me with research or classes. Seeing most people around me understanding the material while I was sitting there just not getting it made me very frustrated. I started procrastinating. However, I do not procrastinate when I love what I’m doing. I only do it, when I hate my work or job – like right now. It’s quite irrational really. After all, one does not really enjoy the time on the dark playground as the panic monster could wait for you behind every corner. As described in the article, I’m always half scared on the dark playground. It would be so much better just to get the darn work done and then go to the real playground without the monkey.

    Maybe an exploration in the psychology of what caused the monkey to appear in the first place would be in order. Maybe some people can throw the monkey over board when they find the reason how he made it there.

    I’d love to know what your monkey’s reasons are to appear on your deck in the first place? Again, my monkey jumped on board when I landed in elite-university harbor with my little fishing boat between all the sailing frigates.

  • Anonymous

    Felt like I was reading about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) which has much in common with chronic procrastination. You are brilliant. (Another ADD commonality). Very curious what next week’s post will bring… ;)

    • Anonymous

      Exactly! This is largely describing the ADD brain. I’m surprised more people did not make that connection. For ADD, procastination is the symptom of the distraction. And we have to learn to hyper-focus when the panic monster comes out. The monkey relating to instant gratification is a fun way to look at it. However, the ADD brain is not significantly connected to gratification as much as just a monkey bouncing around creating static in the brain. Either way, I hope tomorrow brings good tips on handling both the static and the procratstination!

  • Sonia

    Absolutely loved it! My monkey took full charge of my life during my first year of grad school. It was excruciatingly difficult for me to take charge of my life again, but I did it. Even now I often spend a lot of time in the dark play ground and absolutely hate it. But I try to push myself a little harder every time, and sometimes, I beat the monkey without the help of the panic monster. Thanks for the wonderful post. I am Eagerly waiting for the next post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10372805379033911590 apsychologist

    Hi. Yes, you are brilliant. Yes, are extremely creative. Yes, these attributes contribute to your problem. Yes, it is a real problem. I am a Feuerstein trained psychologist who knows how to help people with issues such as yours. For starters, you have a cluster of traits that would make you an excellent psychologist. As far as remediating your deficiencies, you need to work on such skills as prioritizing, categorizing, and planning behavior. In a nutshell, you need to follow the advice of Rabbi Avigdor Miller: Just say “no” to yourself. IT IS NOT EASY. IT IS NOT FAST. BASICALLY, IT REQUIRES AN EXTREME AMOUNT OF SELF DISCIPLINE. YOU DO HAVE THE ABILITY TO DO IT. YOU DO USE SELF DISCIPLINE WHEN YOU FINALLY WORK ON A PROJECT. Learn to plan ahead in baby steps. Do it in the smallest steps you can possibly imagine. It is the way to break any habit. Give yourself a huge amount of credit for any progress you make and forgive yourself for failing. This is a huge long term project. Actually, it is a great skill to be able to live in the present. It’s probably a more difficult problem than planning ahead. Good luck.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10372805379033911590 apsychologist

    correction of “It’s probably a more difficult problem than planning ahead.” Not being able to live in the present is probably a more difficult problem than not knowing how to plan ahead in an efficient way.

  • Anonymous

    this is my favorite thing ever written in the history of the written word. thank you for articulating (and illustrating!) the inside of my brains. i’m glad i’m not alone.

  • Anonymous

    First footnote: yup.

    Second footnote: kudos on ever getting your thing done. You give me hope for myself!

    *stares blankly at this page for like 15 minutes, thinking about stuff and things*

    Screw it, I’m gonna go home and take some Ritalin. Panic Monster’s been making me hide instead of running lately so I’m pretty much useless unless pumped full of drugs >_<

  • Anonymous

    I thought you were amazing when I read your GYPSY post, but you’ve outdone yourself this time!

  • Anonymous

    Great post!
    I love the Panic Monster, as an ex-procrastinator on the mend I could really relate to it. I’ll look forward to your next post, but I hope you’ll also cover some psychological backgrounds…Besides just our personality types, there are usually family history etc reasons underneath procrastination.

  • Anonymous

    Welcome reader, yes u made it to the actual bottom of this thread. If this should not be the bottom of this thread anymore the great procrastination monkey god is asking u to write a good post. U can only avoid to write a post by not reading on those comments. The great Monkey God is furhter willing to do You, dear reader, a great favour. If u brush ur teeth and lie into Your bed he wants to let You sleep immidietly. Should You have found this text before 23:00 and would normally go to bed at 3:42 the great Monkey god is willing to let u sleep anyways. Good night…nighty night… (yes this is supposed to be a poemic stop-codon)

    • somewhereinfrance

      Here’s an idea. Instead of procrastinating with no fixed objective, how about going through what you’ve written, and correcting the spelling and punctuation. It would be “procrastination with a purpose” and therefore one step in the right direction.

  • Anonymous

    This article is a riddle. The answer to the question of how to rid of or work with the monkey is hidden within the article itself. Right?

  • Anonymous

    How to get rid of the monkey? procrastination.ca

  • http://gunmetalgeisha.wordpress.com/ gunmetalgeisha

    I’m just gonna say it: I love you.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you. Gained more insight from this than I did a recent counseling session set up solely to find out how to overcome this monkey. The counselor has an adult brain and no monkey. Looking forward to Tuesday’s continuation.

