The Procrastination Matrix

Note: To best understand this post, you should first read Part 1 of Wait But Why’s previous post on procrastination.

___________

PDF: We made a fancy PDF of this post for printing and offline viewing. Buy it here. (Or see a preview.)

___________

Back in high school, if you had asked me if I was a procrastinator, I would have said yes. High school students are given all these lectures about “pacing yourself” on longer projects, and I proudly paced myself less than almost anyone I knew. I never missed a deadline, but I only did anything the night before it was due. I was a procrastinator.

Except I wasn’t. High school is full of regular deadlines and short-term projects, and even longterm projects had sub-deadlines that force pacing upon you. There were a few dire moments, but for the most part, I was just doing everything at the last minute because I knew I could probably still do well that way—so why not.

There was definitely an Instant Gratification Monkey1 in my head, but he was cute more than anything. With deadlines looming constantly, my Panic Monster2 was never fully asleep, and the monkey knew that while he could have some time at the wheel each day, he wasn’t the one in charge.

HS1

HS2

HS3

HS3a

HS4

HS5

One day, high school ended, and so did my life as a somewhat normal-acting person. College is not like high school. The assignments are big, with a lot of time between deadlines, and since you’re not a child anymore, classes don’t treat you like one—no one forces you to pace anything. As a Government major, most of my classes involved a couple papers, a midterm, and a final exam over a four-month stretch, which means most of the time, there were no hard deadlines anywhere on the horizon.

Without deadlines to occupy him, my Panic Monster, who can’t think too far ahead, began to spend a lot of time in hibernation. My Rational Decision-Maker, who never realized how much he had relied on the Panic Monster, began to have difficulties carrying out his plans.

Reading1

Reading2

The more the Panic Monster slept, the more confidence the monkey gained. The Rational Decision-Maker, the only member of the brain who sees the world clearly, was concerned—he knew that college assignments were a lot bigger than high school assignments, and that pacing was no longer something to scoff at, but a critical thing to do. He’d put his foot down about social commitments when a deadline began to draw closer, but that wouldn’t solve the problem.

movie1

movie2
movie3

The RDM would slip further into despair, and only the times when things reached their most dire would anything change.

paper1

paper2

 

paper3

paper4

It didn’t matter how obvious a decision seemed to the RDM, it was becoming clear that he was totally unable to control the monkey without the Panic Monster’s help.

extension1

extension2

extension3

extension4

extension5-2

While college was often a disheartening experience for my RDM, it was a full renaissance for my Instant Gratification Monkey, who explored a wide range of activities in an effort to find himself. With a Yamaha electric keyboard right next to my desk, the monkey became increasingly passionate about playing the piano. It almost seemed like the times my RDM was stomping his foot the hardest about getting to work were the exact moments the monkey would feel the most spirited about putting on the headphones and becoming lost for hours in the piano.

When college ended, thrilled to be done forever with formal education, which was clearly not my thing, I burst out into the world with 1,000 ambitions to do 1,000 things. Just wait till the world saw me. I had everything imaginable to offer except knowledge, skills, and work ethic.

My RDM had done a lot of thinking about this, and he understood that the monkey had spent college trying to tell him something important—I wanted to be a composer. That was clearly the thing I was most drawn to, and finally, it would become the thing I was supposed to do each day. No more fighting the monkey—he was going to get exactly what he wanted. I had figured out life, and I moved to LA to write movie scores.

In order to pay my bills, I began tutoring kids after school on their homework or for the SAT, a side job I chose because it wouldn’t distract me from becoming the next John Williams. It was the perfect setup, I was brimming with excitement about music, and things were starting to move—when the weirdest thing happened. Just when I was sure I had found myself, the monkey began soul searching. When the RDM and I would sit down at the piano to write something—the exact activity the monkey spent college obsessed with—the monkey would throw a fit and refuse to join us. The RDM began to feel helpless, the same way he did in college.

Meanwhile, the monkey had found a new interest—he had become fixated with my side job. Tutoring was going well, referrals were increasing, and while the RDM would insist that we were already working with too many students, the monkey would accept every new job that came our way. Soon, the monkey started thinking bigger, and without running it by the rest of us, he began hiring my friends to tutor for me. The RDM would wake up eager to dive into composing, but the whole day would end up being spent on phone calls and buried in spreadsheets. The monkey had started a business.

My brain and I ended up in an unpleasant no-man’s land. The monkey refused to let us pour ourselves into our music career, and the RDM refused to embrace the monkey’s new business career. I was doing a lot of things and not giving my all to any of them.

spread thin

It was around then that my best friend Andrew moved to LA. Andrew isn’t like me. He lives and breathes business, with no interest in pursuing anything in the arts, and ever since I met him when we were five, his monkey has been a tame little bitch who does what he’s told. After he moved, we started talking about maybe going into business together somehow. My RDM had refused to entertain taking business seriously until then, but the prospect of starting a company with Andrew and actually putting a full effort into it was enticing—and the monkey was clearly into it, so maybe this was the thing I was supposed to be doing all along. I decided to dive in, and building off of what I had started, we founded a new tutoring company together.

The RDM still wrestled with the decision to put a pause on the music side of things, but the company was growing quickly, being in business with Andrew was a great time—like playing a complex strategy game with your friend—and the RDM finally started to feel okay about becoming totally wrapped up in business.

Which was the monkey’s cue to become an avid blogger.

monkey blog

I had been casually blogging for a few years at that point, but business taking off was just what the monkey needed to kick his new writing hobby into full gear, and over the next few years, I wrote hundreds of blog posts in my off hours. I went into work every day, and I’d be engaged while I was there—but instead of doing what an entrepreneur is supposed to do outside of work and keep the wheels turning, mulling over the strategy and allowing the subconscious to drop key epiphanies on you from time to time, I’d be thinking about what to blog about next.

In 2013, when Andrew and I decided to start something new, we looked at my monkey, saw how absorbed he always was with his blog, and thought maybe that was the thing I was supposed to be doing this whole time—so we started Wait But Why. Andrew would continue to grow our company while I’d fully immerse myself in this new project, giving the monkey exactly what he so badly wanted.

___________

What was classic procrastination in college morphed into a bizarre form of insanity once I entered the real world. On a day-to-day, micro level, there was still always an element of the normal “RDM tries to do something, monkey makes it difficult” thing, but in a broader, macro sense, it was almost as if I were chasing the monkey. After he defeated me so soundly in college, I wondered if fighting against him in the first place was my mistake. He’s born from some inner, primal part of me, so wouldn’t it make sense to pay attention to his inclinations and use them as my guide?

So that’s what I tried to do—when he’d be continually drawn to something, I’d eventually take his lead and build my life around that. But the problem was, he was almost like a mirage—once I’d get to where he was, he wouldn’t be there anymore. He’d be somewhere else. This was confusing—was he there before because he actually wanted to be, or was he just there because it was where the RDM was not? Did he actually have passions of his own, or was he just some elusive evil contrarian inside of me with a mission to hold me back from ever doing anything great with my talents and energies?

Last year, I came across a little diagram that I think holds the key to these questions. It’s called the Eisenhower Matrix:

Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix places anything you could spend your time doing on two spectrums: one going from the most urgent possible task to the least urgent, the other going from critically important to totally inconsequential—and using these as axes, divides your world into four quadrants.

The matrix was popularized in Stephen Covey’s famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and is named after President Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower was well-known for being tremendously productive, which Covey credits to his “first things first” attitude on how to spend your time. And to Eisenhower, the “first things” were always the important ones. He believed you should spend nearly all of your time in Quadrants 1 and 2, and he accomplished this with a simple D-word for each quadrant:

Eisenhower Matrix Actions

And that’s fantastic for Dwight fucking Eisenhower. But you know what Dwight clearly didn’t have in his bald head? An all-powerful Instant Gratification Monkey. If he had, he’d know that a procrastinator’s matrix looks like this:

Procrastinator's Matrix

If you ever want any information on Quadrant 4—directions, places to eat, etc.—just ask a procrastinator. They live there. For a non-procrastinator, Q4 is a happy place to spend time. After a productive day working on important tasks, it feels great to kick back in Q4—and under those circumstances, there’s a name for Q4: The Happy Playground. But procrastinators don’t tend to hang out in Q4 after an efficient day of high-level work—they’re there far more often than that, against their will, because the monkey has dragged them there, all while the Rational Decision-Maker is begging them to leave. And they have a different name for Q4: The Dark Playground.

As for Quadrants 1 and 3—the urgent quadrants—most procrastinators will end up there from time to time, usually in a full sweat, with the Panic Monster next to their face screaming. Q1 and Q3 keep the procrastinator off the streets.

And then there’s Quadrant 2. To a procrastinator, Quadrant 2 is a strange and foreign land, far, far away. Kind of like Atlantis, or Narnia. He knows it’s an important place, and he’s tried many times to go there, but there’s a big problem—the monkey is repulsed by it, and the Panic Monster isn’t concerned with it. And that’s the deadly combo that defeats the procrastinator every time.

The reason this is disastrous is that the road to the procrastinator’s dreams—the road to expanding his horizons, exploring his true potential, and achieving work he’s truly proud of—runs directly through Quadrant 2. Q1 and Q3 may be where people survive, but Q2 is where people thrive, grow, and blossom.

But if you’re a procrastinator, you’re in luck. You have an ace up your sleeve—someone daring and fearless, with bountiful energy and dynamic talent, and someone who can defeat the monkey like stepping on an ant: Future You.

Future You is a procrastinator’s most important ally—someone who’s always there and always has your back, no matter what. I know all about this firsthand. Future Tim is an amazing guy.

When my alarm goes off and I don’t want to wake up, I just press the snooze button, which doles out the job of getting out of bed to Future Tim instead. My to-do list has two parts—a short, easy one for me, and a long one, full of all the things I can’t imagine ever doing, because they’re so icky-seeming. Future Tim always handles that one, without a complaint. Future Tim also has no problem with even the vilest of social obligations. I was recently invited to attend a feedback-giving session for a three-hour-long play written by someone I barely know—I certainly had no intention of ever doing that, but I would also have felt guilty just saying no, so I explained that I have a busy couple months, but that I’d be more than happy to join when it happens again this summer, a time when it’ll be Future Tim’s problem, not mine.

Future Tim also has a discipline and balance to his lifestyle I could only ever dream of. I’ve never been much of an exerciser—but Future Tim belongs to a gym and does all the jogging for both of us, and I love how into cooking healthy meals Future Tim is, because I personally don’t have the time. Future Tim is the kind of guy we all want to be like—I suggest getting to know him yourself, which you can do by buying his books, since he’s a prolific author.

But the most important role Future Tim plays in my life brings us back to the Eisenhower Matrix. In a convenient stroke of fate, Future Tim happens to spend almost all of his time in the one place I can never seem to get to myself: the all-important Quadrant 2. Future Tim is Quadrant 2’s warden, and when I make a list of important to-do items and notice that most of them seem to land in Q2, I don’t have to despair, because I know Future Tim is on top of them. Which is good, considering how dire a situation Past Tim, that useless fuck, has often left me in:

FT

But for all of Future Tim’s virtues, he has one fatal flaw that kind of ruins everything: he doesn’t exist.

It turns out that Future You is as much of a mirage as the monkey’s passion for a hobby. I banked on Future Tim’s real-world existence for my most important plans, but every time I’d finally arrive at a time when I thought I would find Future Tim, he was nowhere to be found—the only person there would be stupid Present Tim. That’s the thing that really sucks about Future You—whenever time finally gets to him, he’s not Future You anymore, he’s Present You, and Present You can’t do the tasks you assigned to Future You because those tasks can only be done by someone without a monkey. You assigned them to Future You in the first place because he doesn’t have a monkey—that was the whole point. So you do what you always do—you re-delegate them to Future You, hoping that next time time catches up with Future You, he actually exists.

This is what left me unable, for years, to give life my full effort. The important work to be done usually lives in Q2, a place I had a hard time going to, so I’d direct the extra energy to a passionate hobby instead. The monkey would get super into these hobbies, because hobbies are, by definition, in Q4—a place the monkey loves to be.

So here’s what went on when I was supposed to be pursuing a composing career:

Composer Matrix

And when I decided to “follow the monkey’s lead” and take on business, I was missing the key point: “taking on” business meant making business the thing I was supposed to do, which turned it from a not important task into an important one—moving “business” from Q4, the monkey’s favorite place, to Q2, his least favorite place.

Business Matrix

The fact that I expected the monkey to remain obsessed with business after the switch to Q2 shows how little I understood the monkey. The monkey’s passion never was music, or business, or blogging—the monkey’s passion was always Q4.

And the thing the monkey really likes about Q4 isn’t anything about Q4 in particular—it’s that Quadrant 4 isn’t Quadrant 1 or 2. The monkey, whose core drive is to do whatever’s easiest, can’t stand the “important” quadrants, because the important quadrants are where the pressure’s on—it’s where there’s something to prove, where your actions have consequences, where the stakes are high, and where you’re shooting for the stars, which means you might fail to reach them. No fucking thanks, says the monkey. Writing 300 blog posts while I was supposed to be dreaming up brilliant business growth strategies wasn’t “easy” in the sense that I didn’t have to work hard to write them—it was easy in that there was nothing at stake. Stakes are really what’s hard for a human.

___________

When I started writing posts for Wait But Why, I knew I wanted to write about procrastination. I needed to try to articulate the madness that went on in my head. After assigning that daunting mission to Future Tim for a while, I finally bit the bullet and did it.

The reaction was overwhelming. In addition to the over 1,300 comments on the two posts, here’s the breakdown of emails I’ve received from readers:

pie chart

There have been thousands of emails. Apparently this whole thing isn’t just me.

And the emails aren’t quick, “Hey I liked the procrastination posts bye” notes—they’re thorough. And heartfelt. A good number of them mention that the posts made them cry. And they’re not crying because they were moved by my shitty stick drawings—they’re crying because they were reading about one of the biggest problems in their lives.

The profiles of those who have emailed range wildly, covering all ages, all kinds of professions, and hailing from almost every country in the world. I’ve heard from a 13-year-old in Pakistan, a middle-aged professor in Argentina, an 80-year-old retired nurse in Mississippi; a German graphic designer, an Australian author, a Ghanaian filmmaker, a Korean entrepreneur. And the PhD students—the hordes of PhD students—doing the ultimate Q2 task.

In one way, these people all have the same exact problem, and the same problem I have—an Instant Gratification Monkey they can’t control. But I’ve noticed, after reading every one of their stories, that the extent to which this problem is ruining their lives varies drastically, depending on a few key facts about their particular circumstances. This distinction places the readers who have emailed into three categories:

1) The Disastinators

Disastinator's Matrix

Of all procrastinators out there, the Disastinators are in the worst shape. A Disastinator is permanently camped out in Quadrant 4, and procrastination is completely destroying their life. A procrastinator usually becomes a Disastinator for one of two reasons:

A) Their monkey has stopped being scared of the Panic Monster and has become all-powerful

B) They’re a normal procrastinator but they’re in a life situation with no external deadlines or pressure

Situation A is super-dark, and as I’ve learned from reader emails, not that uncommon. These people have lost the ability to do almost anything that matters to them and are either in a downward spiral or have given up entirely.

In Situation B, the Disastinator isn’t a worse procrastinator than any other, it’s just that their circumstances are a catastrophic match for their personality. The nature of their life and work gives the Panic Monster no reason to wake up at all, and unfortunately, the monkey isn’t scared of the Self-Loathing Monster.

self

The outcome is that the Disastinator gets nothing done, ever. Many of the PhD candidates who emailed me fall into this category.

2) The Impostinators

We haven’t talked much about Quadrant 3, but it might be the most dangerous quadrant of all, and it’s where the Impostinator reigns king. The Impostinator’s life looks like this:

Impostinator's Matrix

The Impostinator seems productive, but she’s really an imposter—a procrastinator wearing a productive person mask. By spending all of her work time in Q3, she seems busy—she is busy—but she never seems to make much progress on her real goals.

Impostinators have clever monkeys, and Q3 is the monkey’s most clever trick. The monkey knows that the RDM, who can be gullible, can be appeased if he spends ample time out of the Q4 Dark Playground. So the Impostinator’s monkey creates a battle that goes back and forth between Q4 and Q3, and that works because Q3 feels productive to the Impostinator. It relies on one major delusion of the Impostinator—that busy = productive.

So an Impostinator will spend the whole day answering emails, running errands, making phone calls, organizing lists and schedules, participating in meetings, etc. and if she’s judging herself by time spent out of the Dark Playground, she’s a smashing success. But at the end of the day, the satisfaction she feels has a hint of emptiness to it, and the Happy Playground is never quite fully happy. She may have deluded herself into thinking she’s living a productive life, but in her subconscious, she knows she’s not doing what she’s supposed to be doing. Her feelings of accomplishment come along with an undercurrent of despair.

In reality, she’s living in a grand, overarching procrastination, brilliantly crafted by her monkey. Rather than try to win the tug-of-war between doing what matters—the stuff up in Q2—and the Dark Playground, the Impostinator’s monkey tricks the RDM into fighting on the wrong battlefield, and he lets the RDM “beat” him on this battlefield, which leads her to believe she’s doing a good job.

The other difficulty the Impostinator faces is that sometimes Q3 disguises itself as Q1. A busy Impostinator often believes that the urgent work she’s consumed with is important, but the problem with that is what Eisenhower himself said best:

What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.

In other words, Quadrant 1 often does not exist. This isn’t always the case, but it’s especially likely to be true for people who have yet to get their career rolling, because usually when your truly important work is also urgent, it means you have something good going on. This creates a catch-22, where the people who most need urgency in order to do things—procrastinators early in their career—are often those with a totally vacant Quadrant 1.

The more time goes on, the more I think that being super busy tends to mean having a packed Q3 (usually mixed in with too much Q4 time). I know that when I’m in one of those zones where I’m telling everyone how busy I am and how little time I have for them, it’s almost always because I’m overloaded with Q3 bullshit. People who are really on top of their life—really in control—tend to have plenty of space in their schedules. But society smiles upon busy people, the phrase “I think you have too much time on your hands” is an insult, and that leaves Impostinators looking—and often feeling—like they’re doing it right. And while the Impostinator will always feel superior to the Disastinator, the truth is that in terms of real productivity on things that matter, they’re equal.

The major lesson here is to beware of Quadrant 3. Q3 grabs you by the collar and thrusts you onto a treadmill of reacting to things. It’s not a place of self control. And if you’re not careful, Q3 will suck your life away. I know, because I’ve spent a lot of my life as an Impostinator.

Of the many Impostinators who emailed me, the most common professions were artists of some kind or entrepreneurs. In both of those situations, you’re the boss of your own life, and the important work to do—improving your skills, deepening your network, executing a creative vision—is rarely urgent.

3) The Successtinators

After spending most of my life feeling unable to maximize myself, since starting Wait But Why a year and a half ago, I’ve written over 250,000 words—the equivalent of 1,000 book pages—and what I’m doing really matters to me. For the first time, the satisfaction of accomplishment doesn’t come along with a twinge of guilt or emptiness or despair. I’ve done it! I’m a doer. 

Not quite.

The reality is, I haven’t overcome my monkey problems one ounce more than the Impostinators and Disastinaters who emailed me—the big difference is, I’ve gotten myself into a situation where I have a big, fat Quadrant 1 in my life. Not a fake Q1 that’s really Q3 in disguise—but a genuine Q1, and it’s packed. The intimate relationship a blog has with real, living people—and the pressure that generates—turns a blogger’s important work into urgent work, as soon as there are enough readers that the Panic Monster takes interest in things.

For a procrastinator, this is the opposite of the PhD-type situation, which I described as a catastrophic match for a procrasinator. Writing regularly with an immediate audience is an example of a terrific match for a procrastinator’s personality, because it puts his Panic Monster in the optimal location—it aligns the Panic Monster with his most important endeavor.

Of course, my monkey is still wreaking havoc over my whole life in any way he can—I pulled a lifespan-reducing all-nighter to finish this post. But there’s a key distinction between what he’s doing now and what he was doing during my previous projects. With those other projects, he spent his Q4 time pursuing real, ambitious projects—and he was allowed to do that because the RDM wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted, and he would question whether the monkey was actually on to something with his distractions. But at least so far, working on Wait But Why is hitting the nail on the head for the RDM, because he’s actually spending a lot of time above the important line, so he has a conviction about the undertaking he didn’t previously. Because of this, he’ll let the monkey tap dance around Q4 and Q3, mainly because he has no power not to, but he won’t allow the monkey to take on anything serious with his time.

I have not conquered procrastination, but for the time being, at least, I’m in the least bad type of procrastinator situation—I’m a Successtinator.

Successtinator's Matrix

A successtinator has found a solution-ish to his problems, but it’s not pretty, often not healthy, and usually not sustainable. It’s a clever duct-taping of a troubled machine to hold it over temporarily.

I received a lot of emails from Successtinators, and the patterns were consistent and resonate with my own current situation. A Successtinator can be happy with his life, but isn’t usually that happy in his life. And that’s because being a Successtinator does not make you a success. Someone who does something well professionally at the expense of balance, relationships, and health is not a success. Real success means having both professional life and lifestyle working well and in harmony—and Successtinators are too stressed, too unavailable, and are often completely deprived of Happy Playground time, which is a critical component of a happy life. A Successtinator is also usually limited in his professional possibilities—great work can be done in Q1, but it’s often more on the maintaining side of things. Q2 is still where most of the professional growth and out-of-the-box thinking takes place, and like all procrastinators, Successtinators rarely set foot in Q2.

___________

There are bigger problems in the world than procrastination. Things like poverty, disease, mental illness, and drug addiction all make procrastination seem glaringly like a problem of the privileged—something to suffer over for those whose lives have no real suffering.

But if a skeptic spent a few hours reading through the mound of procrastination-related emails I’ve received, I think they’d agree that this is a dire problem in many, many lives. And it doesn’t just harm the procrastinator—it hurts the people close to the procrastinator, spreading the effect.

It’s also the world’s loss. For every Steve Jobs or John Lennon or J.K. Rowling or anyone else whose talents have enhanced our lives, there are thousands of people with just as much potential who never achieve much for the world because they waste away their time in the wrong quadrants.

One way to look at this is that each human life has a certain number of “time points,” and it’s up to you how you “spend” them. Consider the difference between someone who spends 30 hours a week in Q2 and someone else who only manages two hours of Q2 time a week. Since Q2 is, for many, where real advancement happens, over the course of their lives, the 30 hour person will accomplish 15 times as much in her life as the two hour person. And in reality, the multiplier is probably even larger than 15, since progress builds upon progress and the rate can accelerate (i.e. Steve Jobs wouldn’t have accomplished 1/15th of what he accomplished if he had put in 1/15th the productive hours—he probably would have accomplished none of it.) The distinction between an ordinary person and an extraordinary person might simply come down to the differences in how they allot their time points.

Clearing away delusion

If we want to improve our time point spending, the first step is learning to see the world through a crystal clear Eisenhower Matrix—which means shaking off all delusion. We need to develop well-thought-out definitions of urgent and important, which will be different for everyone and requires a deep dig into the highly personal question, “What matters most to me?”

Brett McKay defines “important tasks” as things that contribute to our long-term mission, values, and goals. This is broad and straightforward and a good core sentence to come back to when assessing importance down the road.

The thought process about what is and isn’t urgent should revolve around the self-discussion of what’s most important. Ideally, urgent would not mean, “The thing grabbing me hardest by the collar”—it would be defined by what, of the important tasks on your list, would benefit most from happening sooner rather than later. Using this definition, spending time with your kids would certainly qualify as urgent, while under the typical deadline-related definition of urgent, it would qualify as “not urgent.” In other words, the order of your priorities is much better off being set by your RDM than your Panic Monster. Wisdom resides in the RDM, and when the mindless Panic Monster calls the shots on what’s urgent and what’s not, you take the RDM’s wisdom out of the game.

You may also want to gather some hard data on how you’re currently spending your time points, by logging your hours for the next week and seeing just how many of them fall into each of the four quadrants (you’ll probably be unpleasantly surprised by the results).

Becoming the boss of your brain

Once you feel clear on your Eisenhower Matrix and where its various boundaries lie, you’ll need to do the hard part and gain control over how you spend your time points within it. Which, for a procrastinator, is life’s greatest challenge.

The rewards of gaining control are obvious. It’s incredible how much a person can get done—while also maintaining a balanced lifestyle—if they’re in control of their time point spending. And those not in control will lose most of their time points to Q3 and Q4 and feel like they don’t have time for either their work or their lifestyle, all while accomplishing very little. Time point allotment is everything.

A procrastinator in desperate straits can take a half step in the right direction through the brute force method of rearranging his life in a way that makes him a successtinator. That’s where I am now, and it’s a hell of a lot better than where I was before.

But that’s like hiring a bodyguard instead of learning how to fight. The real goal of a procrastinator must be to figure out how to become the boss of his brain. A procrastinator’s reality is that his inner self—his Rational Decision-Maker—is the grandmaster of his life in theory, but in practice, only a spectator. The procrastinator’s RDM goes, helplessly, where the waves take him, shuffled from activity to activity by the primal forces of the monkey and the Panic Monster. Until a procrastinator’s RDM can walk, on his own, from Q4 to Q2, whenever he wants to, he’s not fixed.

___________

If you Google “how to stop procrastinating,” you’ll find about 1,000 articles, all offering terrific advice on how to do it. The problem is that the articles are always written for sane people, and procrastinators aren’t sane people. Being insane, procrastinators are always under the delusion that they’re sane, so they read an advice article and think they’ll be able to apply it to their life. But then it doesn’t work out that way.

Before a procrastinator can act on good advice, he needs to have control. A race car driver can get all the coaching in the world, but if, when the race starts, someone else is controlling the steering wheel and the pedals, all the coaching is useless.

That’s why the only way a procrastinator can take the wheel in his hands is if his self-fulfilling prophecy—his storyline— says that he can. And storylines only change with real-world action. Quite the chicken and egg issue.

At its deepest level, it comes down to a battle of confidence. The RDM and monkey each have their own idea of how to spend your time points, and whichever of them is more confident—whoever has a stronger belief that they’re the alpha dog in the relationship—ends up prevailing. The difference between a procrastinator and a non-procrastinator is simply that the procrastinator’s monkey and RDM both believe that the monkey is the alpha dog, and the non-procrastinator’s pair both believe that the RDM is the boss.

But as firmly entrenched as these confidence levels may feel, the monkey and the RDM share a single pool of confidence with a fixed sum—when one’s confidence goes up, the other’s goes down—and the balance can begin to be tipped by the smallest changes, taking your storyline with it.

Figuring out the starting point of this chicken and egg paradox is each procrastinator’s personal quest. But a universal starting point is to try to remain aware as much as possible. Aware of what’s important, aware of what’s urgent, and most importantly—aware of the monkey. The monkey is not your friend, and he never will be. But he’s also part of your head and impossible to get rid of, so get in the habit of noticing him. When you wake up in the morning, he’ll be there. When you sit down to work, he’ll be there. Whenever you most badly need all the guts and grit you can muster, he’ll be there to take your guts and grit away.

But he thrives off of unconsciousness. Simply by noticing him and saying to yourself, “Yup, there’s the monkey, right on cue,” you can start to tip the balance out of its default state. Then maybe one day, you’ll find yourself nonchalantly shoving the monkey off of the wheel with the simplest, “No monkey, not now.” And your life will be forever changed.

___________

I love the emails I’ve received about procrastination, and I hope they continue. But I always wish the people who have emailed me could hear each other’s stories. I encourage anyone who feels like sharing their story to do so in the comments.

If this post was up your alley, also check out:

Wait But Why’s two earlier posts on procrastination – Part 1, Part 2.

Life is just today over and over and over again – Life is a Picture, But You Live in a Pixel

A one-image reminder to spend your time points wisely – Your Life in Weeks

A deeper look at what goes on in our brains and why awareness is so critical – A Religion for the Non-Religious

A look at a different animal struggle going on in a different part of the brain – Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think

And while they’re ruining your life, you might as well cuddle with them:
plushies ad for post


  1. For the uninitiated, the Instant Gratification Monkey is the part of your brain that makes you procrastinate—he’s a primal part of you who lives to maximize the ease of the present moment. Read more about him here.

  2. For the uninitiated, the Panic Monster is the part of your brain that wakes up and has a freakout when a deadline draws too close. He’s the only thing the monkey is terrified of and the only reason a procrastinator ever manages to get anything done. Read more about him here.

Join 418,083 others and have our posts delivered to you by email.

(No spam, ever. We promise.)

LOOK AT THIS BIG BUTTON WE MADE

358,607

  • Jackount

    Well, I’ve got to admit, that I cried.

  • Mike Nguyen

    So the decision to do The Apprentice was the monkey’s fault?

  • Jeremy Seidling

    While I am routinely at odds with the Instant Gratification Monkey I have found my best strategy is to knowingly let it win at times. Here’s how this used to work, and how it works now.

    1. Pending assignment is due in the near future so I put on my adult pants and buckle down to work on it.
    2. Friends really want to go to a movie, go to dinner, have game night, or other. Since I’ve committed to my work I decline.
    3. Grapple with the Instant Gratification Monkey and mindless procrastination for four hours and realize that in the same time I could have actually been having fun and enjoying life. Feel depressed even more.

    Now I still let the Instant Gratification Monkey win, but I try to maximize what I am getting out of my IGM time. So now I go to movies, see friends, go hiking, go to sporting events, etc, and when I get home I feel good because I knew I was going to lose to the IGM monkey, but I did so on my own terms. And, as a bonus, this is usually the good feeling I need to actually start doing the productive things I had been putting off.

    As a side note – I recommend the book “The Power of Habit” as a great way to understand our own behavioral loops that turn into habits over time. It’s incredibly applicable to this post.

  • Raptor

    Impostinator all the way. Why does the IGM have to be such a dick?

  • J-a Carondeleigh

    Will read this one later also.

  • LC

    I was supposed to go shower and get on with my day/life, but I read this article instead.

  • 14151415

    what a cancer

    • 14151415

      what a cancer article

  • BT Ashley

    Brilliant… as usual and more depressing self realizations, as usual. Deciding what’s truly important is the struggle, and not getting distracted with ultimately meaningless fluff. A day may come where I beat this monkey.. But it is not this day! (Written from several miles deep inside Q4)

    • Lee

      – Théoden

  • Toria

    Another genius and brilliant post that helps me feel less alone. Thank you Tim. I’ve just spent another day in a world of turmoil, completely sabotaging my life – but openly and knowingly. Feels like true madness for sure.

    I am a masters student, and thoroughly unsuited I am to huge deadlines and a 100% need for self motivation (why did I choose to study again?!). I am thinking about closing and graduating with a diploma and choosing not to do the thesis (next years challenge), as I wonder if it may just be a year of misery.

    Perhaps the answer is to do jobs that require immediate attention. Tim you mention that you live off the pressure of others waiting for your creations and this keeps you in business. I have always enjoyed jobs that I have done that require daily action (eg in a cafe, an information line, a nurse, or caring for animals), they tend to be lower skilled and lower paid, but I actually wonder – wouldn’t it be better to be happy day to day, after all the key is to live in the present, rather than aiming at some unreachable goal. Or is that just giving up?

    Anyway, thanks again for writing this. Good luck to other procrastinators out there. I will enjoy reading your tips and keep trying to retrain my pesky brain.

    • Rimi

      My thoughts exactly. I’m a Masters student as well, but I prefer jobs that require daily action but are unfortunately lower skilled and lower paid. As you say, wouldn’t it be better to be happy day to day or is that just giving up? What about the ludicrous amounts of money I’ve spent on this Masters and the years spent on a legal education. I barely got through them, no thanks to the monkey.
      Anyway, I wish you the best of luck! Hope you figure out a solution that works!

      • Zael

        Well, both of you would require equally ludicrous amount of money to step into this kind of work – seeing how robotization will make them moot in a few years. Have to be pretty special/exquisite, or just do it for fun (and afford to) to fare well there.

  • sheattland

    Wow does this hit home. I’m in a Ph.D. program right now, at the stage where it’s switching from major Q1 to Q2 work: that is, switching from classwork to research. Unfortunately (maybe mercifully?), I may be about to get the axe on the very first example of Q2 work, before wallowing in years of dissertation no-man’s-land. To advance, I have to pass qualifying exams covering the entire jam-packed first year of classes: all the insanely detailed and tricky core theoretical models of my field, from which I’ll have to recall and solve about 4 of them, randomly picked out of a possible ~40, in 3.5 hours tomorrow when it’ll just be me in a room with pen and paper.

    This post sums up beautifully why I’ve failed to study as hard as was likely necessary. Thanks for laying it out, and thanks for sharing that so many others suffer from the problem. I often feel really burning shame about it, so it’s just really nice to hear that I’m not alone.

    I think I only managed to make it this far because my panic monster is pretty powerful on short notice, but this is likely the end of the line for my academic career. The more I think about it, the more I realize that academia is one of the worst possible fields to go into, knowing I have this problem. I’ve got to find a line of work that forces me into Q1. Something with lots of short-term deadlines where the work is actually important and interesting to me.

  • Sarski

    Read this post at work, and these procrastination posts always hit home for me. This job is a well-paying position, but it’s so far from what I want to do with my life. I think I need to redirect my confidence to doing the tasks at my job well so that I can use it as the foundation for my next steps. Thanks for these posts, it makes me feel so much less alone in my quest to get my motivation where it needs to be.

  • Laura

    Master’s student here, and a successtinator. All of my classes this week have been cancelled, so what did I do today? Cleared the 400 spam emails in my inbox, and ignored the 7 or so that actually need a response. I’ve spent the day feeling awful and lazy, but with no pressing deadlines (because of Easter break, my next class is April 8th) my IGM has had me watching rubbish on youtube rather than going to the gym or doing some reading. I really need to get on with some Q2 tasks tomorrow! But of course, that’s future Laura’s job. 🙁

  • marisheba

    I’ve never been able to make this work for me, but it definitely fits with Tim’s matrix: http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/

  • Nidhi

    There should be RDM swag too. May be if we cuddle with them, it will improve its confidence?

    Great post! I have a lot more to say, but I am conscious that the monkey is at the wheel currently and I need to get it off, so Starting now . But, GREAT post indeed!

  • Haydn

    A truly fantastic article from someone who really understands the problem, unlike the authors of the thousands of “how to stop procrastinating” articles. Personally, I only spend time deep in Q4 when a Q1 comes up, which is annoying but since that only happens once every one or two weeks most of my time is spent in either Q2 or Q3, and the problem is that I am unsure which one I am in a lot of the time. I spend a lot of time learning languages, which many people struggle to allocate time to, but it is my main passion. I’m just not sure if it counts as something which will eventually pay off in the years to come (Q2) when I am closer to fluency, or if it only counts as a hobby (Q4).

    Another observation I would make is that for some people like myself, money is a very important factor. I’m a college student so I’m effectively paying through the nose to do work I’m not completely fascinated by, just because it seems safer in the long run to have a degree on your CV. On the other hand, whenever I’ve been paid for a job, even something menial like washing someone’s car, I make sure I do the best job I can, because I can physically see the value I’m getting in return, in the form of money.

  • Farflung Snail

    I think the proper name for Q4 is Facebook.

    • SelectFromWhere

      Or “Wait But Why”… 😀

    • potatobean

      Mine is Reddit.

  • Chris

    This describes my life so precisely it’s depressing.

  • Jack Liu

    Reading this article is guilt tripping me. I’m procrastinating at work right now by reading this, but…..

  • Jacob Nestle

    I’m not gonna lie: I’m stuck in Q4. I’m nearing the end of high school and the idea that I’m going to have to grapple with this is terrifying to me.
    Excellent post, though.

  • Louis Van de Vyvere

    I’ve been an ‘imposinator’ all my life… I’ve read tons of articles on how to stop procrastinating, but your funny way of telling an showing how it ACTUALLY IS, is simply awesome! I recognised myself so many times in all your articles on procrastination… It’s pretty ironic that I found this website while being in Q4…

    In highschool I always had good results, but I never studied or did anything except the day before a test. And that seemed to work. Then came college… I dropped out after 6 months because I simply couldn’t keep up due to heavy procrastination… I failed to finish projects, failed miserably on tests while my friends could pass them with ease…

    After 4 months of doing… nothing… I started my own company (because I was tired of school and nothing seemed to interest me…)

    It took another 2 months to get my first client… Imagine what I could have done with 2 months of productive work. Now, another 2 months later, I haven’t accomplished much more… Although it looks that way.
    I don’t go out with friends that often any more, because “I’m to busy” and “…have to much work”.

    I work from home, so for my parents it looks like I’m actually busy doing stuff all the time… While in reality I spend most of my time on Facebook, YouTube, Reddit and doing stuff that isn’t important or urgent. Like re-designing my company-website instead of going out and getting new clients…

    Thinks article has opened my eyes, now I can see the monkey and I’m going to take charge again, this is my life and I’m going to accomplish all my dreams. I’ve always said that, but now I’m going to DO it!

    You heard that Monkey? I’m taking the wheel!

  • HockeyMom47

    I enjoy WbW, but I really resonate with the articles on procrastination, clearly written from the perspective of someone inextricably in the grasp of the Monkey. Your efforts encourage me to keep trying and the stuffed versions of the IGM and PM that stare at me from the bookcase in my office have become visual reminders when I veer towards the Dark Playground – Thanks and keep writing!

  • Anderson

    Hey, if you’re reading this: The monkey can trick you you’re not a Disastinator anymore (Hey, all big PC assignments are gone, so why worry….). Three options possible: You going to screw it, you’re going to get your life back on track (Did it for an half hour or so) or someone more responsible is going to force you to do things <– my case.

    Actually, what I wanted to tell:

    I've discovered that many skills which are useful for Q1/Q2, are used in Q4 — I am able to force myself to keep something from Q4! If I could only use it for Q1 and Q2. Did anybody had same experience?

    And a procrastinator isn't always trying to be perfect – look at my super post!