  • Anonymous

    This. Is. Me. It’s like you read my past or something. And spun it into something hilarious.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09308562124350534450 acoustico15

    I completely saw myself in this! And it really freaked me out… Thank you for delivering this message in a light-hearted comic-like medium, and softening the blow, or I might have gotten rather depressed : P. To fellow compulsive procrastinators out there, have any of you managed to deal with your procrastination, and win against it? I’m getting concerned, because for many years now I’ve had serious issues with procrastination–and now, those well-worn habits are threatening to jeopardize my career as a graduate PhD student. If something doesn’t change soon, I could very well get kicked out the program! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12386883602785721296 Jennifer Stelco

    And in reading this I have procrastinated further. On the plus side it has energised me to get some work done… after a short stint on youtube. Then facebook. Then youtube again. Looking forward to next week’s article for obvious reasons. x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18308219560735481753 Carl Bartlett

    It’s all so painfully true

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07500024711541096567 OMFGITSROHIT

    You, my friend, are fucking awesome.

  • Anonymous

    I am still a chronic procrastinator and will always fight the trait, but 20 years ago I managed to actually study for my graduate school oral exams for a period of 6 weeks by taping this sign over my TV screen: “Discipline is remembering what you want.” (I passed). Today with the Internet, it’s much harder.

    • Anonymous

      “Discipline is remembering what you want.” That is so good I came back to dig through the comments to find it and copy it down. Thank you, Anonymous. I have to tape that over my ipad screen.

  • Anonymous

    This is a great post … EXCEPT … equating depressions with apathy is really, really far afield. Kind of frustrating to a person (me) who struggles with it a lot. A person with depression may give the appearance of apathy, but that’s not the whole story. It’s kind of like saying a procrastinator is getting a lot done: look at them checking the fridge! checking their email! drawing pictures of their IG monkey!!!

    Many of us depressed folks feel like we care a lot more than the people around us do. Sometimes I even find myself wanting to withdraw (therefore appearing apathetic) just to avoid (what appears to me at that moment to be) the shallow, self-serving apathy of others.

    Please note the parentheses and don’t flame me. :)

  • Anonymous

    “A lot of you are probably reading this article while in the Dark Playground.”

    You are absolutely right. Oh God, why….

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00311473911496935631 Inn Mohar

    u;re right. only a true procrastinator will understand this. totally. shite.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13525581420179260795 aaron philby

    Im eagerly anticipating your next post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16218268620736802508 Unknown

    it’s Tuesday, where is the post?

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16769941024254602225 Wait But Why

      I procrastinated throughout the week, so it won’t be up until tonight.

    • Sonia

      I was hitting the refresh button for the last half an hour at work. Thanks for replying. We are waiting…. with our monkeys on our shoulders. Oh-the-pressure! Good luck! :)

    • Anonymous

      Why not post it at all? Amazing how angry procrastinators can make others. I have in the mean time gone elsewhere on the web in search of how procrastinators answers for this problem – there seems to be only attempts by people who think they know… So do you? If you did, then the article would have been finished.

      Your comment: “Of course, this is no way to live.” – You live like this…

      Also is it interesting that in the 3 reasons you give on why the behavior has to change are all self-centered. You totally forgot about how irritated others get because they cannot rely on you. We’d like strive toward predictability and you are screwing this up. You are unpredictable.

      As per your reason 1 you know that this was going to be unpleasant.

  • Sonya

    We need the second chapter very much)

  • Anonymous

    I want some magic trick

  • Anonymous

    The “I procrastinate because I can” guy here.

    I guess maybe I don’t understand something. To me “procrastination” is when you unnecessarily put something off and instead let the IG monkey drive, but eventually (usually at the last minute) you get that something done. That’s what I do. I still get things done and they’re typically of good quality….I just do them in a hurried rush right before they’re due.

    What I see expressed often in these comments is something entirely different. When I see “procrastination ruined my life” and similar comments, the only way I can see how that happens is if you put things off, but then don’t do them. In my mind, that’s not procrastination; that’s being irresponsible.

    IOW, “procrastination” = “puts things off until the last minute”

    “Irresponsible” = “puts things off and never does them”

    See the difference? In “procrastination”, the key word is “until”. Yeah, it’s at the last minute and you caused yourself a lot of undue stress by waiting, but you still got it done. If you never get it done, you’re not procrastinating; you’re just irresponsible.

    So even though I’m a chronic procrastinator, it would never even occur to me to simply not do things. And btw, my co-workers are now calling me “the personification of the instant gratification monkey”. Yep, I’m that guy who comes into your office and says, “You gotta see this!”

    • Anonymous

      I think you have this backwards – if you think about it it’s pretty irresponsible to put things off till the last minute, assuming you don’t have to.

      I’m already ashamed of my procrastination thanks – I don’t need to be shamed about it more.

  • Anonymous

    I love this, its nice to know I’m not the only one. In case any of you haven’t already seen this Hyperbole and a Half post, it also will probably make you nod sadly in recognition:

    http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/06/this-is-why-ill-never-be-adult.html

  • Dingbat

    I just wanted to say that you drew a fantastic signpost.

  • Ximena Rosenvasser

    Great!!!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16386758329310731632 carlos

    Thank you very much. This hit home.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14976258086837788270 My Bad Self

    “Discipline is remembering what you want.” Well said, comrade.

    My cousin sent me the link to this blog article (which appears to have been written only 12 days ago), as well as the link to the follow-up to it (Part Two). My cousin said the descriptions were spot-on, and that I’d really enjoy it. I knew from experience that both of these opinions would be validated: I knew the blog would be spot-on, and I knew that I’d enjoy it, because my cousin knows me like few others, and his opinions may be trusted.

    HOWEVER: unlike those of you who look forward to the weekly thoughts of this very talented thinker, I was unfamiliar with his/her work, and rather than fill a paradigm of Dark Playground for me, this blog and the other one (which I haven’t read yet) for me primarily represent the archetype of “Something I’m Supposed to Be Doing.” Therefore, though I received these links from my cousin two days ago, I’m not reading them until now, which is a victory of sorts, because if I’d waited any longer, I most likely would have never gotten around to it at all. Still, let’s not celebrate until I’ve read both parts, which is in no way guaranteed.

    By the way, I did read fairly closely all the comments made up to this point. One of the best forms of procrastination for me–my favorite, truth be told–is to turn simple tasks into forms of rocket science, thereby creating the illusion of “thoroughness,” which most would say carries a connotation of “productivity,” which thereby delays the total collapse of my self-esteem another hour or two. For example, I tried very hard not to post a response, because I knew I would get carried away and write waaaay too much, and then feel bad later for making bad decisions. Yes, I tried very hard not to post a response, and succeeded in delaying having posted this response by an estimated 40 seconds.

    FURTHERMORE: meanwhile, I’m feeling terribly guilty for not reading the draft of my good friend’s novel that he sent me two months ago–another project that I know I’ll enjoy–ONCE I GET STARTED. Unfortunately, since reading my friend’s novel draft is on my official To-Do List, it automatically becomes associated in my brain as yet another Something I’m Supposed to Be Doing (instead of as something I make willing sacrifices to experience as soon as possible). Thus associated, reading his novel becomes yet another valuable project I instead willfully put off for fear that I’m forgetting something else I’m “supposed” to be doing, or for fear that it won’t be as good as I thought, or for fear that it will be so good that I’ll feel bad for not writing a novel myself, etc., etc.

    What’s my point? I have two. FIRST, I would say that procrastination has destroyed my life, except that I am 100% certain that procrastination is a symptom of the conditions that did the damage, not the cause in and of itself. To wit, as one of the commenters mentioned above, other factors in our pasts are as much to blame as any of us individually. [And since my full post just got rejected for being too long, I shall continue this in reply to myself. In case you’re curious, the limit is 4,096 characters. You can see why I’ve never used my Twitter account.]

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14976258086837788270 My Bad Self

      [Cont’d from above, due to character limit. Great. Now my character is even more limited.]

      Permit me to expound upon my first point. These days, “personal responsibility” seems vogue to propone, but for anyone with even a passing understanding of brain chemistry and emotional development, “personal responsibility” should be obvious as simply the modern version of a phenomenon far older than even written history itself (and we know this because the earliest writings we have already refer to it as ancient). The phenomenon is that of the village scapegoat, better known nowadays as “blaming the victim.” Since any manageable rubric of life requires some modicum of unquestioned optimism, all humans who aren’t patently suicidal are living on some unconscious level with the axiomatic belief that the “universe” (if not outright even God Her- or Himself) is on some level “just,” meaning that “justice” is somehow an inherent characteristic of existence. Humans by and large ARE capable of believing that life is NOT ALWAYS fair, but we are fundamentally INCAPABLE of believing life is NEVER fair.

      Humans are unable to entertain seriously the notion that “fairness” is a concept with no reality outside of necessary human conceptualization. Even I, myself, here and now, can talk and write about existence as being devoid of inherent justice, but if I truly believed that, I would stop typing right now, because that would mean that any attempts toward human communication and empathy are absurd and futile. Am I right? Can I get a witness?

      Didn’t I have a point? Didn’t I have two? Fine, if you insist, here’s my first point in a nutshell: humans necessarily live with hope that we can control our destinies, even at the expense of the dignity of those among us who are failing to do just that. If you’re failing to live on your own terms; if you’re failing to determine your own destiny (as I am); you needn’t get too discouraged (as least not immediately). Despite how we may sometimes see ourselves, and despite how others may sometimes see us, the evidence indicates that people like us are in fact NOT moral degenerates without self-control or sense of propriety. That would be reprehensible. We’re much better than that. We’re just plain-old vanilla losers.

      [Are you laughing? Aren’t I a riot? I was more fun at parties before I quit drinking, so if anyone finds this depressing, they are free to blame it on my sobriety from alcohol (four years this past July 9th). Better yet, let’s blame it on the caffeine, Wellbutrin, and Adderall I’m on right now, because if I weren’t hopped up on stimulants, I’d have long ago died of sedative overdose. Better yet, let’s blame it on the doctors who prescribed them, or on the mother who sent me to the doctors, after she screwed me up as a child with her misdirected, pathological resentment of my absent, clueless father. Ah, yes, that’s it: the father. Let’s do blame the father, shall we?]

      My SECOND (and final) point is this: since I only now am reading this blog, written 12 days ago, then I won’t have to wait a week to read the follow-up. See? Procrastination is good; procrastination is not only the filter by which we discover what truly matters, but also our insurance that we’ll never be embarrassingly early to parties that don’t require our attendance.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14976258086837788270 My Bad Self