  • Jam

    Going through High School I never really

  • Robyn McIntyre

    I love the way you think. It’s helped me shine a light on decades of faulty reasoning. Right now, I’m in that terrible/wonderful place, the evil I always wished for. No longer tied to deadlines, I have the luxury of doing what I want and years ago, I said that if I were ever in this place I would write and do art all day. Am I? No. Instead, I find myself kickboxing my self-esteem: I’ll never be good enough so practice is a waste of time, and Why would anyone be interested in my fiction before someone else’s? The only thing I’ve found that works for me, is not to let myself think about it. Once I start thinking about it, I’m doomed to endless games of online solitaire. I try to just start working and often find myself productive. I hate that some part of my brain has joined the Resistance Movement and works to keep me checkmated. I want to be more like my friends who are enthusiastic about their projects and when finished with one, are quickly on to the next. No Panic Monster, just enjoyment of the process leading to completion. After all, sex is as much about what leads up to the climax as the climax itself, and the knowledge that it can be repeated. I would like the work I do to be at least as good as that.

  • SC

    Was laughing reading the first half of your article. And now I am depressed becoz I have clearly identified with your Type B Disastinator. Nonetheless, no one can put this problem into words quite like you do, Tim, so thank you. Will keep trying every single day like I have been for sometime now.

    P.S. – I agree with one of the suggestions posted below – I would certainly love to have an RDM on a wheel to cuddle up with. Not the panic monster and certainly never the monkey.

  • JarJar

    Going through High School I never really had a drive for anything I studied. Whilst I should have been revising and studying for these subjects I had no interest in, I began to teach myself some graphic designing skills. I believed this is what I wanted to do with my life. I went to college and studied it and have now moved onto University studying it. Recently however Ive allowed that damn Monkey take over every aspect of my life and personally the saddest part is my passion for graphic design. Made more sad by the pure fact its the only thing Ive had a passion for. My monkey is distracting me with learning a new skill or writing a blog, it just has me doing pointless unproductive crap which isnt going to help future me.

    Reading this post really helped me actually understand what Im currently going through and Im now determined to fight it. Ive just stuck a piece of paper on my wall telling me to “fight the monkey”. Im going to make sure that when that moneky comes calling I tell him no. Sure now and then I’ll indulge him but never as much as I have in the past. This post is hopefully going to bring me one step closer to getting my mental health back in gear and for that I must say thank you.

  • Rimi

    Tim. You had me at “procrastination”.

  • odput

    Jesus H. Christ I am such an impostinator.

    While that section didn’t make me cry, it did really ruin the good mood I was in today from getting a bunch of shit done…really urgent but unimportant shit.

    Well, I suppose awareness is key, so now I’ve got that on my side

  • K

    I am a senior associate at a law firm and I am a successtinator. My job at my law firm is entirely in Q1 and Q2. The Q3 work gets delegated to my secretary and paralegal. I usually get Q2 assignments from partners and occasionally get Q1 assignments from partners. I’m really good at doing Q1 work because I’m actually really productive under pressure. I usually procrastinate on my Q2 assignments so they become Q1 assignments after a while. No work for an associate at a law firm is ever permanently Q2 because everything has deadlines. Except for business development work and work building your practice but that usually has deadlines too because you have performance reviews and practice profiles where you have
    to write about your business development plan and what you’re doing to build your practice and network. Thus, all work for an associate at a law firm eventually becomes Q1. To provide some necessary background, I am predisposed to Q1 work because I have manic depressive tendencies and usually
    put so much on my plate that everything becomes Q1 by the time I do it. I additionally have an instant gratification monkey that procrastinates when I don’t want to do something. For my years as a mid-level associate, I became valued at my firm for my willingness and ability to handle Q1 work. I spent so much time in Q1 that I became self-destructive. Happy playground time was binge drinking. I needed to continue feeding my Q1 stamina (because that’s what made me so successful at the firm) so I started abusing Adderall. The anxiety, stress, and Adderall would snowball into manic depression and the mania would be in happy playground time with alcohol and partying with friends after finishing really big projects and doing a good job which would be following by depression, preventing me from doing Q2 work. My mania would continue getting me involved in too many projects, resulting in me getting too much Q1 work.
    It’s a vicious cycle. The depression got so bad I started to get suicidal. I then went to a therapist because being suicidal made me scared and the only thing that would make me not suicidal was reading stories about how much suicide sucks for the survivors and thinking about how much I don’t want to hurt the people who care about me. The therapist helped me think about building boundaries so I don’t let the firm use me for my willingness to do Q1 work. I do less firm-induced Q1 work now because I got so senior and knowledgeable that now they need me for my brain and knowledge and not my willingness and ability to Q1 work. I still do self-induced Q1 work because I still have an instant gratification monkey. Weirdly, like Tim, my dark playground time is NOT in traditional Q4 stuff (TV, whatever) but is on other types of Q2 stuff. In the beginning of my career at the
    firm, I knew I didn’t want to work there forever and I knew I couldn’t get used to the salary because golden handcuffs at a law firm will screw you for life. Remember – the prize for the pie eating contest of being an associate is more pie (partnership). So my dark playground time was learning about money, investing, budgeting, and how to create financial freedom (in short, how to use the major bucks I earn not to get golden handcuffs but to build a strong financial foundation). After four to five years of 10-20 hours per week learning what I needed to learn, buying property, buying rental property, building a 401k, backdoor roth, venture capital investing, learning a better financial philosophy, etc., the instant
    gratification monkey and my RDM looked at each other and said, okay, you’ve got that down. Now, instead of spending dark
    playground time in financial education and financial independence land, my instant gratification monkey wants to start its own law firm. So my instant gratification monkey built a
    business plan, saved up two years living expenses, and created a plan for the start of the law firm. When I’m in the dark playground, my instant gratification monkey is reading books on starting a law firm and tweaking the business plan. I’m writing this because it might help other associates understand their
    situation in a law firm. I’m also writing this because I’m scared that starting my own law firm is like Tim’s music career or the tutoring company and my instant gratification monkey will
    not let me build the firm once I leave big law and instead my monkey will ruin me and I’ll lose everything and go bankrupt.
    Or will my panic monster realize that the solo practice has to be built so that I don’t lose everything and keep the instant gratification monkey at bay while I build a successful solo practice. And here’s the biggest question – when does this end? Will I always be this way?

    • Zael

      One could ask, do you really need that at your point of life? Sounds to me like you could be setting yourself up for another burn out for no reason. 🙁 (Is it REALLY that much better in the billionaire land?)

    • Janet

      I was once in your situation – but opted to go down the utterly vague entrepreneurial path of “starting a business”. Four years later I found this quote:

      Don’t build a house you do not want to live in.

      This has helped me to choose more wisely and not run after my monkey when he is having playground time. And he is still having plenty of unsupervised play time.

    • Voy13k

      The way you describe your Q1 and Q2 sounds to me (from my own perspective of course) as more Q3 and Q4. The difference is in a definition of IMPORTANT. What’s important to you. Not your firm. Not your career. You. Unless your career happens to be important to you 🙂 . I subscribe to the definition of important things as the ones you are happy for having done, or regret of not doing, when looking back from your death bed.

      Not that I’m such an expert at doing important stuff, mind you.

      Or perhaps I just haven’t recognized your sarcasm?

    • Valhalla

      My husband is a lawyer at a firm and we’ve been together through his progression from junior associate, to mid-level associate, to senior associate, and finally, to partner. As I was reading Tim’s article, I knew immediately that he’s a Successtinator. His Q1 is bursting at the seams and that’s what has enabled him to be successful professionally. The problem is that he has other goals in life, such as improve the personal relationships in his life, but he almost doesn’t spend any time working on the other goals because, as Tim explained, he’s using the wrong definition of “urgent”. From your story and the stories my husband has told me about other lawyers at his firm, I think there is a subset of people who don’t know what to do with themselves unless an external force lays a huge amount of pressure on them to get work done – a Successtinator!. A lot of these people are lawyers at firms. I think it’s a personality trait and I don’t expect my husband to be able to “fix” it. So, in a way, while I sometimes get very upset about how much he works, I also realize that maybe he needs that amount of work to feel productive, which in turn makes him feel good about himself, and in turn makes him be nicer to me! 🙂 Of course I don’t know you, and whether starting your own practice is the right thing to do, but I commiserated with your law firm experience and wanted to share my observations.

  • Rimi

    “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” (Douglas Adams) I fear this shall soon be true of me. I am a Masters student living in Q4, and when very important tasks – like graded assignments – are very nearly on their deadline, is when I move to Q1. So, I live in Q4 and occasionally jump to Q1 within Q1.

  • SelectFromWhere

    Well, of COURSE you get a lot of comments on Procrastination topics–what is one of the biggest way to procrastinate? Reading blogs!!

    • Annie

      Exactly what I was thinking, young sir

    • Zael

      But it’s not that much of procrastination to seriously write a letter. I would know, because I’m not one of those brave people.

  • Steve Kurka

    Another spot on post regarding the pleasure/pain dance with procrastination. I must now ponder how to shift my thinking to Q1/Q2, but, first I must go feed my monkey for a while…

    • Zael

      I’m still stuck debating internally whether the things above important line really are the salt of life – or whether it’s worth it to spend majority on Q4. From the points of YOLO and mortality and self-centeredness totally different kinds of values rise to the important line than what the healthy RDM would approve. Still kinda feel like mortality puts a big damper on all of this.

      • Zael

        To expand on this, personally I was pretty shocked when I met a person that was completely immersed in the Q1 and Q2 – they had never read fiction or anything non serious – didn’t seem like they planned to either. Really made me think if that sort of life was worth it – like for what do you do all of that for, if you put zero value on Q4?

        • Voy13k

          No no no! Q4 is important!! That’s where “Happy Playground” is! But it’s only happy if you get there AFTER spending time in Q2.

        • Dragos

          @ Zael: this that you just said, reminds me of a joke: Patient to the
          doctor: doc, I’m 102 years old and I feel the end coming. But I want to
          live longer, you know.
          Doc: Now, I want to ask you a few questions,
          to help me asses the state of your health and how we should proceed with
          treatment. Tell me, good Sir – do you smoke?
          P: No.
          D: Do you drink?
          P: No.
          D: Do you have sex – often, wildly, any at all or whatever?
          P: No.
          D: Do you have unhealthy diet habits – eating a lot of sugar, fat or the like?
          P: No.
          D: So then, my good Sir, what the f..k do you wanna live longer for?

  • Annie

    Jeez, this is spot on. The problem is I read the post, sagely nodding here and there thinking “Mmhm, Tim gets it.” and “Yeah I should probably start changing my life” and then as soon as I’m done, I click onto another tab where a 2 hour vine compilation is waiting patiently for me to fall back into the Dark Playground.

  • genolay

    I hate it to be a disastinator. My Monkey ist still a little bit afraid of the panic monster but not nearly as much as the RDM. He is always in a state of anxiety and too often paralysed by fear and panic. The RDM even is trying to avoid the Monster and deserted the weel some time ago.

  • d

    I am Soo looking forward to finding our which category I belong to. I have got as far as Impostinators. Then I had to go and play with my cat for a bit and, obviously, come here and write a comment, even though I haven’t finished reading the whole article. I should probably mention that I opened the email with the article about an hour ago. Since that time I managed to finally put away all the clothes that have been waiting around to be put away for days, prepare my lunch for tomorrow, feed both my cats and unpack my bike panniers. Oh and mess around with the new brow pencil I bought today. My brows are looking very astute now.

    Btw. many might find this place interesting: http://www.screwworkletsplay.com/quiz/

    It’s called The Scanners’ Quiz, scanner being a person who is always moving on to something new/different, i.e. “The great challenge for scanners is to find a way to make a living that doesn’t get boring after the first couple of months”.

  • Lizzie Basara

    I’m retired now – monkeys are running my asylum 😀

  • ariador

    After being a long term procrastinator of sorts (typical student type, where all due things are done in the closest possible time before due date) and mainly being successtinator with the occasional crossover to impostinator for the following 7 years, I think I have now finally moved to Q2 as of October and it scares the shit out of me.

    Somehow, Future Me made it clear that she depends on Present Me and every moment Present Me has is voluntarily and neccessarily devoted to Future Me.

    Oh and no idea where on earth the monkey is gone to or up to.

  • Bradamon

    Hello, I’m the monkey of the monkey.

  • Tom

    “A Successtinator can be happy with his life, but isn’t usually that happy in his life.”
    How do you do it, describing my life in one sentence?? It all boils down to this, really. Thanks, Tim, you do change lives! I’m packing all my stuff and going for a hike, I want to stand on a mountain and see my Q2 in the distance, I want to descend into it and feel accomplished. Thanks!

    • Dragos Alexandru Costiniu

      Spot on, brutha!

  • This really hit home for me. I started the same way, coasted through high school with almost no effort, for thought, nor planning. Got into the college I wanted, and then was a useless pile of meat. I’ve been coasting along since then feeling like I failed myself and going through bouts of depression about it. Every time I would muster up the courage of my RDM to boldly step into Q2, the monkey would scheme and plot until I had a moment of weakness. Then he would pounce, and I would fall back to my old life and habits comfortably loathing my uselessness in Q4. Here it is 16 years later and I’m still struggling to get back to the happiness I had while being a “successful” human in High School. It’s not like it was my glory years, but I felt fulfilled then. Despite doing many things I’m proud of since then, I just know that I’m languishing and not giving life my all.

    So now I find myself in my mid thirties with a one year old baby, a house I own with my supportive wife, a new business I started myself, and plans to go back to give college the good old college try again. Looking at it like that you see a person who’s life is going well, and has their shit together. On the surface it’s kind of true, but when I really dig into it, there’s a lot of hollow fulfillment. The baby is perfect and I’m doing what I can to give her a good world to live in, but I find myself reading or checking e-mail instead of taking her out to play with other kids her age or even just going to the park. My wife I love dearly, but instead of the deep conversations about our life and future we used to have, we just lay in bed at night and watch netflix on our phones instead. The house we own we’ve done things to to pretty it up, but there are still other projects to get to and I just “don’t have time.” My business has serious potential to support my family the way I want to be able to, but every time I have to sit down and get into the nitty gritty of designing a website, or uploading a spreadsheet, there is other little things I can do to pass the time while still being in the guise of working on the business. This means I’m not making much money from the business, so I chase that monkey into going back to school to get a new career going.

    So now I’m faced with the daunting task of going back to the metaphorical scene of the crime where the monkey rose to power. Can I succeed where I failed so greatly before? Will I beat my monkey (hehe) into submission and storm triumphantly into Q2 and become the person I know I could always be? Will I fall prey to the monkey again? Drop out and hang my head in shame as I did years ago? Will I get my act together and get the business successful so I can spend time in the Happy Playground with my daughter and wife?

    I won’t know until I do it. Even if you are all a bunch of strangers, just putting it out there adds some accountability to me. The one thing I have found that holds my monkey back is the thought that he will be found out. Letting the monkey be seen by others is the only thing that so instantly weakens his grasp on the wheel. Putting him in the spotlight makes him freeze with fear. And when the monkey will not take action, it frees up my RDM to calmly assert himself the way he knows he should. Even one step in the right direction makes the journey at least a bit shorter.

    • Vivid

      I wish you all the best, Eric. I hope you be able to control your monkey. 🙂

    • Skuser

      Maybe in addition you can try to find out why your monkey is there and why he became so powerful. What are the advantages he gives you? If he didn’t give you advantages he wouldn’t be there. So what keeps him in place? I think self-sabotage has at least one big advantage: if you fail, you can just blame a lack of effort. It’s easier and much better than having to face a lack of something else, like intelligence. You probably are intelligent, and you have proven that in high school, but maybe then even more you don’t want your intelligence under attack. I know many intelligent people who sabotage their own goals because they can’t afford to fail on any other account than their lack of effort.

      • Figuring out why you’re trying to destroy yourself is a really deep and dark rabbit hole for some people, but you’re right. It’s absolutely a necessary step, and on-going.

    • I love the thoughtfulness of this comment and wish you luck. I know it’s rough.

      Also, ‘a useless pile of meat’ made me snort really loud. Thank you. That was true for me, too. So is the monkey being terrified of being seen. I’ll spend an inordinate amount of time in Q3 and even Q1 if somebody is watching me. I used to keep a giant picture of an eyeball in my office. It was really helpful. o_O

  • Linda G.

    OK so part of my monkey is reading Wait but Why! All today I kept going back to it to try and finish it off even though I knew I had much more important things to accomplish – the irony…

  • Sara

    I have spent my life as a procrastinator completely and utterly perplexed by people around me who seem to be able to get things done (I half intend to email this to some of them and ask if they’ve EVER experienced any of this). I kind of wish there was a little book I could carry around with some of these key points so that I could use the book as a positive motivating push into being productive when I find myself slipping. It probably wouldn’t work, but my head still can picture future me effectively using these ideas to conquer procrastination.

    Also, I LOVE this blog, but it would help me not procrastinate at work if these were posted after working hours so I don’t feel compelled to read the post immediately when I see it in my email (which I compulsively check often in what I call productive procrastination). 🙂

  • WinMeister

    Tim Urban I

  • Caroline

    When I do make it / stray into Q2 it’s a lil bit weird because it doesn’t give me the instant rewards of the familiar Q1 or Q3 way. So I feel a bit like maybe I’m still in Q4. I sort of have to remind myself that what I’m doing here *is* totally in line with my goals. But it still feels weirdly unmotivating / unrewarding and a bit like I’m arsing around. I don’t know if that makes any sense. Maybe I just thought it would be more obvious and magical-feeling 😀

  • Deeply Moved

    Tim,

    I’ve just jumped out of Q2 to say that I, for one, am deeply moved by your shitty stick drawings.

  • Mike G

    Firstly, am I the only one that thinks the Monkey looks like Brutus from Popeye? Ok, I am old.

    I recently read 10% Happier by Dan Harris – first time reading about or thinking much about meditation. Seems like there is a connection between the monkey, procrastination and calming the inner voice via meditation.

    Q2 is like the mind state talked about for developers as Flow. No noise, ultra productive. A good place to be. How do we entice flow to come? HTHDIK? Meditation? Radiohead?

    Somehow I feel more productive the last few months because I have tried to focus on *importance* over all else when prioritizing tasks. I am not a good judge of urgency. No one else seems to be either.

  • Eve_N_Starr

    Stumbling on this blog was one of the happiest accidents of my adult life. Glad you’ve made friends with your Panic Monster, Tim; the results are amazing.
    Also, *hordes* (sorry – not only am I an Impostinator, I’m an obsessive Spellchecker)

  • Angel

    Thanks for the excellent post, Tim. Very timely for myself personally, and with some great insights that make me feel less shitty about myself and more determined to shut up the instant gratification monkey.
    PS – Seriously, if blogging doesn’t work out..you should consider doing a psych degree!

    Sincerely, a fan from Malaysia

  • Tom Miller

    My monkey also grew in confidence – and was no longer scared of the panic monster. However, I found he is particularly vulnerable to guilt instead of fear.

    After reading “Up the Organization” (a very old book on business – but well worth a read), I printed out a big sign to put on my desk that read: “Is what you are doing, or what you are just about to do, really helping you to achieve your objectives?”.

    Whenever the monkey is in control and sees this sign, he feels guilty and hands the controls back to my RDM. What’s more, because the sign is right on my desk, it’s hard to avoid. He seems to see the sign before we’re too far into the dark playground and at the point of no return.

    It’s a little embarrassing to explain this sign to everyone that sees it, but it’s worth it because it really worked for me. Hopefully it may also help others too.