      PS: Although I had the original, sincere intention of jumping straight to Wait But Why for the answer to avoiding procrastination, the above commentary (1,139 words, or 6,506 characters, including spaces) has now taken over three and a half hours of my prime procrastination time. Besides, 210 minutes of uninterrupted typing/editing on any couch–even a comfy one like mine –becomes terribly uncomfortable, and may even result in injury, without a dedicated period of abstention. Therefore, I’m leaving now at 2:38AM Pacific Time to walk my wonderful two aging dogs through the dark, damp streets of my suburban neighborhood, while listening to my Sansa Clip set to FM radio, which, at this very moment, is playing the Divertimento in E flat, K 563, by Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, as performed (according to the station’s website) by Henning Kraggerud (violin), Lars Anders Tomter (viola), and Christoph Richter (cello). EQUALLY IMPORTANT: I cannot overemphasize the profound effect upon one’s priorities, and in turn upon one’s habits of procrastination, of a task being moved from the status of something one does INSTEAD of what one is “supposed to be doing,” to the status of being on the Official To-Do List. Now that I’ve made this post–I’m NOT joking—the task of reading and responding to the follow-up blog (the next Wait But Why) is now “Something I’m Supposed to Be Doing,” and therefore a prime object of procrastination. I’m sorry, seriously, if you enjoyed anything I’ve added, and had been perhaps hoping for more. I guess you’ll just have to (wait for it, wait for it)—I guess you’ll just have to…er…wait. As one of the commenters pointed out, the price paid by the procrastinator is compounded by the chaos, inefficiency, and frustration that We Procrastinators inject into the lives of others. The Good News, if you were hoping for more, is that it is now 3:00AM Pacific Time exactly—the proverbial “middle of the night”—and chances are good that by the time you read this, what had been my Dark Playground will have already manifested an opportunity for your continued self-ruination.

  • Anonymous

    Reading this at 745a Monday morning instead of starting work.

    AWWWW YEAAAAAAHHHHHH

  • Anonymous

    Forget LOL, this was so hilarious I laughed so hard I cried! You gotta share this with Conan O Brian for the greater good! The drawings are priceless.

  • http://ihavethisidea.com/ Kevin

    Prognosis is bad: took me 16 days to unfreeze this tab from my Chrome tab-tree and read this.

    • Jason

      HAHAHAHHAHAHAAHA YES!

  • Anonymous

    Yikes! That hit home!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02846613819981168865 yofa820

    What’s missing here is for me is the fear factor BEFORE the panic monster gets involved. Part of the reason why I don’t want to do a piece of written work is because I know what I produce will be judged by others. Anticipating that feeling and imagining that person reading my work and potentially finding it lacking often works alongside the instant gratification monkey to stop me writing anything. I’ve found that being less of a perfectionist and writing down whatever is in my head at the time is a great way of making progress rather than expecting everything that goes down on the page should sound great first time. I’ve been thinking this way since reading a book about procrastination which argued that procrastinators are at heart perfectionists which is why they don’t get anything done (presumably until fear of failing to hand in anything at all outweighs fear of being ‘found out’ as a bad writer/poor student). This fear of being ‘found out’ also helps to explain under achievement of procrastinators because they are afraid that their efforts will be judged and come up wanting. Do these ideas fit in with the model outlined above or can they be included in some way?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07500024711541096567 OMFGITSROHIT

    I’ve been thinking of this article since I first read it. Your analogies are fucking genius. I’ve come to realize that the Instant Gratification Monkey is actually the id, the rational decision maker = the ego and the suffering procrastinator who berates him = super ego.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01470520503000223131 Nevyn

    I have a friend who is *THE* perfect procrastinator. It frustrates the living crap out of me when I’m left waiting for HOURS for him just to get something done. Every Christmas it’s the same thing – everyone gets here… I have to call him up a little bit later. I try to be understanding, but seriously, it feels like he’s expecting me to wait around for him which infuriates the living crap out of me…

    No one ever thinks of the henchman’s family….

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15534979435061265486 Ska Aks

    This is me. I am this. We are one.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17889448944276711341 Ruth Turple

    I put off going back to college until I was 50. I put off graduating until I was 56. I put off finishing going to school until I turn 61….next year. How did you get inside my head?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16229958911894162601 Katie DuBois

    Sigh…. if this wasn’t so horrible it would be funny. Most of my life is spent in the Dark Playground and it took me days to even read this article. I would open it up and then the stupid monkey would remind me of some interesting video on Youtube or that I might have something I’m watching on Ebay end without bidding on it. I think he realized that my realization that I’m not just lazy, I’m a chronic procrastinator and it’s all his fucking fault might put his life in jeopardy. At any rate, I’m glad to see I’m not alone. Though, I wish my teachers would have cut me some slack. My panic monster is present, for sure, though it doesn’t like to show up until the very last second which is usually too late. He screams like there’s time, though, scaring the shit out of the monkey, me, and anyone unfortunate enough to be in my general vicinity. Is there really any hope in beating this? Really? I opened up Part 2 and immediately went back to Part 1 to read the comments.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02499885059962164509 Adam Hilson Hilson

    Why on earth you’ve to make it clear with a monkey? It’s so disappointing to consider a monkey in my head! Because I’m a procrastinator too!!! Damn it. But I’m getting recovered from this site….lol

  • Anonymous

    :) I am a procrastinator but with the panic monster in role from time to time :)

  • Anonymous

    My panic monster has been working overtime this past year lol! I got so much accomplished all of a sudden.

  • Anonymous

    I have been like this since childhood and the cause was not a monkey, it was fear of not doing things perfectly or fear of not being liked-in the case of lack of participation.

  • Anonymous

    Writing my life with your words. Seriously. I laughed, I cried and I feel thankful for the realisation that I am not alone in having this issue. Allo my life and it’s incredibly depressing. It’s like having no impulse control. I head to my office and find myself walking upstairs to my room instead to play yet another stupid game on my iPad. I sit down at my desk and start working, but even when I am incredibly motivated I find myself INCREDIBLY bored after only a few minutes. I have wondered whether I have adult ADHD. The anxiety and panic attacks I get as a result of not being able to get out of the Dark Playground are beyond horrid. They wake me at 2am and propel me down the stairs back to my desk to work on something that should really only take 2 hours but ends up taking me all night. It’s shocking. Please keep writing about how you are addressing this – god knows it’s great to laugh at oneself but this year, I would really like to kick the Monkey in his fat, furry little face and get on with feeling like I am genuinely worthwhile and I actually have talent, instead of feeling like I am faking all the time!