  • N00less Cluebie

    Tim, your missing one final connection:

    I believe your (mine/our) [overwhelming] fear of death is DIRECTLY connected to your procrastination problem. If we lived nothing would ever truly be urgent and quadrants one and three wouldn’t really exist. We fool ourselves into thinking we’d spend our time in Q2 (“but there was finally time” twilight zone gif here) but we’d probably still end up in q4 eating lotuses….

    If we were immortal, we wouldn’t have to feel BAD about how much of our lives are wasting away (writing comments to a blog post instead of improving myself) and at least we’d conquer the self-loathing monster (for a while at least).

    The question is what is root cause; does procrastination cause fear of death, or the reverse, and how can we get a handle on it?

  • Alex

    Dear Tim,

    Halfway through the article I feared that you were slowly leading us to the fact that you would give up wait but why because your monkey found another interesting project for you. Happy to hear that this is not the case. Thanks for all the interesting thoughts and wisdom you share with us, please keep it up.

    Cheers from Tokyo,

    Alex

    • Vivid

      Hahaha. I feared the same.

    • Skuser

      Same here!

      • Guest

        ✸✸✸✸✔✸✸✸✸✔86$ PER H0UR@ah30:

        Going

        Here you Can

        Find Out

        ►►► http://BlogWorkOnline.com/help/join

      • Guest

        ♥❧♥❧♥❧86$ PER HOUℛ@ai25:

        Going Here you
        Can Find Out,,,,

        ►►► http://GeoWorkOnline.uk/live1/position40

        ✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔

      • Jade Booth

        yahoo google youtube and mommyish

        Read Full Article

        ◐◐◐◐◐◐◐◐◐ Get More Info GET MORE INFORMATION HERE’S

        !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!sdd!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!sdsds!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Daisy Fowler

        ➧➧➧➧➧➧➧ waitbutwhy Best way working online ,google yahoo,

        Read Full Article

        ➧➧➧➧➧➧➧➧ More About Now

      • Sandra Seely

        ☣☣☣☣☣☣ waitbutwhy-Best way Only For Students,google yahoo,Facebook,twitter,

        Read Full Article

        ☣☣☣☣☣☣Get More Info ☛ Check Simple Task

    • Rodrigo Gomes

      Maybe deep inside this is exactly what is happening, but he decided that this is not the right time to talk about it. We are not ready to handle the truth 😉

  • Vivid

    I am having a hard time categorizing my tasks (to-dos) to correct quadrant. Can anyone give me some tips? For example, I spend a lot of time reading books (fiction and non-fiction). I do it mainly for leisure purpose but I also know it is a good habit and I am lucky to find my entertainment through books. If possible, I could spend my entire day reading books. But again, that is not going to make me fulfill on its own. in which quadrant does reading fall into?

    • Skuser

      I have the same. Although it’s definitely a way of procrastinating, I tell myself it falls in the Q2 category — very important though not urgent.

    • Nora

      I think Tim/Eisenhower forgot too mention one more Q: the Q5 that is the time in the evening (or morning whenever you prefer) you’ve spend a significant amount of productive time within Q2 or Q1 and can relax doing whatever you feel like (and a productive day still leaves some 6-8 hours of Q5 at least in Europe). Thus this can be Facebook, Netflix, reading whatever you prefer at that moment, the happy playground. Too decide you should read books within Q2, Q1 or Q5 is up too you, i suggest you turn too the definitions of important or urgent. What do you want too achieve the coming in the upcoming 10 years/ your life? Read 1000 books? Start working for a publisher and this is preparation?Than reading should be in Q1 or Q2. If not just use your joy in reading in the fair and happy playground i would suggest. Good luck and Tim THANKS A LOT AGAIN. This is very useful. (i say while procrastinating)

  • An e-mail from you sends me to the Dark playground, whereas actively going to your site when I deserve some down time is Happy Playground.

    Now I just wish YOU’d go to Q2 and make these posts into a book

    • A

      He did make the first year of posts into an ebook book, and I think it included the first two procrastination posts.

      • Yes, I know, but thanks.

        I was hoping more of a full-length book centered around PC only, sprinkled with more personal examples, thoughts (and perhaps even some science) on the phenomenon

  • HeartBlossoms

    Your posts on procrastination are probably some of the best content I have ever read. Procrastination has seriously hurt my life and my ability to excel/earn money. I’m self-employed, which means I need to manage my time well. Unfortunately, I don’t, and I end up constantly scrambling to finish things. I was very much like you in college; if my paper was due at 2:00, I’d start it after lunch and it would still be hot from the printer when I handed it in, but I did well, so it didn’t hurt me much. Now that procrastination affects my income, it is much more of a problem.

  • Reinhardt

    I think i’m slow, slowly moving towards getting at least a little bit better at it. It was your first procrastination article that got me moving and in a way changed my life – it was because of that that I started to get a hint of what was going on. It was also because of that, and the fact that your tips to get better weren’t working, no matter what I tried, that I started to dive more into it and started to think that I might have ADD. That was all during last year. Now I do have a diagnosis for ADD.

    I’ve read Piers Steel’s book called “The Procrastination Equation” and I guess you’ve used that in your research too (he writes about the neurologic conditions that makes us procrastinate, which you’ve brillliantly translated to the Panic Monster and the Instant Gratification Monkey), however, when I made the equation it turned out that I was in the worst 5% of procrastinators around. Couldn’t suck any more at getting things done. Good to know.

    However, it is amphetamines and other ADD-medicine like Ritalin in combination with work like yours that makes me see a growing point at the horizon, that point being: important things I actually get done. I now try to get up early, have breakfast right away and pop my medicine and that goes well for some period, and when I stop using the medicine it’s gone. So I actually think I should do it consistently, even if it doesn’t feel too right sometimes, depending on this medicine… But it simply works. For now it seems the right thing to do.

    Having said that: if you are one of those thinking that your procrastination couldn’t get worse: have yourself checked on AD(H)D. It is clearly not a fake hype-disease. It is something that you are born with, I didn’t know for example that they can actually visualise it with brainscans. When the psychologist had my mother over to talk about childhood, she would bring reports from primary school and though it used different words, actually every teacher said: he has AD(H)D – which wasn’t that common at that time (I’m now 30, which is a weird age to get to know this), which explains why they used different words. But: always busy with something else than he’s suppossed to, always looking somewhere else than he’s suppossed to, not sitting still etc.

    Thing is, all my life I’ve done jobs and though I was able to do them well, in the long run I would get fired, actually because of those symptoms and because of the fact I started to dislike the jobs in the end, maybe fueled by all the failire. Much like how Tim described things, the monkey just made me think I would want to be in IT, which in the end I clearly wouldn’t. Everything failed and then people started saying; follow your passion, do what you feel like doing. Point was: I didn’t feel like doing anything anymore, as any choice I’ve made was the wrong one. Guess that makes me a disastinator. But as I didn’t finish secondary school I realised that going on having proper jobs though being uneducated wasn’t a good thing. I knew I was capable of more and so I wanted to study. This is a few years ago and that was when I realised quickly that wanting something, doing something that has your interest, actually makes no difference at all… Now that I know that I have AD(H)D (my hyperactivity is very slight, it’s mostly problems with attention I have, so that’s why I ‘ve locked in the H) the world seems much clearer to me, I know the roots of the trouble and it feels like I’m already better at avoiding a lot of shit caused by the symptoms than ever, only because I know. I’m not even there for 1/100th, but I feel progress. I actually don’t even now what kind of Inator I am at this point, guess I’m in another morphing phase.

    So if you feel helpless; go read about AD(H)D, try to see if it might apply to you and if so; have yourself diagnosed. It can really make a difference.

    Anyway, reading this article gave me again new insights on the matter and I am now about to print this matrix to put on my wall in front of me, so I can hopefully get myself to, especially when I’m working behind a computer, check if i’m doing what I should be doing right now. Tim, thanks again… I don’t know if you have any idea about the amount of positive and helpful influence you’ve really had – and still have – on me and probably many many others with your articles about procrastination, but it almost makes me feel bad never being able to give back in the same way to you. 😉

    However, it is your website that, to me, singlehandedly promoted the internet to a concrete place where actual lifechanging things can be learned, instead of some place where usual information exists but will never get to a level of profoundness found in books or even films sometimes. I really think you should publish a full real paper book at some point (and have it translated in many languages eventually), as I think you’ll actually reach even more people with that.

    • I was diagnosed with ADD pretty late, too. About two years ago. I took medication for a couple of months, but it made me life-crushingly depressed at certain points. I stopped taking it and just kind of dropped off the face of my psychologist’s planet because it was such a horrifying experience. (I very nearly killed myself.) I haven’t been able to bear thinking about trying again with a different medication since then.

      I remember that feeling, though, when it did work. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it. Like, oh. I am the boss of my brain. Of course. This is so simple. I’ve decided to fight it out the hard way (lots of meditation and mindfulness and time-tracking and finding a job where I can play to my strengths (hyper-focus, for one) as much as possible). But I already wrote a comment here which I think probably illustrates how well that’s going for me.

      Anyway, thank you for talking about ADD. It’s been running in the back of my head throughout this whole series but I was too afraid to mention it before. Seems silly now, and I really appreciate you bringing it up. I’m glad you finally got yourself diagnosed and that the medication is working for you. It’s one of those things that makes the idea of going back to try again with a different medication seem like it might be worth trying.

      • Reinhardt

        Well, for me personally it is impossible to see procrastination apart from ADD, as it is the subject of procrastination that brought me to have me checked on ADD in the first place. But I’m sure you don’t have to have ADD to be a procrastinator. ADD probably just strenghtens the Monkey.

        Anyway, I’m aware of the dangers that come with the medicine. I’m glad that you’ve found other ways, thanks for mentioning that. That really gives a bit of hope in a way. But for now I don’t think i’m ready for that, I should first learn a thing or two about structure, or at least it feels so. Also, ofcourse, when the medication doesn’t bring any complications I don’t see why I would not use it. Guess it’s gonna be a matter of staying aware and monitoring and regularly checking up with my doctor.

        • Sabine

          I’m on Ritalin right now. I have been procrastinating all day. It just makes me more enthusiastic about my procrastination, which isn’t necessarily a good thing because it will probably have to wear off before I take a moment to stop and collect myself and switch to more productive work. Not that reading this and all the comments isn’t productive but researching and reading about procrastination is my main Q3 activity and is probably the only somewhat productive activity I have accomplish lately.

  • Ben Yacobi

    My Instant Gratification Monkey enjoyed printing off the Eisenhower Matrix, and eagerly pinned it up in front of my desk. At first I thought “Heh heh heh, he’s working towards his very own demise.” But something tells me he knows exactly what he’s doing. The little shit.

  • Voroshin

    Hi Tim,

    Like all you previous posts, this was well researched,
    grounded in reality and very entertaining. But a few contrary thoughts, I would
    like to share

    1.
    Q2 is mirage: As you say ”…. the road to the
    procrastinator’s dreams—the road to expanding his horizons, exploring his true
    potential, and achieving work he’s truly proud of—runs directly through
    Quadrant 2. Q1 and Q3 may be where people survive, but Q2 is where people
    thrive, grow, and blossom”…But there is problem there. Let’s say, if you
    control your Instant Gratification Monkey (IGM) and successfully reach the Q2
    goal at 25 which you set at 20, you would have moved on by that time. The 25 you
    would decide that he wants something else, his real talent lays elsewhere.
    Again you throttle your IGM and spend time in Q2 to reach the goal you set at
    25. And if your goals are material, then I daresay this cycle would not end.

    If I take my example, Q1 for me would be work at office, Q3
    would be attending any social functions and Q4 would be reading books, watching
    movies, international travel etc. And I understand I have to do Q1 to fund my
    Q4 and I have do Q3 because I live in a society and certain behavior is
    expected. What is Q2 for me? I may try to learn a new technology or a product
    which would help my career prospect in future. But since I am not passionate
    about my job and I look at it as source of funds for Q4 activities, I am not
    looking to make great strides in workplace. Maybe I can learn to play an
    instrument, a new language, an actual physical skill (woodwork, farming etc).
    That would certainly qualify as a Q2 activity. But should I invest time in it?

    2.
    What’s so wrong with being in Q4?: Life can be
    short and unpredictable. There are so many things happening all around us, none
    of them under our control, which can change our lives drastically. So the only
    thing any of us are sure of is this moment. So why not give in to IGM? Gratification
    payoff in Q4 is instant while payoff in Q2 is no at all guaranteed. And sure,
    you need to make sure to take care of Q1 diligently to make sure you can afford
    to be in Q4. But the way I approach my Q1 and Q3 is faster I finish my tasks
    here, more time I will have in Q4. Which gives me an extra boost.

    Fact of the matter is if I do not read comics today, I am
    not going to be able to read them ever. Replace the comic thing with your
    favorite thing to do and you will see that I am not wrong. And since, future is so unpredictable,
    planning for it using today’s data is not very practical. So why not indulge in
    what makes you happy today? Q4?…So be it!!

    • Rodrigo Gomes

      “Maybe I can learn to play an
      instrument, a new language, an actual physical skill” -> I think it’s OK to put some pleasant non-professional activities in Q2. Of course it is important that those activities don’t fall in the “instant gratification” group, and that they provide some long-term personal growth. The activities in the quote are good examples

    • Skal

      Aw, thanks for this comment, now I can know I’m not the only one who thinks so!

    • Robert Arctor

      I feel like many comments, including yours, are taking the four quadrants as fixed and objective, whereas they will necessarily be different for different people and at different times of their lives. Q4 is not ‘leisure time’, but rather ‘what is neither important nor urgent to you’.

      You say: life is short and unpredictable, so my ultimate goal is to enjoy my time as much as possible through the leisure activities I love (like reading comics). Work is an unavoidable task (Q1) which I need to get done in order to fund my leisure activities. It also seems that, for the moment, you don’t have any other big, unaddressed goals. So, it seems to me that, given your world view, reading comics and enjoying the moment should not be placed in Q4, but in Q2. If your philosophy is that the ultimate goal of life is to enjoy the present moment because everything else is too risky and/or outside our control, then enjoying life in the moment (reading comics) is your Q2, not your Q4.

      However, if somewhere deep down you feel that you’re kind of missing those risky and unreliable Q2 payoffs you talk about, and your life as it is now doesn’t feel ‘right’, I would check with the monkey to see if by any chance that bold ‘live in the moment’ philosophy of yours isn’t something he has cunningly implanted into your head…

      (and apologies if I misinterpreted your words).

      • Voroshin

        No apologies necessary, Robert. I welcome your well reasoned comment.
        Another thing I failed to mention is…Our mind will always tell is something does not feel ‘right’…Too many example out there of people who, by any standard, should be deliriously happy but actually are down in dumps…..being unsatisfied is our mind’s default setting no matter how awesome our current situation is…..It’s the mind who will tell a successful accountant that his real talent is in rapping….to a successful actor that he should run a restaurant…to husband of Sandra Bullock that having an affair with multiple women is a good idea….
        The frustrating thing is our mind is not wrong all the time…Sometime it could be right on the money…The key is to recognize if there is a genuine gap in your life or it’s just your mind acting spoiled….and not many of us can differentiate that correctly
        So I would not pay too much attention if my life does not ‘feel’ right….If there is a genuine problem it would get in Q1 and it will be dealt with….but if not, then I would rather sit back, read books, watch movies, drink scotch….to hell with which quadrant I am in 🙂

      • M.B.

        I used to share your view for many years.. but I’ve come to realize that I had that philosophy to protect my own ego. The truth is, I didn’t feel like trying hard for anything and fail. “enjoying” your life from day to day by reading comic books and doing whatever you like is choosing the easy way, the way of the least resistance. And honestly.. It’s cowardous.

        Pushing yourself to excel at something, even though you might fail miserably or have to conquer your fears (fear of speaking in front of groups of people, fear of speaking to women, what ever) that’s what eventually grants the biggest satisfaction.

        No offense intended by the way.. I just suspect and hope you change your view at some point like I did.. You have only one life to live so it’s good to find out what you’re capable of and exploring life to the fullest before being gone forever 🙂

  • Skal

    So, I tried starting with making my matrix and… I can’t.
    “Brett McKay defines “important tasks” as things that contribute to our long-term mission, values, and goals.”

    I have no mission, no goals. I have no intention to do anything in my life, actually. I live on a paradoxical “I’d suicide if I were dead, but I’m not dead yet”.
    I can’t decide what’s important. Others tell me what I should think about as important, yet, nothing of that seems to matter to me.
    Live a successful life they say, or, at least, mean. Yeah, well, why do I have to do anything about that? I’m happy. I don’t have any responsibilities bugging me. I don’t bug anyone else much. Isn’t that success? Isn’t that what everybody would want?
    I sometimes feel the urge to stop my procrastination. I mean, everyone else wants me to do so too, still, I am the only one who questions it.
    Well, I’m sick of philosophy, right now, I don’t even want to know what’s important to me.

    – An another monkey whose RDM is shouting at it this very moment.

  • Ben Yacobi

    I think Tim’s Instant Gratification Monkey should get its image put at the top of The Shed. It’s clearly steering the ship when those posts are being researched.

  • Alexis

    Thank you for writing this because right now I really needed to read it. I’m not exactly sure where I fall (I feel like I am a Successinator) but I am on the verge of quitting my full-time, decently-paid job because I hate where I am in my life. It’s like I happened to look up and discovered that I have absolutely no idea where I am. I just want to be happy and I’m not and I don’t know what will make me happy. I discovered a hobby I like and that inspired me to start a blog of my own hoping to document the change in my life – quitting my job, doing my own thing and really delving into having autonomy over my life but in the year I’ve had the blog, I’ve published like 7 posts. Guess what has kept me from that? Work, Family, Xbox and anything else that isn’t writing or crafting. Pretty effing ironic. I went the full way and bought the .com and said that spending the money towards that would force me to pay attention and take it seriously. Pffffffffft! How stupid you are, Alexis!

    Anyway, I think today is the day I’m quitting and I don’t have anything lined up. I’ve been on a couple interviews that haven’t turned into anything and I’m pretty scared. I enjoy the stability and routine but I’m 32 and it’s gotten me nowhere. What the fuck am I waiting for? My life is passing me by and I don’t have anything to show for it. Thanks, Tim. I really appreciate your blogs and your writing. It’s always compelling and it has really helped me.

  • Rodrigo Gomes

    Fact:
    WBW used to promise new posts on Tuesdays, at that time the monkey worked to publish the posts in any day but Tuesdays.
    Now the site says “Hey, we are not putting new posts on Tuesdays anymore”, and guess in which day of week the monkey decided to publish…

  • Mehmet

    It must be hard for sane people to understand the procrastinator’s mind.

    After this post, thx to Tim, I can see my monkey a lot more clearly.
    I look at my life and see I’m a Impostinator sliding into being a Disastinator.
    I Used to spend a lot of time in Q3 and Q4, now it is mostly Q4.

    However during this process somehow my RDM is trying show me a way to Q2,
    as I spend a little more time every week making forays into Q2 ( mostly dragged back to Q4
    by the monkey).

    I’m trying to take back some of things I left to Future Me, and although I haven’t been successful at all,
    I’ll keep on trying until I spend some meaningful time in Q2.

    So there’s my situation:

    Q1 – 0% Q2 – 2%
    Q3 – 20% Q4 – 78%

  • Thanks Tim. I’ve been a reader for a long while. I’ll try to leave a comment now.

    It took me years and two failed attempts at college to get to Successtinator, and I couldn’t have managed it without a ridiculous amount of good fortunate, and I’ve only been here for a little less than a year so I guess we’ll see how well it sticks.

    I think we all kind of need to ask ourselves if control over our brains really is possible. It’s not if you can’t find purpose – and if you’re at the whim of the monkey whose greatest trick is deluding you into thinking that he knows the secret to finding your sense of it, you never will. He’s a will-o-the-wisp, a siren, and you can’t get the strength to beat him down until you have already figured out a way to beat him down. You say there are more dire things, and that’s true. But take somebody controlled by a monkey and put them at or near poverty and you’ve got one hell of a tragedy. Maybe a first-world tragedy, sure, but that might not be as cushy as we like to think it is. (Then again I’m coming from Appalachia, which is the secret armpit of America where third-world conditions dress themselves up with useless student protests and jokes about incest and are typically glossed over pretty hard. This is a rant for another day. >_>)

    I’ve found in web-development what you seem to have found in blogging. A constant state of near-panic to learn as much as humanly possible and efficiently churn that knowledge out into production-ready code within strict deadlines. Responding to crisis situations and having a very public ‘Contact Us’ form with an invitation for bug reports, complaints, and issues is my best friend. Except it’s not, because instead of wasting my time in Q4 watching TV with people I love, I now spend about 90% of my time in Q3 and Q1. It’s not healthy. But my response to ‘this isn’t healthy’ is ‘OK, let’s go relax in Q4 for so long that I start to hate myself again, then we’ll remember how healthy it isn’t!’

    And now that back-end development is my job, front-end development is starting to look pretty damn enticing. I track my time. I spent 90 hours on the computer last week and 80% of that is labelled as ‘very productive’ (which is broken down more specifically by the software I’m using) and the thing is, I know this isn’t healthy but I’ve never been more proud of anything in my life. It feels good. A more balanced lifestyle might feel better, but I’ve never *lived* a more balanced lifestyle. I get the chance to not hate myself, and it’s easy to get bitter about the fact that *more* is expected of me when I’ve already worked so frakking hard to figure out how to get by without the ability to spend any meaningful amount of time in Q2. I’ve been called lazy, apathetic, useless – by myself as well as others. But people don’t say that about me anymore, and I can now honestly let go of those labels. I’d like to think that this means I’m gaining some semblance of control.

    But are we? We need to define what control looks like, I guess. And I suppose ‘spend more time in Q2’ and ‘live a balanced lifestyle’ and ‘minimize your reputation for being a complete space case’ are valid enough goals. But what if I’m just wired differently? What if it’s not a bad thing that I have no patience for Q2? What if I’m sick of fighting so hard for control and, to have finally at least put myself on a track where I’m not going to become homeless or waste anymore money on student debt that never got me anywhere, the lazy part of me comes back and says, “OK, this is good enough. You don’t need to keep fighting so hard to be like everybody else and find this elusive balance thing. Eff that.” (Especially since that perfect group of people called ‘everybody else’ is a figment of my imagination anyway, I think.)

    Well, then. My relationships *still* suffer (but they’ve always suffered), and I’ll probably die young from sloth (but that’s always been a thing – I worked harder to get out of gym than almost anything else all the way through high school). If I don’t get lung cancer from self-medicating with tobacco (before I chain-smoked and marathoned Battlestar Galactica – now I chain smoke and spend eight hours cross-referencing documentation to code in a library I’m trying to hook into my moderately complex web application) then I’ll probably die in a car accident because I totally didn’t see that semi-truck. After years and years of battling my brain and the way it’s wired, I haven’t changed at all. But now when I tell people what I do I can feel a sense of accomplishment and they don’t look at me disdainfully and try to feed me canned advice that’s already been rattling around in my head like a pin ball for years before them and their self-righteous good intentions came along.

    Is control really possible? Is it worth it to keep fighting? I’m not asking you to answer these questions. It’s just that as I read this post, they’re the questions that keep popping up. Of course the RDM takes a pretty firm stance on this: Choose life, keep trying, don’t give up, there be dragons. And while the monkey is busy writing a ridiculously depressing response to a really amazingly well thought-out and deeply affirming blog post, the panic monster is napping in a corner somewhere.

    Where’s that damn mammoth, though? He doesn’t seem to be around to prevent me from clicking the post button. … Oh well.

    I’m not sure if this comment adds any value to this discussion but *damn* that felt good to be able to borrow your language to articulate a lot of rage and sadness and hopelessness that I feel and carry with me on a regular basis. Your posts are amazing and they bring a lot of joy and amusement and long discussions about the Fermi Paradox and AI into my life.

    Thank you.

  • E

    How do you know what’s in Q2 is what will make you happy? What happens if you spend all this time laying bricks and end up not liking the house you’ve built?

    • A

      To use your example, if building a house is what’s important, I would put laying bricks in Q1 and designing the house in Q2. The only way to make sure you like the house you build is to spend a lot of time in Q2 so you don’t lose sight of the big picture.

  • Ben

    My story:
    I tried to work while traveling, be part of the “digital nomad” movement. I can do it, I’m a fairly good Developer. So I tried it for 3 month, it just didn’t work for me at all. I just ended up staying in my hotel room all the time to get work done which I didn’t for most of the time but instead I watched ALL seasons from HIMYM.
    I rationalised that away: “If I don’t do this job I can’t afford the diving course but fuck it, diving is boring anyway”.
    As much as I like the idea of it, I’m just not able to do it.
    Well, now I’m again in a normal office job where I get paid for being physically in the office and not for the amount of work I actually do.
    ——–

    I found your “future-me” very well described, but that is actually one of the biggest issue for me. I do trust my future-me. I do think every single time “Of course I can do it, why couldn’t I?” and every single time I’m wrong. As soon as I need to actual do it I’ll fail.

    I never thought about it quite as you described it but it actually fits extremely well and I do believe that could help me a little to get my shit together. Although in my experience thinking my future-me can do something is usually nothing I should rely on…

  • Juliana

    I’m always procrastinating without even realizing it. But the way you’ve put it, it became cristal clear to me. I always have this feeling that time goes by so fast and I can’t acomplish what I really want, I’m always busy but I don’t have a feeling of fullfilment. And you made me realize that this is because I spend most of my time not even os square Q4 but on square Q3. All the time I do things that are not important but seem urgent. The things that are really important are on Q2 and I should spend more time on them but I never can because I’m doing the things on Q3! And since the things on Q3 are not important, I do a lot of things but never get ahead on what really matters to me so I always end up feeling frustrated. I always felt that I didn’t have enough time but that was because I couldn’t see how badly I am in choosing how to use my time. Q3 is really tricky, because you do feel busy, but actually you’re busy with the wrong things.You really changed how I see it and I feel I can start to choose better now to be each time more in touch with what really matters.

  • Stefan

    Here’s an amazing talk that completely changed the way I look at procrastination: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0HVwnOS0Wg

  • TAW

    This article falls into the lower right quadrant and appeals only to my Instant Gratification Monkey. Which begs the question: Where the hell do you get the time to read this much copy — let alone write it?

  • Timothy Cricket

    But what if my Procrastination Monkey assassinated my RDM years ago? Would that be A mental disorder or just mental disorder?

    • Skal

      You would kind of just do random easiest-to-do stuff if you didn’t have an RDM. And you’d probably be already dead cause eatin’ ain’t as easy as not eating.

  • Cabnboy

    I spent about a half hour reading this and was very motivated by the end of the reading. Since finishing it, I’ve watch 8-10 videos on youtube, looked out the window for 10 minutes, and talked to a coworker for a half an hour. Stupid Monkey! I will control you!

  • hyiltiz

    Best content ever!

  • Vivek Naik

    I am an impostinator

  • penguinmarch

    I’m a PhD student and I struggle with this so much… Q2 is the worst. I have no measure of progress most weeks. So some days I wake up at noon: those extra 3 hours of sleep will always feel way better than 3 extra hours of aimless work. I’m really really trying to put benchmarks on myself, but then sometimes I get overambitious with those benchmarks, and then when I can’t make them I feel like a failure. So I’m not really sure how to be an adult but I’m doing my best.

    That being said, it’s really comforting to know that other people are dealing with the same issues as I am in PhD land. My roommate is super productive, so sometimes I feel like the only one with a procrastination problem, but I know that can’t be true.

  • Sultan Andre

    a great article,great work tim

  • vanshaak

    Reading this, I felt like a “I’m breaking up with you” was coming the whole time. It never did, thankfully; this is the only blog (possibly only consistent thing I do on the internet) that’s in Q2.

    Reading about your description of the disastinator really hit the nail on the head. I realized I was being a type 2 disastinator, I just didn’t know how to articulate it. I was too comfortable in my life, I had all of my immediate needs met – I had virtually unlimited free time, and I had my room and a kickass computer, paired with unlimited high speed internet, 2 monitors, and unlimited access to anything via torrents.
    I gave it all up intentionally, and moved into a place 150 miles away into a trailer so I could share a room with my mom and a house with my tweaker aunt. I can’t even get anything but satellite or dial-up internet here. I haven’t seen my desktop or slept in a bed in 2 months.

    And I don’t regret it. I’m unhappy as hell here, but it’s forcing me to get the ball rolling on both Q1 and Q2, making me face my panic monster so I can get to a place in my life where I can lounge again. If I stayed where I was, I would’ve never got anything done. I still might not accomplish what I want to do – but I’ll get a lot closer than I would’ve had I stayed where I was. Now excuse me, I have to go start the first of 5 essay papers due by the end of the semester (y’know, the one that started 2 months ago).

    • Dragos Alexandru Costiniu

      This story of yours is very moving and very true – I didn’t really get the
      first part though [mainly – where from did you have the money to have all
      needs met, since you had that much time free?], but that is not an issue.
      What I wanted to talk to you about is an old story that I once heard and found
      thoughtful:
      There once was an Amerindian sitting on a chair and smoking his. Along came a
      man – call it a business man – and asked him:
      B: Why do you sit here, without doing anything?
      A: Because this is what I like to do.
      B: Why don’t you do something to earn money?
      A: Like what?
      B: Like fishing.
      A: Why would I do that?
      B: So that you could sell the fish and earn money to buy a boat.
      A: And what would I do with a boat?
      B: You would go out at sea, fish some more – better and more efficiently, and
      sell the fish for even more money.
      A: OK, but why would I do that and what would I do then with all the money?
      B: You would buy more ships, hire people to work for you on those ships and
      earn even more money.
      A: And why is that? What will I do next?
      B: Well then, you will have a lot of money and you will be able to just sit
      idle and not work for the rest of your life.
      A: So how is that going to be different to what I am doing right now?
      I guess you can draw your own conclusions 😛

  • DeeDee Massey

    I hope to get around to gaining much more experience in Q4, so that one day I’ll be a pro-crastinator. I’m an amateur-crastinator now, but one of these days, maybe I’ll be the greatest or at least not the worst, at doing whatever, whenever.

  • disqus_YC5t1t9xLL

    Alright, so this is my
    first comment here. I have been reading and enjoying the articles consistently,
    however, I felt that I could really relate to this one in particular. I will
    share my point of view of the subject and let you know my secret twisted solution
    at the end (That actually somewhat worked for me and hopefully it might work
    for some of you). Excuse my average English, it is my third language.

    So I am a Lebanese
    architect who graduated 2 years ago (I’m 25). I wanted to start my own freelance
    business (Design and 3D) in Beirut (the capital of Lebanon if you’ve ever been
    there or even heard of it) I really believed that I have the potential/skills
    to do it but due to the unfortunate instability in my country and the lovely
    region, I moved to Dubai and started working as a site architect, 6 days per
    week starting 7am. In summary, I hate my job, I feel like shit every day.

    One good thing about the job
    is that I finish at 4-5 pm everyday so technically I do have some free time to
    do something. My plan was to do some freelance or even some theoretical projects
    to build my portfolio and then do a small website or a facebook page and see
    where it goes from there.

    The plan however went
    tremendously in a different direction, although I did buy a super computer for
    the job (32 cores – 3.4GHz hyperthreaded). I am getting home at around 4-5pm,
    smoke couple of cigarettes and going directly to sleep, I usually wake up at
    around 12-1 am, smoke 1-2 cigarettes and get back to sleep. I’ll finally wake
    up at 6:05 am, snooze to 7:40 and get to work at 8:30, one and half hour late.
    This has been my life for the past 18 months, and whenever I feel some kind of
    energy or at least I can’t sleep, I end up watching a movie, and then going
    back to sleep.

    Before I came Dubai, I
    used to go the gym and rarely smoked. I stopped gym here and my smoking habits
    are picking up.

    So recently I have been
    really trying to change my habits. Nothing was working until I created some
    sort of a solution. It is not a new solution, but I believe in its
    effectiveness. It is based on creating a reward/punishment system, a way to
    control the selfish useless monkey. What I really noticed is that the reward
    system is pretty hopeless but the punishment system is, at least for now,
    showing some positive results. My first punishment system was pretty cheap, I just
    broke a lighter, I had plenty lying around and used the electrical thingy (Taser)
    to electrocute myself whenever is needed. So now when I go to sleep in the
    afternoon, I put an alarm every 5 minutes and next to my phone you can see the
    Taser. With every snooze I’ll get some free voltage. My sleeping periods
    decreased dramatically from all day to 30-40 minutes max + 6 hours at night.

    The idea is to create free
    “awake” time and then to convert this time to productive time. So the next step
    was also as difficult as the first one. I needed other punishment systems to
    convert this time. In this step I tried to find something that I really hate. I
    found that I really hate pickles and I’m a bit stingy. So here they are, my
    conversion adapters just been found. Whenever, I am awake and I am trying to
    start something beneficial, the monkey instantly starts picking a movie title
    and reading some reviews off imdb. This
    was the case from university days, however, back then I used to stop wasting
    time but not really getting to work, so I end up doing literally nothing for
    weeks.

    So now, I am not fighting
    anymore with the instant gratification monkey. He is my best buddy right now.
    If he wants to watch a movie, that’s fine by me, I just offer my buddy some
    pickles snack for the movie and while at it I start folding money into paper
    planes and throwing them from the windows. I needed to create a system to keep
    things under control, similar to the 5 mins snooze/volts system. So whenever I’m
    up doing nothing or watching a movie, I have to eat a pickle every 20 mins/
    throw 20 aed (~5$) or get to work (the rates are exponentially increasing to
    prevent adaptation). Sometimes I get really attached to the movie, unfortunately
    that is very costly at the moment. I understand that throwing money might be
    seen as immoral or unethical, I know that there are plenty of unfortunate
    people out there who actually need the money for some basic needs. But I don’t
    really care anymore, or most importantly I stopped convincing myself that I
    really cared in the first place. I mean everything is deeply fucked up. I don’t
    think there is anything worth doing or caring for in the first place.

    Anyway, getting back to
    the main subject, the conclusion here is that system, at the current moment, is
    showing some positive results. I finished one theoretical project, and I
    designed the interior of a local restaurant for a friend of mine. I enjoy
    designing but if I don’t have a due, it’s almost impossible for me to start
    something.

    I really think if you can
    create a punishment system and abide by it, you can get rid of really bad
    habits and by the time you are really independent of those habit you can ditch
    the punishment system. The idea might sound a bit weird/irrational but there is
    nothing major to lose. Desperate calls for desperate measures. I don’t really
    have multiple personality, I just thought that I really hate pickles and maybe
    this can be useful in some way.

    Anyway sorry for the long
    post and the English mistakes, I just thought to share my experience in the
    subject. Hopefully this might be helpful to someone.

    • N00less Cluebie

      Hey, instead of throwing the money away, put it in an envelope and when it reaches a certain amount use it to hire a therapist. That way your monkey might actually end up paying for some real help

      • A

        Lol, we got a funny hypocrite hipster.

        • N00less Cluebie

          No. I’m actually being serious here. If he’s throwing money away as a tool against the monkey he can make it more effective by actually using that money to get additional help against his IGM

  • A.

    Alright, so this is my first comment here. I have been reading and enjoying the articles consistently,

    however, I felt that I could really relate to this one in particular. I will
    share my point of view of the subject and let you know my secret twisted solution
    at the end (That actually somewhat worked for me and hopefully it might work
    for some of you). Excuse my average English, it is my third language.

    So I am a Lebanese architect who graduated 2 years ago (I’m 25). I wanted to start my own freelance
    business (Design and 3D) in Beirut (the capital of Lebanon if you’ve ever been
    there or even heard of it) I really believed that I have the potential/skills
    to do it but due to the unfortunate instability in my country and the lovely
    region, I moved to Dubai and started working as a site architect, 6 days per
    week starting 7am. In summary, I hate my job, I feel like shit every day.

    One good thing about the job is that I finish at 4-5 pm everyday so technically I do have some free time to
    do something. My plan was to do some freelance or even some theoretical projects
    to build my portfolio and then do a small website or a facebook page and see
    where it goes from there.

    The plan however went tremendously in a different direction, although I did buy a super computer for
    the job (32 cores – 3.4GHz hyperthreaded). I am getting home at around 4-5pm,
    smoke couple of cigarettes and going directly to sleep, I usually wake up at
    around 12-1 am, smoke 1-2 cigarettes and get back to sleep. I’ll finally wake
    up at 6:05 am, snooze to 7:40 and get to work at 8:30, one and half hour late.
    This has been my life for the past 18 months, and whenever I feel some kind of
    energy or at least I can’t sleep, I end up watching a movie, and then going
    back to sleep.

    Before I came Dubai, I used to go the gym and rarely smoked. I stopped gym here and my smoking habits
    are picking up.

    So recently I have been really trying to change my habits. Nothing was working until I created some
    sort of a solution. It is not a new solution, but I believe in its
    effectiveness. It is based on creating a reward/punishment system, a way to
    control the selfish useless monkey. What I really noticed is that the reward
    system is pretty hopeless but the punishment system is, at least for now,
    showing some positive results. My first punishment system was pretty cheap, I just
    broke a lighter, I had plenty lying around and used the electrical thingy (Taser)
    to electrocute myself whenever is needed. So now when I go to sleep in the
    afternoon, I put an alarm every 5 minutes and next to my phone you can see the
    Taser. With every snooze I’ll get some free voltage. My sleeping periods
    decreased dramatically from all day to 30-40 minutes max + 6 hours at night.

    The idea is to create free “awake” time and then to convert this time to productive time. So the next step
    was also as difficult as the first one. I needed other punishment systems to
    convert this time. In this step I tried to find something that I really hate. I
    found that I really hate pickles and I’m a bit stingy. So here they are, my
    conversion adapters just been found. Whenever, I am awake and I am trying to
    start something beneficial, the monkey instantly starts picking a movie title
    and reading some reviews off imdb. This
    was the case from university days, however, back then I used to stop wasting
    time but not really getting to work, so I end up doing literally nothing for
    weeks.