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  • Juuuust fine

    The finished product is everything. EVERYTHING. I include your physical health and happiness in the “product,” by the way. So the only problems with waiting until the last 72 hours to write your 90 page paper was (1) you fucked up your health and (2) the paper was bad. But unless you screwed up your health writing this post, your method worked perfectly. It did not matter that you paused before drawing the signposts. Not. One. Bit.

    Honestly, getting something done can be separated into the “information gathering” phase and the “putting that information to action” phase. Who cares if you spend 90% in the information gathering phase? Who cares if you take breaks? Who says you have to be 50/50? Fuck that noise.

    Finished product is everything. *drops microphone*

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  • http://www.themeaningofme.com Lisa @ The Meaning of Me

    A friend send me the link to this article this morning and I immediately headed for the Dark Playground, indeed. This is precisely how my head works. Laughed out loud all the way through (while crying on the inside because, of course, it’s so true). Going to the other side of the park now to read part two because, you know, all the things I really should have accomplished by this time today can wait just a little while longer.

    I am certain I’ll be back to read more here. :)

  • Anonymous

    I hate you so much because this is a perfect description of myself, except you had to throw in this:

    “Why would we practice that instrument when it’s not fun?”

    Actually, practicing the piano is a Dark Playground activity for me. Sure, I get better at it, but only mildly so (it’s usually songs I already know, not new ones), and meanwhile I don’t get any real work done.

    This is probably why I basically haven’t played any games in the past year or so. Being perpetually in the Dark Playground, outright gaming feels way too cheap and I’d feel too guilty to actually do it (instead I waste my time on the Internet).

    Then again, I somehow managed to spend 4 straight hours writing a blog post that I was supposed to write last night, so maybe there’s hope. Maybe. This doesn’t happen very often.

    I shall now watch as I manage to spend at least 4 hours wasting time instead of spending the 1 hour doing the productive thing that I ought to get done ASAP (in this case, my periodic Kanji practice – which, as I’m using a spaced repetition system, gets worse and more work piles up the longer I leave it aside. I’ve just come out of 3 months of procrastination on it. I’m hoping I don’t spiral back into that again, but I’m not holding my breath.)

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  • Anonymous

    No I am not in the dark playground. I am on down time after a day of watching football where i used all the commercials and half time to do all my work that is prescribed for today AND tomorrow. I just wanted to come here for some insight into the procrastinator because i have a good friend who has it bad and I can’t relate. Most of all I just wanted a good laugh at how pathetic procrastinators are.

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  • http://www.kudzufiles.com Harry

    This is brilliant. And so accurate.

  • Monkey girl

    I love that drawing of the panic monster. I am sad watching my gifted daughter struggle with her monkey! she is so clever and was way ahead at first but now struggling with school coz they persecute her all the time for humming fidgeting and doodling which she actually can’t help? I ended up being excluded fro school for similar and never knew what I was doing wrong! I tried to the best of my ability but couldn’t ever do stuff on time! I would be told to tidy my room and get lost in a magazine and dream about a project etc the. Be in huge trouble for not listening, it has been a lifelong struggle for me and I have definitely not reached my potential but spent years planning and dreaming then getting ill with stress. I want to teach my daughter to conquer this so she doesn’t waste her talent.

  • Anonymous

    I find that my procrastination worsens the older I get. I am 75; in 5 years I won’t be accomplishing one single thing.

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  • Anon

    What a wonderful article, thank you for this.

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  • Sam

    Oh my I love this post. Being able to break this down is something to be applauded. Great work

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  • Matt

    This article addresses only the negative consequences of procrastination. Sometimes procrastination is the masterstroke of strategy. Think about a game of chess – or anything that it mirrors, a competitive endeavor with tactics of any kind – anything from a basketball game to a military engagement. Procrastination is not just “putting off to tomorrow that which you could do today”; it can also be formulated as “not committing prematurely to a consequential decision you do not yet have to make.” Great sportsmen, coaches, generals, and tacticians procrastinate all the time…

    The key is educating the procrastinator’s brain to do it when it is productive, and avoid it when it is inappropriate.

  • liz

    This is a fabulous way to describe procrastination. It’s clear that this is a place you’ve lived for a while. Thank you for writing this. (am now going back to work as I am currently procrastinating. of course.)

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  • Self

    Thank you, nice job and helpful

    Would write more but I’m working on some clinical records that need completing…very soon ;)

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  • WEll written but…

    I am not sure why you assumed that all obese people are overeaters, and people with depression just need to be understood.

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  • Karen

    Been there and done that!

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  • Jeff Bell

    This is a very cool article. I have struggled with procrastination most of my life, so I do find this interesting.

    Here are two areas with regard to procrastination that I think are worthy of more consideration and exploration:

    1. There likely are “unconscious benefits” that those of us who procrastinate get out of procrastinating. Psychologists have a term for this: “Secondary Gain”, but I think it is a poor term that does little to clarify what is going on. Here is a simple example of what I mean by “unconscious benefit”, which I think will make it clear: Suppose I have chronic back pain. And suppose that I use that more and more as an excuse to get out of things that I really do not want to do, such as helping my mother in law rearrange her furniture every month or so, or taking my wife ballroom dancing. In both cases my chronic “bad back” allows me, (or we could even say gives me the benefit), of being able to say to my mother in law, “You know, Louise, I would love to come spend my Saturday moving the furniture all around your house. But, I’m so sorry, I’ve got this bad back so I can’t move your furniture. sorry!” Or, “Honey, I would love to take you ballroom dancing, but I’ve got this bad back and the doctor told me that things like dancing are just not safe for me.”