    So now, I am not fighting anymore with the instant gratification monkey. He is my best buddy right now.
    If he wants to watch a movie, that’s fine by me, I just offer my buddy some
    pickles snack for the movie and while at it I start folding money into paper
    planes and throwing them from the windows. I needed to create a system to keep
    things under control (to avoid becoming a bulimic broke), similar to the 5 mins
    snooze/volts system. So whenever I’m up doing nothing or watching a movie, I
    have to eat a pickle every 20 mins/ throw 20 aed (~5$) or get to work (the
    rates are exponentially increasing to prevent adaptation). Sometimes I get
    really attached to the movie, unfortunately that is very costly at the moment.
    I understand that throwing money might be seen as immoral or unethical, I know
    that there are plenty of unfortunate people out there who actually need the money
    for some basic needs. But I don’t really care anymore, or most importantly I
    stopped convincing myself that I really cared in the first place. I mean
    everything is deeply fucked up. I don’t think there is anything worth doing or
    caring for in the first place.

    Anyway, getting back to the main subject, the conclusion here is that system, at the current moment, is
    showing some positive results. I finished one theoretical project, and I
    designed the interior of a local restaurant for a friend of mine. I enjoy
    designing but if I don’t have a due, it’s almost impossible for me to start
    something.

    I really think if you can create a punishment system and abide by it, you can get rid of really bad
    habits and by the time you are really independent of those habit you can ditch
    the punishment system. The idea might sound a bit weird/irrational but there is
    nothing major to lose. Desperate calls for desperate measures. I don’t really
    have multiple personality, I just thought that I really hate pickles and maybe
    this can be useful in some way.

    Anyway sorry for the long post and the English mistakes, I just thought to share my experience in the
    subject. Hopefully this might be helpful to someone.

  • Lavin

    My monkey was in love with WaitButWhy before and i often found this in my Q4.
    Now as I read this often, my monkey has moved on! *insert facepalm emoji here*

    Stupid monkey!
    Y u no make up your mind?!

  • A.

    Alright, so this is my first comment here. I have been reading and enjoying the articles consistently, however, I felt that I could really relate to this one in particular. I will share my point of view of the subject and let you know my secret twisted solution at the end (That actually somewhat worked for me and hopefully it might work for some of you). Excuse my average English, it is my third language.

    So I am a Lebanese architect who graduated 2 years ago (I’m 25). I wanted to start my own freelance business (Design and 3D) in Beirut (the capital of Lebanon if you’ve ever been there or even heard of it) I really believed that I have the potential/skills to do it but due to the unfortunate instability in my country and the lovely region, I moved to Dubai and started working as a site architect, 6 days per week starting 7am. In summary, I hate my job, I feel like shit every day.

    One good thing about the job is that I finish at 4-5 pm everyday so technically I do have some free time to do something. My plan was to do some freelance or even some theoretical projects to build my portfolio and then do a small website or a facebook page and see where it goes from there.

    The plan however went tremendously in a different direction, although I did buy a super computer for the job (32 cores – 3.4GHz hyperthreaded). I am getting home at around 4-5pm, smoke couple of cigarettes and going directly to sleep, I usually wake up at around 12-1 am, smoke 1-2 cigarettes and get back to sleep. I’ll finally wake up at 6:05 am, snooze to 7:40 and get to work at 8:30, one and half hour late. This has been my life for the past 18 months, and whenever I feel some kind of energy or at least I can’t sleep, I end up watching a movie, and then going back to sleep.

    Before I came Dubai, I used to go the gym and rarely smoked. I stopped gym here and my smoking habits are picking up.

    So recently I have been really trying to change my habits. Nothing was working until I created some sort of a solution. It is not a new solution, but I believe in its effectiveness. It is based on creating a reward/punishment system, a way to control the selfish useless monkey. What I really noticed is that the reward system is pretty hopeless but the punishment system is, at least for now, showing some positive results. My first punishment system was pretty cheap, I just broke a lighter, I had plenty lying around and used the electrical thingy (Taser) to electrocute myself whenever is needed. So now when I go to sleep in the afternoon, I put an alarm every 5 minutes and next to my phone you can see the Taser. With every snooze I’ll get some free voltage. My sleeping periods decreased dramatically from all day to 30-40 minutes max + 6 hours at night.

    The idea is to create free “awake” time and then to convert this time to productive time. So the next step was also as difficult as the first one. I needed other punishment systems to convert this time. In this step I tried to find something that I really hate. I found that I really hate pickles and I’m a bit stingy. So here they are, my conversion adapters just been found. Whenever, I am awake and I am trying to start something beneficial, the monkey instantly starts picking a movie title and reading some reviews off imdb. This was the case from university days, however, back then I used to stop wasting time but not really getting to work, so I end up doing literally nothing for weeks.

    So now, I am not fighting anymore with the instant gratification monkey. He is my best buddy right now. If he wants to watch a movie, that’s fine by me, I just offer my buddy some pickles snack for the movie and while at it I start folding money into paper planes and throwing them from the windows. I needed to create a system to keep things under control (to avoid becoming a bulimic broke), similar to the 5 mins snooze/volts system. So whenever I’m up doing nothing or watching a movie, I have to eat a pickle every 20 mins/ throw 20 aed (~5$) or get to work (the rates are exponentially increasing to prevent adaptation). Sometimes I get really attached to the movie, unfortunately that is very costly at the moment. I understand that throwing money might be seen as immoral or unethical, I know that there are plenty of unfortunate people out there who actually need the money for some basic needs. But I don’t really care anymore, or most importantly I stopped convincing myself that I really cared in the first place. I mean everything is deeply fucked up. I don’t think there is anything worth doing or caring for in the first place.

    Anyway, getting back to the main subject, the conclusion here is that system, at the current moment, is showing some positive results. I finished one theoretical project, and I designed the interior of a local restaurant for a friend of mine. I enjoy designing but if I don’t have a due, it’s almost impossible for me to start something.

    I really think if you can create a punishment system and abide by it, you can get rid of really bad habits and by the time you are really independent of those habit you can ditch the punishment system. The idea might sound a bit weird/irrational but there is nothing major to lose. Desperate calls for desperate measures. I don’t really have multiple personality, I just thought that I really hate pickles and maybe this can be useful in some way.

    Anyway sorry for the long post and the English mistakes, I just thought to share my experience in the subject. Hopefully this might be helpful to someon.

    • Ghaith

      I’m a Syrian interior designer living in Lebanon, hating my job, and procrastinating all the way. Wanna team up?

    • Hilkka

      Interesting. However, eventually you will get used to pickles and start to like them!

  • Alexander Khaykin

    I love how Future Tim’s head is a perfect circle.

  • Divia

    Ugh. Does anybody know how to stop being a disternator situation A? I need help with it.

    • N00less Cluebie

      Get a friend to sit in the room with you and WATCH you do work. He/She can bring a book or phone or whatnot, but the guilt of them there might keep you IGM at bay for a little while.

  • El

    I love you Tim.

  • N00less Cluebie

    I think it’s also worthwhile to split Q4 into two sections (octrents?) Productive and unproductive. The activities you describe, Tim, were at least productive: composing music, running a business, etc. At least those activities contribute something to your life and add some value. The unproductive side are when those of us who binge watch all seven seasons of Parks and Rec in two weeks. This dark corner of q4 has only gotten worse and worse for us over the past few decades:

    Network TV became Cable TV. Atari 2600 became PC’s, Nintendos

  • shaylabird

    Maybe Future Tim, even more than the monkey, is the problem: he represents all the enormous single-focus goals and pressure you put on yourself. I agree with some of the other commenters that the things you did in Q4 weren’t unproductive by any definition except the one you set for yourself.

    Personally, I have a lot of goals in my life – I like to play music, create art, get involved in my community, lead a healthy lifestyle, write poetry, etc. Do I do all of these things regularly? HELL NO. I do one for a while, and then I get bored with it and pick up another one for a while, and eventually I come back around to the first thing again. Slowly, small routines start to build in my life (e.g. once I go through a cooking phase, I tend to cook more regularly even when I’m in a different phase). This is what works for me and, to me, it feels like being a well-rounded person. The problem is that society tells us we need to sacrifice well-roundedness to focus our efforts on one thing and be the best at it if we want to be a successful person. Being at extraordinary at one thing is great, but enjoying lots of things and being pretty good at them is okay too.

    As long as the monkey is taking you from interest to interest and not making you binge-watch TV all day, maybe he’s not SO bad. I wonder what the monkey would do if, even for a day, you took away all goals and just “played” at whatever interest came up. Or if you reframed goals from, say, “I’m going to compose a piece of music that’s really good and that lots of people will like” to “I’m going to compose a piece of music in ten minutes that sounds amusing to me and is not good at all.” Maybe it’s possible to trick the monkey.

    Just, whatever you do, please keep writing this blog because, next to Wikipedia, it’s the best thing on the Internet.

    • Excedrin

      I think you and Tim might be missing something. For me, the Monkey isn’t entirely about instant gratification, it’s about novelty. Doing things that I already know how to do is far less interesting than learning about something new. There’s a boredom/novelty dichotomy that is a huge factor.

      Partly that’s because learning something easy, say how to make perfect scrambled eggs, is far easier than learning something really advanced like how to make a perfect plate of assorted sushi. Monkeys love that feeling of learning something new, even if it’s really not that impressive. It’s like Stewart on Mad TV, “Look what I can do!” Who is the Monkey impressing?

    • boso

      This is a bit true. My psychiatrist told me i have a delusional idea of what i might accomplish. I think im some sort of superperson if only i werent a procrastinator/ADDer. But in fact also my rational decision maker, my higher being, might be not that amazing. It might be just quite dinary.

      But tim wrote about this in the generation Y post.

      • Same story here! Gen Y who had to hear it from a therapist.

    • John D

      Indeed, I have noticed you can trick the monkey. I have tried lying to the monkey that I that I will give in to it’s inclination but did the opposite. I didn’t fight him just outwitted him. I tend to think he becomes less aggressive leaving you to accomplish your goals.

  • Joy Lynette Stahl

    Where does procrastinating the class I don’t like by doing coursework in the class I do like fall? They both have to be done, after all.

  • gatorallin

    Tim, I was curious what part of your procrastination you think is related to ADHD. Seems it is a superpower for some and a distraction monster for others. Love to hear you do a rant on ADHD sometime… and curious if you think you have it or not…?

    • gatorallin

      justification monster sent you this…..

    • boso

      I totally agree with this. Having the same question since i started reading wbw more than a year ago.

    • Al B.

      that was my exact thought too ..being a big procrastinator as well as a add back when i was a kid i wonder whether the part of the brain that controls attention (and its malfunction causes add) is responsible being a procrastinator as an adult (and teenager)

    • INTPondering

      YES! I’m reading this and thinking: Sounds to me like Tim just has good ol’ fashioned ADD/ADHD, whose symptoms I recognize easily because I have it as well. I’d be curious to hear if he’s explored psychiatric help for that. Or, if he’s opposed to medical intervention, which some people are, I’d be interested in hearing his reasoning.

    • Paui C

      it’s a little different because ADD/ADHD has neurobiologic causes… one of the key things about ADD/ADHD is they have poor short-term/ working memory and are easily distracted. When we are in Q4 or Q2, we can actually be pretty focused and pay loads of attention to whatever it is that we are doing – but they aren’t the ones we are “supposed” to be doing haha.
      What is interesting though (at least to me) is how procrastination comes to be. I see a lot of kids with gadgets and iPads/ tablets and it seems that it teaches Instant Gratification – what factors are there that promote Procrastination in the first place? 😛

  • autheclified

    Impostinator here. In three months I’ll be done with school and I’m scared shitless. I guess it’s normal to not know the difference between “important” and “unimportant” at my age, but shit, this makes it really hard for me to differ between the first three quadrants. The difficult thing is… I really want to become an actress, but my passion only slightly overpowers my doubt. My mom wants me to become a doctor, and if I was forced to make the most “ethical” choice, I’d be in medschool even though I really don’t want to. All I truly know is that I want to create stuff and move people, but I get easily distracted (fucking monkey) and easily frustrated (fucking self-consciousness).
    I wish I knew who I want to be but I’m scared of being aware.

    • Dragos Alexandru Costiniu

      You got 3 issues here, and they all go down to only one
      resolution: you need good ol’ pair of balls! Now – it’s harder than it sounds
      and I know you know it too, but courage is what drives us forward. I’ve lost a
      bit of mine – don’t truly know why, but I am bent on getting it back. And also
      on teaching it to others. Here’s something you might find useful:

      http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2014/01/ancient-philosophers/

  • Dimitrije

    I could write a long comment about how this post resonated with me on a really deep level (and maybe I will at some point), but for now, I’ll just say that I’ve probably never been more productive in my life than for the last two days, after reading this stuff and changing a few small things in my behavior (for example, saying “not now, monkey” out loud at certain points). Just the realization of the true nature of my problem, which you explained so thoroughly and accurately, was enough to immediately put me into a completely different mind frame. We’ll see if it lasts.
    Thank you Tim, this was one of the best pieces of life advice that I ever got, literally (and I don’t use that word unless I really mean it).

  • Rajarshi Ghosh

    A brilliant article, and superb insights. I feel to be in Q4 now, as sitting in office in a friday afternoon and reading this article, I have procrastinated all my pending work.
    I have been following your articles for quite some time, beginning with ‘Generation Y Yuppies’, and what I am witnessing right now is that you are able to touch people around the world with the most basic things we face in our daily lives. It may be worthwhile to feed your monkey with the idea of becoming an orator, perhaps an appearance at Ted Talks and becoming a lifestyle management guru in the long run.
    The monkey would love it, especially with all the gratification he would get. Just get your RDM enthusiastic about the idea, and well, you may realize your potential sooner than you would have thought!

  • Vishakha

    I love your Instant Gratification Monkey for that one moment in which he tricked you into writing blogs, best thing that happened to you and to us. And everyone here loves your shitty stick drawings. That young Tim is so much similar to me that I think he is my soulmate. I am trying my best to control my monkey and did you just notice how you used ‘she’ for an Impostinator? Yeah, that’s me. Your blog is my Q4. Keep up the good work. 🙂

  • i’m myself still in high school – i find it pretty neat to read this post before i get to all the crazy real world stuff.

    • Veronika H. Drageid

      Oh, I really hope you do your best to tame the IG Monkey, because practice make perfect, and there are so much better things to become good at than procrastination. Actually almost anything is better.

  • Eric

    A few thoughts I’ve been mulling over the past couple of days…

    – Future Eric may not exist, but Future-Present Eric is very real. Present Eric has a responsibility not to fuck up Future-Present Eric.
    – Future-Present Eric’s willpower is finite and extremely valuable. Treat it wisely. Don’t overcommit Future-Present Eric’s willpower.
    – In fact, don’t overcommit Future-Present Eric at all. Only volunteer Future-Present Eric for things that really matter.
    – Excitability is a character weakness. (Excitability, not enthusiasm.) Excitability wastes precious willpower. It undercommits Present Eric and overcommits Future-Present Eric. The monkey is excitable. (So is the Panic Monster, for that matter.)
    – Controlled-and-Focused wins the day over Excitability. Sorry, monkey.
    – It is important that I treat others well. Keeping my commitments to others — keeping them fully and in a timely manner — is an important way that I treat others well. Overcommitting Future-Present Eric means I eventually let someone down.
    – It is important that I treat myself well. The stress and guilt that comes from over-committing Future-Present Eric’s willpower means that I’m not treating myself well.
    – Paradoxically, Future-Present Eric will have *more* willpower – and therefore will be able to do more things – if Present Eric can avoid pre-committing too much of FPE’s willpower. The stress and guilt of having too many commitments drains FPE’s willpower and turns him into a lesser version of himself.
    – Turning Future-Present Eric into a lesser version of himself fucks him up. And Present Eric has a responsibility not to fuck up Future-Present Eric.

    That’s all I have for now.

    • Thank you for this. When I read about the Procrastination Matrix, I can’t help but fall into that dark place where I believe the that nothing I do will ever be enough, which makes basically single effort pointless.

      It helps me to know that there is a Future-Present-Me between the Present-Me and the Future-Me. Who only has to focus on one thing: treat myself and others well TODAY and keep my commitments for TODAY. Who can be rewarded for the littlest of things, like making a promise to visit a friend and managing to actually show up (and nothing more than just showing up). If I commit to more, I paralyze.

      I do wonder what you mean by excitement and enthousiasm though; is enthousiasm the realistic version of excitement by your definition?

      • Eric

        Yeah, I hear you. I spent several years in that dark place you’re talking about when I first tried to start a business. The paralysis of having so much I *should* do translated into long stretches where I wouldn’t do *anything*. It wreaked havoc on my confidence, my health, my marriage, pretty much everything. The last five years have been progressively better and better, but I’m still prone to periodic relapses. It helps a lot when I remember to remind myself to treat others well and to treat myself well…Like you said, even if it’s small, it still matters, and it’s often enough to get me moving.

        When I say “excitable”, I mean “responding too readily to something new or stimulating; too easily excited.” (I totally stole that from the Google dictionary.) Basically, I’m just describing the monkey…he loves stimulus but doesn’t want to actually work to do anything with that stimulus.

        Enthusiasm is more mature and productive than excitability. It just means “intense enjoyment or interest.” (I stole that from Wikipedia.) I think Enthusiasm is a key ingredient in the “Flow” state that Tim describes in Part 2 of his original Procrastination posts.

  • Nikhil

    Holy cow, I did not think when I started reading this article that it would leave me feeling emotional. The scary/creepy part about this was that I was reading this on a Friday afternoon having already procrastinated all my work for the following week. By the end of it though I felt ashamed and motivated all at the same time, to do something good in my life.

    I just hope, just so dearly hope that I did not delegate that responsibility to future-Nikhil.

  • Micailyn

    Thank you so much for this article
    and the two previous articles; I found them very encouraging, if only because
    they reminded me that I am not alone in my time-wasting insanity.

    My procrastination story does not exactly fit into one of the three categories
    in this post, but all three procrastination posts have definitely explained
    different components of it.

    I have procrastinated since elementary school, but the way I have
    procrastinated and the degree to which it has affected my life have changed
    significantly over the years (I am now in my first year of college).

    In elementary school, I was basically a successinator, but I would actually
    procrastinate in Q2 with books that were worth reading and things that were
    worth doing. I responded to the panic monster with plenty of energy, turned my
    work in on time, got good grades, and didn’t worry about school after I had
    turned things in (i.e. I never experienced the ‘mixed feelings park’). Towards
    the end of elementary school I did begin to experience mixed feelings about my
    work, so I got my act together a little more. During that time I often experienced
    the happy playground.

    Then, in seventh grade I went to a new school. At first, I made friends easily;
    or rather, they made friends with me. However, as time went on, we drifted
    apart (which has happened to me many times because I am too passive about
    making friends and I end up spending time with people that I don’t fit with at
    all).

    I found myself alone, and I started
    really REALLY caring about my grades. To my mind, a 93 was disappointing. I
    held back tears when I forgot a homework assignment that was probably 0.00002%
    of my grade–a thought that never occurred to my crazy mind. I was so obsessed
    with getting good grades and being “smart” that I felt like Q2 was something I
    had to do. So, of course, I of course stopped spending any time in Q2.

    I also became very self-conscious about my appearance which made the loneliness
    I was already experiencing a desirable place to hide. So I became an
    impostinator to avoid dealing with people. I was always doing something and I
    was “too busy” (in Q3) to spend time with people, yet I never wrote
    papers or studied for tests (Q1) until the night before they were due. Because
    I was so self-conscious about my appearance, my Q4 was filled with thoughts of
    dieting and calorie counts, and I became very thin and very tired all the time.
    I was anorexic.

    All my classmates thought that I was a model student and that I robotically
    cranked out A’s with no effort at all. They never saw me the night before a
    test.

    Somehow, however, by some miracle (named the panic monster I suppose), I made
    straight A’s in high school. I also got a sizeable scholarship to a private
    liberal arts school.

    But after five years of insanity, my panic monster had eaten all of my
    adrenaline, and I became a “functional” disastinator the fall of my
    freshman year. I could only manage to focus enough to complete simple,
    concrete, one-step (A is B) assignments like math homework or studying for
    tests. The instant gratification monkey dragged me all over the dark woods, but
    my RDM dragged me back enough times to complete assignments. Of course, this
    meant that assignments took far more time than they should have. For the first
    few months I made A’s like I had in high school, even on the
    oh-my-gosh-this-professor-is-insane test that everyone moaned about for months
    afterward.

    But then we had to write a research paper. And my panic monster didn’t work
    anymore. Unlike simple assignments and studying for tests, papers required
    complex, abstract, sustained thinking. They also required planning ahead and
    completing small chunks at a time.

    I did something I had never done in
    my academic career: I completely froze up. I didn’t turn in the paper when it
    was due. I just walked into the woods outside of the campus and cried for most
    of the day. After a week of misery, I was so devastated and so convinced that I
    was doomed to failure that I dropped out of school. That was four months ago.

    Where am I now?

    …community college. You would think that
    I would be super depressed about it, but it has been a blessing in disguise. At
    my lowest point, I have begun to overcome my eating disorder, depression, and
    procrastination. I am not sure why exactly, but I think the reason is that all
    the pressure has been taken away, yet I still have work to do. For me, having
    people around me who don’t care what I look like and who think that I am smart
    for the smallest things has been enormously encouraging. I am putting so much
    more effort into my assignments and I have started to complete papers and study
    for tests days before the due date. I guess I needed to feel like I was
    forgiven and acceptable, and I never felt that way at Prep school or a private
    liberal arts school with high achievers all around me.

    This fall I will be transferring to
    a less intense liberal arts school than the one I was previously at. Someone
    told me that I wasn’t “living up to my potential”, but I think I am living much
    closer to my potential at an easier college where I spend time in Q1 and Q2
    than at a super-difficult elite college where I wallow in Q3 and Q4 most of the
    time.

    I suppose what I have to contribute
    with my ridiculously long post is that procrastination (for me anyway) has been
    both a cause and effect of isolation, low self-esteem, and depression in a sort
    of vicious cycle. I have begun to break out of the cycle by dealing with isolation,
    low self-esteem, and depression rather than striking directly at
    procrastination. I spent so much time in the dark playground because I never
    believed that I was able to spend my time better. Taking the pressure away yet
    still having work to do has really helped me work on recovery.

    • Micailyn

      I just realized that i typed “of course” twice in a row and it’s driving me insane.

    • Veronika H. Drageid

      So well written! Even if our lives are different, for me too has procrastination resulted in isolation, low self-esteem and depression.

    • Anne

      Great job in being aware of yourself and taking yourself out of a dangerous place. I’m glad you’re bucking the cycle. Ask for help if you need it, and keep moving. Movement, in whatever direction, is inertia, and once you’re moving it’s easier to find the RIGHT direction. When you stop, the easiest direction is DOWN. Good luck.

  • Acropoet

    Let’s take this a step further and apply the Eisenhower Matrix to jobs. Of course, there are unimportant things in our jobs that we have to do and could even be “urgent”, but let me disregard those because they actually help us get through the day. I am more interested in Q1 and Q2. I believe that if your job is all about deadlines, that is in Q1, and it forces you to do the work only when it is important AND urgent, then your job controls you and becomes unsatisfying. If you cannot do the important work when you want, that is, control your own use of your time, you cannot be satisfied. Only when you control when you do the important work in your job can you be satisfied with it. Just a thought.

  • Zbyněk Dráb

    Wonder if the monkey-epidemic is a result of overindulgent child rearing that places emphasis on “being yourself” and shuns stuff like discipline and structure.

    • Personally, I don’t think so. I had one of those childhoods and I’ve always been pretty good with time management.

      • Zbyněk Dráb

        There goes the last chance to interpret my childhood as something good for me in the end…

        • Dragos Alexandru Costiniu

          Let me strike another blow at that, mate: I’ve been having a
          father that always pressed on that I should go for military school, raised me
          in almost-like-military discipline -he liked military a lot, though he was
          not a military man… perhaps that was one of his unaccomplished dreams that he
          sought to accomplish through me? -, but all at the same time while allowing
          me to be who I am – he never forced me to write with my right hand and didn’t
          allow anyone to do that , got me around to see and
          practice diverse sports and allowed me to do which one I liked most and stuff
          like that. He tried to combine in me the two best practices: discipline and
          “being yourself” = freedom. The result was and, to a degree, still is
          satisfactory: sometimes I have a discipline that even for my father is hard to
          stomach, I like freedom for everyone and everything , and although things were looking a lot better just before and at
          the beginning of uni, they went down and I got around to procrastinating a lot
          of my time now, as an adult. And even though I like some things – I rarely take
          action. So try to make something out of that.

  • Sharp

    Thank you for this post. It provides more useful information than some whole books do.

  • Innokentiy Sokolov

    It’s very interesting article and it’s close to what’s inside my own head. It’s a bit clearer to sort all things out now. Thank you!

  • I’m a Disastinator, damnit. Damnit damnit damnit.

    My Monkey is waaay too powerful. Why isn’t my book done? No fear-inducing deadline and a powerful Monkey.

    Excellent post. I hate/love you so hard right now.

  • Sam Kozman

    There is this beautiful irony about half of the emails coming from procrastinators that read the procrastination article, but maybe irony isnt the right word seeing as how big of a problem it is

  • Anonymous

    This is another amazing post. Thank you.

    I’ll share a time plan that has been magic for me, a master procrastinator. I’m actually getting important Q2 things done by using it. A Russian woman invented this plan for creative types. She got my attention when she said that most time plans keep you so busy than it spirals out of control. I’ve had that happen. You get doing more and more stuff on your list and feel like a machine. She added the magic ‘harmony’ category (a Q4 in disguise) I tried the 4 quadrant thing as a time management tool-many years ago. I love your modifications and refinements to Eisenhower’s Matrix-I laughed…so true, very well done. Especially clarifying the Successtinator’s issues-A subtle trap I’ve been in for years.

    Here is this brilliant Russian woman’s plan- whose name I cannot remember: You simply label your day with 4 parts:

    1) Routine-

    everyday type things have to be done. dishes, shower, laundry, get groceries, meals, answer emails – whatever. They take time.

    2) Important Little Things-

    Quadrant3-things like: Send forms back to lawyer, get car inspected, make dinner for guest, plant garden (consumes most of the day, these things seem like the ‘stuff of life’ but she is right-they are only ‘important little things’)

    3) Great Tasks –

    Quadrant2 type stuff: take a small bites out of a big task (details on this below)

    4) Harmony –

    Quadrant 4 type stuff: play a song, go for a walk, stare into space

    These are four parts to plan your day-I’ll explain two of the parts with some detail:

    ‘Great Tasks’ –Things like “improving your skills, deepening your network, executing a creative vision” and question ” what, of the important tasks on your list, would benefit most from happening sooner rather than later”. Make a list of important possible tasks. Then, narrow to 3 contenders. Take your time and consider and decide on these over 3 days***. they must be solid choices. Ask yourself important questions about why these must be done now and are they contributing to who you are. Keep a long, detailed list of potential Great Tasks but ONLY choose 3 to work on at any one time. Once you pick them, break Great Tasks down into one hour manageable tasks.

    ‘Harmony’ — Once you have 3 Great Tasks…Realize that you can’t do the same thing for much more than an hour-it’s too much- so there are things you do that relax you and bring yourself back to yourself. Stare into space, going for a walk, playing a game, listen to a song you like. Plan these harmony breaks after every hour of work. Give yourself 15 minute breaks to reconnect. Gain harmony. (I guess these would be quadrant 4 type things).

    I tried this out. It worked in a way that I didn’t expect. It turns out I never really put the Great Tasks into words or broke them into manageable bits. They had just been looming over me. Once I did this–They almost solved themselves simply by being written down. By articulating the problem. I solved all 3 ‘Great Tasks’- which were really problems blocking me from doing my work- in the first two weeks. I had estimated they would take all summer!

    I now have a massive ‘potential great task’ list to choose from. ***remember you need to mull them over and write about them for 3 days before choosing one. New ideas keep popping up and now they don’t take over my life. I put them on the list to be weighed against other contenders. Only 3 at a time. Brilliant. Hope it keeps working for me.

    • I believe that must have been Yana Frank? She’s great and she saved my life by these ideas some time ago. However, there still is the great problem of deciding which Great Tasks to choose and determining are they even so great and meaningful. Unfortunately, this is often very unclear. I’ve recently found myself being quite efficient in doing whatever I do, but – what a surprise! – none of that seems to fall in Q2.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, thank you, Yana Frank. She developed time management for creative persons. I’m happy to give this person credit for her time management system. It continues to work for me. It’s challenging to try to develop a ‘Great Task’. Out of the many contenders. There is a book I can recommend that may help. It is a book about writing down things that are in your head in such a way that you can read your own mind and solve your own problems. Say you wrote about the problem of ‘what is the most meaningful thing to my life to work on right now’ or something like that. You may find out you have the answer. Had it all along. But you have to write it out the way the author shows you. I heard some smart person say once that “you don’t know what you know until you write it down”. It’s so true.This book focuses you and his techniques work amazingly well. Just do all his exercises. (It’s a small, short book so don’t be afraid) And it’s for technical writers so just change the subject from ‘management’ and ‘customers’ to your own personal issues: It’s called “Accidental Genius–Revolutionize your thinking through private writing” by Mark Levy.

        • Thanks, I think I’m going to check this out!

  • wdqe

    writing my dissertation and needed this post Tim. Did you do it around this time thinking of all the college kids out there that would need major motivation right about now?

  • RH

    I’m good at Q1 and Q4. My early experiences with panic monster were awful enough that I know spending time in Q1 is important so that I don’t have to see him very often. And I’ve beaten down my IGM enough in my life to realize feeding him now-and-then is also important to keeping me and my life moving forward, sometimes just as important as visiting Q1. Lots of self-awareness and practice to get where I’m at now.

    Q2 and 3 are the tricky ones for me. I kind of hate Q3. I feel that if it’s not important, why should I bother? But sometimes everyday life things end up falling in this quadrant, so I bother. But I try to avoid it because I have low levels of energy anyway and I don’t want to waste what I’ve got. That low energy is also problematic for Q2. I know many things that fall into this quadrant, but often I’m worn out from Q1 and letting in some Q3. It seems to take a lot of Q4 for me to re-energize enough to tackle Q2 very often.

    As I write this, I’m wondering if perhaps I’m a Successinator and didn’t realize it. Maybe I’m a high-functioning Successinator. I do know that my physical and mental health weigh heavily on my energy levels- and, lately, I’ve been putting in extra work to get them in a better place. Maybe I’m just on my way to the balance I need. Of course, I’m currently in a temporary, highly unchallenging, dull job that is merely to pay the bills while I search for something in my field- that graduate degree will be put to use someday, surely! So, it could be that all my Qs will shift when I finally get where I’m wanting to go.

    And if I go on with this comment, I will really just be rambling; I’m good at that. It might even be part of my procrastination repertoire.

  • Tess Doucet

    I have been chewing on this post for a week.
    Here’s the thing.
    We don’t all have to be Eisenhowers, right? He can only exist because of many, many subordinate ranks.

    I have been trying to live my life making room for Q2 as much as I can, eliminating most Q1 and Q3 stuff.

    I set up a business congruent with what I came up with falls in my Q2 (heal the world; promote world peace; start by helping people achieve personal peace; set up a service offering personally guided meditation. Offer it for free to whomever I can convince to get in; hope word of mouth spreads).

    But, alas: my business is failing miserably, and I have clues as to how it could work, but am not convinced they will work, so I sort of decided it was OK for the business to fail. Maybe this was not the thing I was meant to do in the world.

    And so, now: I have no life left. No job, no money of my own (living off my partner), not knowing what to believe in.

    Halfheartedly I am trying to write, but it is hard to be motivated, to believe in my “why”, to trust that I can make a difference somehow.

    So after chewing on your post for a week, Tim, I have to wonder: does Q2 even exist? Or will it always be a fiction, just a story we tell ourselves to deal with disappointments in real life? Have I eliminated my life, by eliminating Q1 and Q3 stuff? Have I been chasing a rainbow, instead of marveling at its vision, then getting back to the dull and dreary grind?

    I am seriously considering giving it all up. Maybe big dreams are for people who want to run and chase. I would prefer to be here, now, and accept the dull and dreary, including its awkwardnesses, weird smiles, heartbreaks and disappointments. And, oh yeah: not (make other people) KILL people (minor detail). Unlike Eisenhower. Who built his career on war, right? Maybe we should have NO Eisenhower’s? Is there a gardner’s (to name but a peaceful profession) matrix?

    Thank you Tim, for triggering these insights.

    I am happy you are finding your success : )

    • Sébastien Dubois

      For sure, one needs dreams and it’s possible to realize them by letting go of what drags you behind. My personal idol about this is Elon Musk, someone with big and meaningful goals, and who realizes them.

  • Sébastien Dubois

    Great blog, great thoughts 🙂 To avoid procrastination requires understanding ever more deeply the WHY of our immediate thoughts and actions (“why” as is this blog’s and my own mantra). That is, it requires being able to constantly and self-analyze. For this I very highly recommend Marshall Rosenberg’s book “Non-Violent Communication”, which I already offered it to 10 different people. If you prefer a less down-to-earth and more spiritual book, give Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements” a shot.

    Procrastination may arise when, instead of making (or not making) choices based on what we WANT (as we always should), we make them based on what we are SUPPOSED to do. This happens when we do not take full responsibility for our thoughts, decisions and actions, which is every time we make choices out of fear, guilt, shame, duty or obligation, e.g. when conforming to social norms. Any kind of conformance is by definition something that goes against ourselves.

    As nicely summarized by Marshall Rosenberg: “Don’t do anything that isn’t play!”

    My personal formulation of this is to seek only actions that yield positive feelings such as gratitude and freedom. Unfortunately in that quest, whenever I encounter people unable to question themselves, my ability to empathize is greatly hindered, I still have much progress to make. Also, I feel like I have found solind instrumental goals (avoid dogma, question everything, communicate clearly, seek freedom, etc) but not any concrete goal (i.e. something to put on the horizon far in the future).

    PS: also reminds me of motivation theory, especially Vroom’s VIE
    model: “individuals can be motivated towards goals if they believe that:
    there
    is a positive correlation between efforts and performance, the outcome
    of a favorable performance will result in a desirable reward, a reward
    from a performance will satisfy an important need, and/or the outcome
    satisfies their need enough to make the effort worthwhile” (Wikipedia:
    Expectancy Theory).

  • Jen

    So, after procrastinating to read this article (suggested by my husband yesterday that I had to read it ASAP), I am commenting for the first time on this blog.

    Thanks for helping me explain to people in a colorful way what goes on inside my head. Being a successful Impostinator, turned Successinator, it seems actually categorizing tasks into the appropriate Q is my current Achilles heal.

    I’m diving full-fledged into my own design business in two months (and already have the gears going, it took me way longer than it would have if I didn’t have a such a strong instant gratification monkey) and love the idea of supporting your blog by buying a plush monkey to cuddle with – as I tell it get the hell off the wheel inside my head.

    And Tim, I would like to thank your instant gratification monkey for tricking you into writing this blog.

  • Jodi

    Such brilliant writing and psychological insight:

    “It turns out that Future You is as much of a mirage as the monkey’s passion for a hobby. I banked on Future Tim’s real-world existence for my most important plans, but every time I’d finally arrive at a time when I thought I would find Future Tim, he was nowhere to be found—the only person there would be stupid Present Tim. That’s the thing that really sucks about Future You—whenever time finally gets to him, he’s not Future You anymore, he’s Present You, and Present You can’t do the tasks you assigned to Future You because those tasks can only be done by someone without a monkey. You assigned them to Future You in the first place because he doesn’t have a monkey—that was the whole point. So you do what you always do—you re-delegate them to Future You, hoping that next time time catches up with Future You, he actually exists.”

  • Hi there!

    I wanted to share my thoughts on the good aspects of procrastination after I read the second post about it here but then I wasn’t confident enough to do so. But now that I was encouraged explicitly…

    http://mqnc.de/en/procrastination.html
    I hope you guys like it and I hope it helps some of you!

    Best regards from Germany!
    Mirko

  • Me

    Remember You Are Mortal

    “People should learn to organize their thought and emotion around the fundamental fact of life. The basic fundamental fact of life is that you are mortal. Your thought process and your emotion should be organized around your mortality. You will see if you just do this, you will naturally live joyfully, and at full potential.because every moment the thought is organized in such a way that you know that you are mortal, there is no time. There is no time to fret. There is no time to fume. There is no time to be angry. There is definitely no time to be depressed. There is no time, because its going.”

    http://www.ishafoundation.org/blog/sadhguru/masters-words/remember-you-are-mortal/

  • Kevin M

    I had this huge 1,000+ word emotional post written when my browser decided to crash and erase all of it. It had some nice turns of phrase too, and now I’m procrastinating AND incredibly irritated. I just wanted to share, and writing is catharsis on a Q1 scale, especially when negative emotions are involved and doubly super especially when you don’t have a close friend or SO to confide in. I can’t be bothered to write the whole damn thing again, so I’ll do a condensed version.

    The anthropomorphic personification of these nebulous emotions and habitual processes is incredibly helpful. As a visual person, it helps to picture this procrastination thing as separate from myself, not a personality flaw that is immutable, but a parasite that burrowed into my brain at some point and can be beaten.

    For me, in what I figure is a fairly common occurrence, procrastination occurs in cycles. I spiral downwards as the monkey eliminates one thing after another, capturing more and more of my time for Q4, until something snaps and I rebound hard. I start again with lofty goals of self-improvement and beating procrastination, and in about 4-6 months I collapse in a depressed, anxious mess of Q4 apathy and disgust and try it all again. It’s happened invariably since the start of college, so it’s been about four cycles now, and the fifth has just begun.

    Towards the end, especially if the work is daunting and seemingly insurmountable, the panic monster is intimidated by the anxiety monster and the last check on the monkey vanishes. Even worse, the anxiety monster sticks around, making me feel constant stress and making me even more unproductive. Making it worse, it ensures you feel isolated and with no one to look to for support–at times, I feel an intense emotional pain that I beat away as quick as I can. I know it’s not a solution, but I can’t find the motivation to try any solutions, and I’m too worried that early failure will absolutely destroy what little self-esteem I have.