    In both cases I got to gracefully get out of something I really did not want to do, and I got out of them without having to be a “bad guy”. So that is a very real benefit from having chronic back pain.

    It seems to be a universal characteristic of human emotional functionality that when we are faced with some impediment, “negative condition” or anything that we consciously do not want, but which we seem to be stuck with for at least a significant length of time, our unconscious minds find multiple benefits from the condition. In my more than 35 years as a holistic health researcher and practitioner I have never seen any chronic condition where this is not a factor. And I have observed it in myself whenever I have had an injury or other limitation that lasted more than a day or so.

    Further, I have found that many measures that I expected to fix the primary problem rather quickly either do not fix it at all, or do so very, very slowly until or unless these unconscious benefits have been brought into the conscious and identified and then consciously released or renounced.

    I’ll bet that most procrastinators get unconscious benefits from the behavior. I am going to investigate this in my own case and see if it helps.

    2. Those familiar with Neurolinguistic Programming or “NLP” know that whenever we see a conscious decision to behave a certain way in order to achieve certain results, but where the person is actually behaving in ways that make the results unlikely or even impossible, there are unconscious beliefs at work that do not support the conscious choice but that lead to what look like self-sabotaging behaviors and choices. Again, I’ll furnish and example. Suppose someone is in financial stress. They could make conscious decisions and changes that seem like they should fix the problem, or at least substantially improve their financial circumstances. That’s pretty obvious, right? But then we observe that their actual behavior makes it almost certain that they will stay in financial distress.

    An NLP practitioner, or anyone who knows even a little about NLP might observe and ask a question such as: “What would John have to believe in order to want to have financial security but still work for far less than his he and his skills are worth?” If we ask questions like that and then sit in observant stillness and wait for the answers to bubble up, we likely will see things like: “I don’t really believe that I deserve financial comfort and security.” Of course, this is in the unconscious until you take the time and effort to uncover it and bring it into the light of day. Most people will not consciously choose poverty when they seem to have a choice. But the unconscious is another matter entirely.

    Again, it seems likely that there are unconscious beliefs that support procrastination. In fact, in the process of writing this, one just bubbled up to the surface for me: On at least some level I believe that if I stop procrastinating and become more dependable and predictable in terms of meeting deadlines that the people around me will come to depend on me much more. Then I am at greater risk than ever of disappointing them. That is scary for me.

    Just thought I would share these 2 crucial ideas. I hope they are helpful. Now I need to get back to the work I have been procrastinating and that I promised a couple of clients I would get done!

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  • Rebecca McMillan

    Amusing and insightful post!

    I think you may have missed a step. You know, the one where you do truly amazing and inspired work on other projects as a therapeutic form of procrastination on the project with the incredibly close, looming deadline.

    That’s how the whole dysfunctional system stays afloat year after year.

  • christa

    Organized planners have a hard time understanding Procrastinators.But procrastinators can’t understand non- procrastinators.It causes us anxiety if the project is not done a week ahead of time.We always fear something would come up that would delay getting it done.

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  • Procrastinomore

    These two blog posts have been changing my life for the last two weeks. Finally I understand some of the mechanisms that have been going on in my brain and caused me to stagnate and struggle immensly whenever I’ve tried to get a project done. I’m getting things done for the first time now, and it looks like I’m going to be able to keep it up. I’m setting new routines and positive habits for myself when getting on with a task! Thank you so much!

    • Wait But Why

      Thrilled to hear it.

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  • Amy Gunther

    Genuinely terrified of the Panic Monster!

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  • Maz

    I can identify with this post and loved it! EXCEPT for that one “4-letter-word” beginning with s… If you could change that word to something a little more reader-friendly, I would totally share this with every single person I know! (Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease! :D)

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  • Anonymous

    I just love this post! So accurate. Thankyou!

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  • ella

    Why do you know my life?! In the dark playground now, meant to start my homeowrk 8 hours ago, oops.

  • Anonymous

    I think this article is very interesting. However, it depicts procrastination as inherently bad… like a distraction form more important things. I believe procrastination can be very good too. It can help you focus on yourself and letting yourself and thoughts go in times when everything is about MUSTs and HAVE TOs. I found this interesting pro-procrastination list here: http://procrastinators-united.tumblr.com/post/75573164345/pro-procrastination-3-procrastination-saves-time#notes

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  • Brianna

    While reading this I ended up moving to the Primate Awards and reading all of that, and then reading the Bunny Manifesto and reading all of that. Finally I came back here only to be distracted by a browser game I’m playing. Soon I finished this post. This is my life. :|

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  • Amy

    This sums up my academic career. Thank you for making it past the dark playground and posting this. I am determined to try these tips out now.

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  • Dyanne Brown

    This is a totally awesome and completely accurate depiction. I would write more, but I’m procrastinating. LOL

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  • Anonymous

    y god you are so right about things here! I am supposed to be studying but here I am in the dark playground. Good article!

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  • Jiri

    my girlfriend was so excited about this article and the fact that she is not alone, that she started crying and wanted to send a thankful email to the author of this text. However, as she is a true procrastinator, she will probably never manage to write it, so I do it: Thank you!

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  • Julius

    I love reading all your comments and the blog post, of course. Here is another page that should speak from your heart. http://procrastinators-united.tumblr.com It’s kind of paradoxical how we are so aware of who we are but still don’t manage to change our bad behaviors… :)

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  • Joan

    This is so nice. And so true. Not that I didn’t know it. But coming from someone else, it sounds so much better and more logical. And more real. Great job. Thank you!

  • curious

    So the real question…Why would the tiger win?

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  • Lodewijk

    I’ll read this later.

  • jessisca

    hi

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  • Secret_treaties

    That Panic Monster made me laugh so hard, most likely because I was looking at him today… Aaaaaaahhhhhhh
    That section pretty much described my day

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  • Floater

    I look up music and articles about procrastination when I’m procrastinating. I have just come down from that tree, took control of the steering wheel one week ago, and I’m debating whether or not to give up and let go again, right now. I am not a lucky procrastinator. I don’t even consider myself a procrastinator anymore. I have “graduated” with a BA in Procrastination. I am a Never Do-er. My panic monster and monkey are best friends. They play together, without me.

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  • Shawn

    It’s too funny how long the comment list is on an article about procrastination. I wish I could say I was writing this comment from somewhere other than the Dark Playground, but what are you gonna do.

    I read this at least once a week, and I just wanted to say that I think it’s one of the most insightful, brilliant pieces of writing on the Internet. It’s helped me tremendously to use your visualizations to break through procrastination. Do I always wrangle the monkey? No, but I’m winning more than I used to.

    It’s funny, but I don’t even know what the rest of your blog is about. I’ll get around to checking your other posts, but it will have to be from the Happy Playground.

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  • Anonymous2

    This article makes “Spanking the Monkey” now ambiguous.

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  • Tomastinator

    I beat procrastination with the pomodoro technique. I just told the monkey, yes we’ll read about which medieval kings were related to each other then argue with people on wikipedia, AFTER we do 25 mins of work. Once i got on the work it felt good so I continued it. For me, tomatoes are a bit like procrastination anyway so it came easy. Maybe I am not a true procrastinator? NO, but I am, because if I don’t do tomatoes I actually have no other incentive to work, the phd doesn’t matter, it’s all about the tomatoes. see http://www.mytomatoes.com if interested.

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  • Julie Singleton

    Fantastic post which really unpicks what’s going on when anything in the world seems more appealing than sitting down and writing my novel. The terms Instant Gratification Monkey and The Dark Woods will stick hereafter in my mind! I even have Instant Gratifcation Monkey as my screensaver as a reminder. Great stuff!

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  • Rosalind

    I have a procrastination problem but would say I have more of a ‘Lemming of Lethargy’ than a ‘Instant Gratification Monkey’

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  • Imogene

    Good post. I’m dealing with some of these issues as well..

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  • anon

    oh no where is my panic monster. Im in my Dark playground. Panic monster I need you

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  • Lunatic lonely guy

    Man I don't even know what to say this is perfect and brilliant! Monkey, panic monster, dark playground are all describes my life. That's crazy. I thought I was the only one suffering from this damn thing. I hope we all(real procrastinators) kick this monster's ass and reach our real potential. 

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  • Jatumanae

    I feel like my feelings are exagerating but I want to cry…for feeling so identified and somehow slightly relived that I’m not alone -just because I

  • Smithc47

    Link exchange is nothing else but it is simply placing the other persons web site link on your page at proper place and other person will also do same for you. ekdbdaefcebafgcf

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  • Ike Lee

    I wanted to print it out, so that I can read it without any distraction. But the print-layout of your site is totally messed up!

  • Anonymous

    yeah the three of us were like that until we took acid. now me and my monkey just sit around laughing at literally everything because nothing really matters in life or trying to cheer up the panic monster from his bad trip

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  • Alexander

    The problem with this article is though, that the procrastinator you’re describing is not really a procrastinator… Let me explain.

    Most people I know, works in the way that you described, they want to do fun stuff all the time and rather watch Youtube, play video games and watch Facebook rather than studying. And then when a test comes up and when it’s panic, they do everything at the same time, often the night before. But this is a description of the common person tbh.

    A true procrastinator in my option, is a person like me who have problems motivating myself to even do stuff that I find interesting and funny. For example, I have to motivate myself to do my hobbies like playing video games and watch series and stuff like that, which other people at least do without even have to think about it. That’s what I call true procrastinating. Even when I am unemployed and can use all my days for whatever I want and have a TODO list on all fun stuff I want to do, the result is more like I walk around the apartment doing nothing and then do something useless at the computer and maybe read forums.

    The people I know who I consider the opposite of a procrastinator is the description you use of a procrastinator. At least they spend their time with their interests and effectively use their time for fun stuff they have as interests. They are very intense at doing stuff which they consider funny to do. Which in my option is not a procrastinator, because they actually do a lot of stuff. These people are the true instant-gratification people, because they can without thinking about it start up a video game and play all day. While people like me can wait days before I even start one.

    Anyone agree?

    • Brendan Greig

      You just described clinical depression…….

    • PJmir

      Yup, clinical depression dude. Going through it myself. I am jobless, living off of reserve income. I know what I have to do. I know how to do it. I want to do it but the god damn monkey keeps me in the dark playground. I make set unrealistically huge goals and fail on a daily basis so now the depression has kicked into something like this:

      *Wake up at 5, go back to sleep by 5:30 since I can’t motivate myself to do anything.

      *Wake up 9am again

      *Take my dog out for a walk.

      *Come back and walk around my apartment. Do absolutely nothing. Lay down on couch. Surf the internet. Read articles about self improvement.
      *Maybe go to the gym
      *Now it’s 6pm – I am just thinking about having my first meal.

      *Surf some more, read forms, day dream about how I will start my business tomorrow when i wake up at 5am and start my day right!

      *Eat 8-10pm

      *Take my dog out for a bike ride (most days). 10pm
      *Browse the internet and sleep

      I should try the dark woods regardless of what time I wake up

  • Anon

    Checking to see if this site allows anonymous comments. I don’t bother with sites that don’t.

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  • Anonymous

    BORING

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  • Felipa

    Thanks for some other informative website. Where else could I get that kind of information written in such a perfect way? I’ve a challenge that I am just now operating on, and I’ve been on the look out for such information.

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  • terrified

    what can be more obvious sign of procrastination than having this article open in one of brower’s tab and not reading it for about two months? The truth is painful and fearful and these are real reasons to procrastinate…

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  • Connor

    Good info. Lucky me I came across your blog by chance (stumbleupon). I’ve book marked it for later!

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  • Jen

    I LOVE YOUR SITE. Very insightful articles.

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  • Bubba

    I’ll read this later.

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  • Keshia

    How cite in APA format

  • Anonymous

    I finally got my IGM shirt!! :D

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  • Lena

    I FREAKING LOVE your Website!!!!!!!!! My monkey did a good thing for once by taking me here.

  • Anonymous

    I was reading this article to procrastinate from doing a project. Stupid monkey!

  • Kemmer

    My instant gratification monkey is so used to the panic monster coming around that he is no longer scared of it. It’s to the point now that the panic monster doesn’t even bother anymore.

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  • Anonymous

    Best post I’ve read on the subject. I’ve been looking for someone to describe what I’ve been experiencing for many years now. THANK YOU!

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  • this is a load of monkey sh*t

    Petty sure the “instant gratification monkey” is just a lack of self-discipline and consistency. I used to be like this but then I finally decided to face reality and just come to accept that it is all just a matter of lack of self-discipline. Lack of self-discipline is simply what people call”ADHD”. ADHD is nothing but a fairy tale.

  • Ricardo

    I had this open in my browser for over a month, just read it (partially). I can finally close this tab!

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  • Procrastination Killer

    I like your article, but the genius methods to solve my problems with procrastination. So I am now an fantastic For more information about the methods I use to beat procrastination I have made an website about procrastination killers. I am so excited!>>>: http://goo.gl/N8ig61

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  • bespectacledreader – goodreads.com

    “How else could you explain the same person who can’t write a paper’s introductory sentence over a two-week span suddenly having the ability to stay up all night, fighting exhaustion, and write eight pages?” —> that is exactly the point ~ we procrastinate because we have this ‘power’ that usually comes forth when the deadline nears which leads to my conclusion that Procrastinators are Superheroes in a twisted wort of way I believe the only way to stop procrastination is by facing a villian —> that could be in a form of FAILURE? Well change should come from within D: Ugh, dunno if I am making sense but yeah, procrastination is bad but procrastinators when they procrastinate should not REGRET anything. Because during their time in the dark playground, I believe they enjoyed it a little even if their is guilt lurking. Thank you for this article.

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  • Daniels Scott

    Finally, someone clearly defines what procrastination is. This is so accurate, it somewhat scares me. All the signs of a true procrastinator is there; the very reason why I’m here is because I’ve been putting off my report while googling “how to fight procrastination”. I’m still a junior at the American School of Entrepreneurship and I don’t think procrastinating is a healthy habit if I’m about to enter the “real world” in a few years. Is there a cure for this? Do I need to see a psychiatrist?

  • Jayce

    noooo procrastinators prrocrastinate becasue doing shit suckkkkkkkks

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  • Arch

    “I’m reading so much interesting stuff right now… wait what was that… what the AAAHHHHHHhhholycrapdeadline!”

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  • Jessica

    Hahaha this is hilarious and so true. I should be working right now…

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  • MarmiteMymite

    I totally recognized myself in your description. You are definitely right: “something has to change”!
    I have added you to my “procrastination is not a fatality” list of must read links.
    https://skim.it/u/Theluckyguy/procrastination-is-not-a-fatality

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  • spbone

    Is this gratification monkey something scientifically proven? I’ve heard that everybody procrastinates.

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  • San

    Thank god for panic monster, but I worry my monkey is beginning to get used to him now

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  • M

    so true, I’m in the dark playground right now… should I continue to part 2 or get back to work

  • susie

    what I really wonder is where the monkey comes from in the first place and why some people don’t seem to have it. is it just a negative spiral (i.e. everybody has it, but some don’t let it grow power), or is there something else behind it? Some people here mentioned perfectionism, others mentioned doubt to be in the right “dark woods” at all (should I get a different job?)…
    Just like you I learned over the years with every last-minute submission of a paper/report etc. that I can do things in a very short time (not in good quality, and with mixed feelings, of course…). But I can do it. I seem to be so extraordinarily clever or talented or effective to be able to do things in 2 hours that take others weeks and months… am I just bored or underchallenged in my job? why am I not motivated to do better work, brilliant work that I can be 100% proud of? maybe because I don’t get the right kind of gratification in/from my work?

    • Karan

      EXACTLY what she said.

      We’ve long-established that it ain’t ability that makes the most difference but grit/staying-at-it-ability/perseverance (let’s call it X-ness).
      Why do different people (from the same school and similar home environments) have different X-ness levels? Why are some people’s monkeys stronger while others can discipline em easily?

  • Draganove

    a) finally somebody who understand what the deal is
    b) yeah i did read it in my dark plyground

  • Rockbottom .radioshow

    I’m sooo glad its all the monkeys fault and not mine… WHEW…!!!

  • kayleeturner05

    I liked your blog, and I agree with what you were saying. I can relate to this blog because I procrastinate all the time.

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  • Kashyep

    ” The tiger wins!” Thank you!
    Anyway nicely done!

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