    However, I’ve embraced the idea of gradual gains. Every cycle has been slightly more successful than the last, and I’ve at least narrowed down certain things to Q1 and Q2. I think careful re-framing will be important, but overcoming that nagging voice that shouts “You’re just trying to trick yourself!” is crazy difficult. I try to make exercise a Q1, and make it a habit so as well so that it becomes an automatic Q1. Q2 is more difficult to determine, and separate from the Q3 and Q4 items. Part of it is age, and at 21 it’s difficult to actually know what is really important to you and what is just a passing fancy or undirected peer pressure (A strange use of the term, I refer to spending time around friends with different goals or hobbies and a desire to connect with them by taking an interest). Some of this has to do with second order desires, what you want to want to do. But proper identification is hazy–I don’t want to want to learn to code, and its definitely Q4 for me, but I feel a societal pressure to want to want to code, and it adds stress and anxiety. At times there are so many components involved in this complicated procrastination machinery that it feels impossible to understand, and thus impossible to overcome.

    All this pontificating holds true specially for me. It’s a result of a trifecta of apathy and fear–procrastination, social anxiety, and depression. It’s a terrifying and unsolvable chicken-and-egg conundrum, and in a horrifying feedback loop, trying to identify the source and coming up with nothing results in a dark filter descending over everything and the perception that the problem is systemic and insurmountable. Writing about this is painful, perhaps incomprehensible and ridiculous and narcissistic, a misunderstanding of things with an inflated sense of self-importance. But those doubts are what made me write, and so make it important.

    The first step to defeating something like procrastination is accepting the problem and confronting it. Tim, with this column, gave everyone mired in despairing procrastination the tools to do so. His experience with it isn’t ridiculous and he treats it effectively as a sort of psychological disorder, which crystallized for me when he declared that people for whom the advice “avoid procrastinating” works aren’t actually procrastinators. It’s even compared to a psychologically healthy person saying “well, just avoid apathy” for depression, and it reminded me of a personal experience from group therapy, where someone said “If you’re anxious it means there’s something to be anxious about, some danger, so just find that and focus on fixing it.” Yes, I never thought of that. Clearly you’ve not had an anxiety disorder, you see, its defined by IRRATIONAL anxiety. If it was just anxiety about surgery or a test or asking a girl out or whatever, it wouldn’t be a disorder and I wouldn’t be here at all.

    This is procrastination as disorder, and it means that its irrational no matter how often it distresses you and how intensely you want to follow the simple advice of “avoid apathy, just get the motivation to do that thing and waste time after.” That’s really what I was building up to this whole time, I guess. And goddamn it, now I’m curious about actual psychological research into procrastination as a disorder or a symptom of some other problem. But I don’t have the time to procrastinate on it >_<

    I'm off to pretend to work, but really to wait until tomorrow to try and get a fresh start. Tim, you've definitely given me motivation and the hope that I can win this cycle. I've got three whole days left before my current procrastination project is due, and I just might have enough time left.

    I want to give a little contribution after rambling on so long.

    The issue of "vague planning" is related, but you didn't state it in these specific terms. This helps me to refocus, a least in the moment: avoid the word try. Try to catch yourself, it might happen more than you think. Stop whenever you think "try," consider why you used "try" and use "will" instead. I included a quote in my first post, by the paragon of apathy Homer Simpson: "Trying is the first step towards failure." In the procrastinator's case, he's not wrong. For me, the word "try" implies failure before I start. Using the affirmative and definitive "will" is still as likely to fail as not, but it doesn't set you up for failure. And that's at least a good start.

    • Kevin M

      Uh, I guess I was wrong about the condensed part. Didn’t even notice the absurd length until I posted! I just checked, this is still 1k+ words so, um, I guess I got carried away. My bad?

      • In a Merry-Go-Round

        Not “your bad” at all, i really liked your post. The cycle of gradual improvement is a great innovation I’ve managed to wrestle into my head recently. My cycles are a little bigger than they should be, i stay comatose/unproductive for 5-6 weeks on average, with about 3-4 weeks of actual human. The down period used to last months, so there’s that? The most important thing is keeping the goal of gradual improvement, and not treating yourself unkindly, when you do the wrong thing, because it’s all part of the process. One of the horrible things about anxiety coupled with perfectionism is that to get over anxiety, you have to “do” to make the “doing” less of a trigger, but whenever i produce something i don’t think is good enough, i go into my own special shame spiral. The only way to get out of it is to produce something i’m proud of, while anxious, procrastinating, and ashamed. Chicken and the egg indeed.

  • Gavin conaghty

    Thank you. From an Impostinator and for giving an idea to try for a solution. Be aware of the monkey. 🙂

  • Lizzie

    Hi,

    Long time lurker, first time poster here. Thank you, Tim, for all 3 of your articles on procrastination – they have really resonated with me and perfectly describe my life. Your description of procrastination and its costs (the constant stress, letting others down, letting yourself down, never reaching Q2) and all the terminology – the RDM, the monkey, the dark/happy playground – have really helped me understand what’s going on in my brain when I procrastinate. This article has also given me hope that I can reclaim control of my life (defined as being able to walk from Q4 to Q2 whenever I want) and has simplified exactly what I have to do to beat my pesky monkey into submission (schedule and lay just one brick, one brick at a time). Importantly, you’ve also shown me exactly what I need to do to get from Q4 to Q2 – prioritise my tasks using the matrix, choose the 1-2 most important /”urgent” goals/tasks (I have to keep reminding myself that urgent means what would benefit most from being done sooner rather than later), break it down into small steps, schedule in a time/date for each step and then actually start.

    The starting/doing is definitely the hardest part but 2 things have really been helping me lay those bricks this past week: (1) The emails you mentioned receiving from people of all ages from all over the world – I realised that if I don’t change my storyline, I will still be procrastinating in 10 years time, and 20 years time, and 30 years time – that thought terrifies me. I don’t want to live the rest of my life like this, and I don’t want to look back on my life when I am at the end of it and regret the 50/60 years I procrastinated rather than living my life the way I wanted to live it. I want to look back and feel proud of myself for overcoming procrastination and making the best of my remaining years. In order to live my life the way I want to live it, I have to learn to walk from Q4 to Q2 whenever I want. And (2) This following quote:

    “As firmly entrenched as these confidence levels may feel, the monkey and the RDM share a single pool of confidence with a fixed sum—when one’s confidence goes up, the other’s goes down—and the balance can begin to be tipped by the smallest changes, taking your storyline with it”.

    I keep coming back over and over again to this quote whenever I feel tempted to procrastinate because it reminds me that even if procrastinating seems insignificant – even if it feels like “a quick nap” or “5 more minutes on reddit” or “10 more minutes snoozing in bed” won’t hurt, the consequences of that quick nap/snoozing/aimless browsing on the internet are that the monkey grows in confidence while I lose more confidence. I hate the thought of giving up any more of my share of the confidence pool to the monkey and I LOVE taking back confidence from the monkey :).

    For the past 4 days since I read this article, I’ve been trying every day to schedule and just lay that one brick – I’m definitely winning more battles with the monkey but I’ve mostly been in Q1/Q3 and have not yet made it to Q2. I’ve scheduled small but regular Q2 bricks in for this next week (starting with baby steps for now), and look forward to FINALLY finding out what Q2 looks like 😉

    I will come back in a month or two and let you know how I go 🙂

    • Sounds good those baby steps. Count your small victories! I’m happy to read that you’re laying those bricks, no matter how small, they count. (I can definitely identify with that)

    • LisaRSanders

      Your first choice waitbutwhy Find Here

  • Dragos Alexandru Costiniu

    Well, hello there. I am not much of a replier type of guy –
    I do not actively follow blogs, nor do I usually answer to them. But sometimes,
    something catches my eye. And I begin to take an active interest on the topic.
    I begin to read everything I can about it, read all the replies and, if they do
    not date back 13 years ago – I seem to somehow be able to find posts which are
    that old, in particular, but they are still new to me – I put in the time to
    post a reply of my own. So here is something that caught my eye and I have an
    opinion of my own I would like to factor in. For those that are not interested
    in my background and my story of procrastination, you can skip the next
    paragraph and go directly for my opinion on the post – some background might
    still be mixed in there as well, though.

    I’ve been postponing the reading of the Procrastination
    posts for a while now – although I didn’t knew of their existence right away as
    they have been posted. I see now that, at least this one about the
    Procrastination Matrix, they have not been posted that long ago [oldest reply –
    13 days ago; did a little more research on the road – seems like the original
    ones date a couple of years back – ups]. I read them starting 3 days ago, while
    procrastinating [I should have gone to sleep, as the night before I only sleept
    for 3 hours – procrastination blamed, playing games instead of resting for the
    long, 6 hours drive I was due the next day]. In between my game session, while
    I was waiting for the game to load, I said I should read something on the
    internet and close some of my many opened tabs [94 at my last count, but many
    more opened since then]. Thing is, I started from the procrastination matrix
    post [the one of which’s existence I was aware of], seen that I should have
    read another one before to be able to fully understand that one, so, as I am a
    completionist, I did go and read what I was supposed to read first. Then I saw
    there was a second one, so I read the second one and finally, the next morning,
    I read the one I started from [The Procrastination matrix]. And I can tell you
    that today is Tuesday and starting past Saturday things got a little bit
    better. Now, this is not why I am here – this was just a little background of how
    I mix in with procrastination – so I am not a stranger of it either. Right now
    I am at work – I’m a geologist and I work 12 hours shifts/day for 2-3 weeks [depending
    on a number of variables], then I am off for the same amount of time [doing
    whatever I wish for the other 2-3 weeks]. My procrastination is mostly hard felt
    when I am at home – because I seem to be wasting my time, instead of – say –
    spending it with my wife, or learning, or whatever. But when I am at work and I
    play games, I do not really feel like procrastinating. That is because my job
    requires that I oversee the drilling process parameters – over which I do not
    have direct control. So what I do is mostly watch straight lines going down a
    monitor. Doing that can dull a blade, let alone one’s mind. I must be careful
    for anomalies, which can be easily spotted, so a pause-able game is not a
    problem. Sometimes I use a game to keep my fatigue at bay – games seem to be
    able to keep my mind awake. And I do feel OK with it, because they bring me
    joy, they refresh me and keep me awake and thus, at times, I can do my job
    better. There are, of course, moments when I should fill in some reports, all
    the wile overseeing the drilling process. But instead I play – that’s when I
    feel terrible and I know I am not doing a good thing. But the real
    procrastination for me is Facebook – almost everything I do there feels like a
    waste of time. So after I read the posts, I wanted to get a better feeling of
    life, a better buck for my time – so I said I should start spending some time
    in Q2. And since Saturday, I started to spend my time while watching nothing
    happen on the monitors [no drilling happening atm] to improve on my personal life
    and personal experience. A thing I have been procrastinating about for a long
    time now is that I wanted to do some exercise every half an hour – not much,
    just get up from my chair and get my blood rushing through my veins for 5
    minutes – been finding out that sitting for long periods of time is bad for
    your heart and arteries and heralding from a heart-disease dynasty puts some
    pressure on keeping healthy. Another thing was to read upon stuff that could
    improve life habits, health, sanity, rest practices, etc. And while I was
    doing this, I wanted to also give back a little – so that’s why I wanted to
    write a reply on this post in particular.

    So here is my first opinion on the matrix: if you’ve read
    what I said above [not necessary for understanding the following], you would
    know that I stand by N00less Cluebie opinion, saying that Q4 should be
    split into two sectors – productive and unproductive. Some actions in Q4 might
    be in the dark playground, while others might not. Some might very well be
    dark playground, but the next day they are happy playground. I think it is all
    about what you gain out of an activity.

    But the
    real reason I wanted to write this reply is because I do not agree to the Q3
    quote that says: “DELEGATE AWAY”. I read all the replies to see if
    anyone else wanted to say something similar and since no one did, I will usher
    it away. I do not agree to it simply because, if we all take that advice,
    everyone, everywhere, and we would all delegate away, then indeed we would all be
    free from the urgent things that we have to do, but are seemingly unimportant
    for us and for our personal development, but in return we would receive urgent
    things to do, that are certainly unimportant for us – because they are someone
    else’s who delegated them away. Just as well as someone else is stuck with our
    delegated away seemingly unimportant, but urgent, tasks. So this is the real
    issue that I would like to tackle. Only this one advice is wrong – just as my
    father taught me to only play with older kids, because from them I can learn
    things, and not with the younger – this advice tells you to practically be
    dishonest and unequal to someone else. And just as I fought my father, telling
    him that if all the parents would advise their children the same way he did,
    then none of us would be playing with anyone anymore, I tell you now: if we all
    follow that same rule, where will we all get to? Because Q3 stuff is, somehow,
    related to one’s person so delegating it away would only mean that he would
    stick it to someone else, who isn’t even related to that stuff. And although
    there are some things that truly belong into Q3 and can be delegated away, not
    everything should be. Some could just be moved to Q2. Also there are others, such as our baby
    crying, our home needing cleaning, or whatever of the sort – they are actually
    Q2 things that, at times, become Q1. Why? Because, to take a clear example, if
    you live in a house that is filthy and dirty, you are actually putting your health
    at risk. Cleaning it is not a Q3 thing, that you could delegate away – it’s
    your job – if you want to stay healthy. So it is actually a Q2 thing, that you
    should do when you have the time or you should decide when to do. Not doing it
    in a timely manner moves it to Q1. Of course, you could hire someone to clean
    it for you, but then you would have to fork out the money for the service. And
    that means you have to get a better job, earn more money to be able to afford a
    cleaning lady, and therefore more Q3 items getting into Q1 and so forth [I
    consider doing one’s job as part of Q1, because if you do not do your job, you
    are fired; if you are fired, you earn no cash; if you earn no cash – well,
    that’s not a place someone wants to be in]. Another example – your baby crying
    – delegating that away is hundreds of times worse. I do not have a child, yet,
    and because of many reasons I am thinking of not having any either – that is
    another story, not for now – but if I were to have one, I would like to spend
    time with him/her, not a nanny take care of him/her. I would like my wife to
    spend time with him/her. Because, if you hire someone to look after your
    children, you actually alienate them from you and, in the long run, you will
    end up having a stranger as your child. And he/she is your own blood, after all,
    but having spent so little time with you, he/she feels like he/she doesn’t
    belong with you, but rather with the nanny. So my point is – be very careful
    where you place your bets – just as Tim said – some things may not be as they
    seem. What something seems important for someone, might very well be
    unimportant for another and vice versa. Try to get your RDM in front of the
    table and have him take a good look at things rationally, even if the panic
    monster or instant gratification monkey get in the way – instantly or delayed.
    Just try to get a rational look over things. And if you can’t – ask someone for
    help – more than one person if you think the need is so. Especially for things
    that are repeating in your life. A point of view must not be automatically accepted,
    just noted and factored in the next time a situation presents itself and you
    need to get the RDM to see things clear and that also why more opinions could
    help.

    All in
    all, thank you for your work Tim – very good article. Helped me wake up and get
    back into exercising – the thing I was procrastinating from the most, and also
    start to steer my life back towards the right track. Good luck with the company
    and keep up the good job.

    • Tipsy

      more paragraphs please.

  • Ben_K

    Hi,

    I have never commented on any of the posts here but I have
    been reading most of the articles on this blog since I found it on
    google quite a while back. The series on procrastination has opened my eyes and made me
    realize how my brain functions when it comes to accomplishing certain
    tasks – work for school, at home or even stuff I need to work on for my
    hobbies.
    I am now 18 years old since a couple of months and on the
    verge of finishing school. In the past I have been a heavy
    procrastinator when it came to tasks that were not realy important to me
    (but probably important for my teachers or other people) – i.e.
    homework or other work for school or for other people. However if there
    was any work to be done that would ensure a good grade if I invested
    some time into it, I have always been able to overcome the reign of the
    Monkey inside my brain and get the job done (maybe still a little late
    but it always worked out).
    By reading this post however I have
    realized the problems I face and will be probably facing in my future
    life – frankly speaking I am scared! I always thought that by doing the
    things I love and following my spirit, I would be somewhere in the
    second quadrant, because those things could actually help me in pursuing
    my dreams and building up an enterprise (I love electronics
    engineering, which would be a great field to work in for me). Now that I
    read this article I am afraid that at some point I may actually be
    facing the same problems that you are – changing one’s mind constantly
    that is – and also I am not shure wether i will be able to accomplish
    anything once I study at an university since there won’t be much
    pressure on you anymore (at least not the type of pressure that you get
    attending a school).
    What I also realized is that the monkey inside
    of my head is actually really good at disguising himself – it seems like
    there are quite a lot of activies that I did not pursue because I was
    to afraid of them. Now I came to the conclusion that in reality I might
    not be to afraid of those things but this is rather caused by the monkey
    who is way too lazy and makes me _feel_ like I would be too afraid
    instead.

    Your post is amazing and I am shure it has opened the
    eyes of many and will help more than you probably have imagined in your
    wildest dreams. I wish every reader the very best for his or her battle
    with their nasty little Instant Gratification Monkey and I am really
    looking forward to your future posts on this and many other topics!

    • Tipsy

      Dude I have the same fear that I wont be able to survive University because of my monkey.

  • Anne

    I am going to have my husband read this article.

    As other commenters have said, your description of the procrastination monkey and its various tricks and methods are spot on. I’ve lived with them my whole life, as many of your readers have. I find that non-procrastinators have a very hard time wrapping their brains around the concept, and it could be possible that their monkey stays in a cage and they’ve never met him. So, to explain why I can’t finish the painting I started 2 years ago, or the needlepoint from 1980 that my grandmother began teaching me with (!!!) doesn’t make any sense to them. At all. Ever.

    Does anyone ever roll their eyes when someone says, “Just do it!”? And why don’t they understand it isn’t as simple as it sounds? And the argument “yes, it is simple.” “no, it isn’t.” “yes, it is.” “no, it isn’t.” can’t be won. It’s the same as saying “I have a monkey.” “I don’t have a monkey.” “I have a monkey.” “I don’t have a monkey.” “I have a monkey.” “I don’t have a monkey.” “I have a monkey.” “I don’t have a monkey.”
    Back to the topic…

    I hope that your eloquent, clear, engaging and humorous article may enlighten my non-procrastinator husband a little bit. I’m excited to say it enlightened me on several facets. 1) I am going to erase the 2010 to-do list from my dry erase board and replace it with a quadrant chart. I will imagine the things that I do and which quadrants they go in, even if I don’t write them in. I will try to spend more time above the line. 2) I understand a little bit more how non-procrastinators see me and how being busy isn’t always productive (actually, is rarely productive). The non-procrastinators see it more clearly. 3) I understand that the definitions of important and urgent are crucial to spending time points doing rewarding things (like spending time with family), and I am going to do more of the things that will be rewarding. 4) I will be aware.

    Thank you. Your copay is in the mail.

  • Not that it’s a direct solution for procrastination, but I can recommend ‘Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself’ by Joe Dispenza. It’s a self-help book (I can hear you ‘ugh’ right here), but I find great value in it because he digs into the core negative emotions that prevent you from reaching your full potential and underlie procrastination behavior as well. I find his techniques working for me in trying to become A Better Person. He uses mindfuless, meditation, observation.

    What I find valuable is that he addresses the bodily memories of every time the Monkey runs amok in your head. We become bodily attached to the (negative) feelings our head causes, which is why we can’t just rationally ‘let go’ of unhealthy behavior.

    I might sound a little vague, but the point is that it helped me realize that I’m ADDICTED to feeling heavy, lethargic, tired, sad, etc. It’s become all I know. The realization that this was once an unhealthy seed planted in me somewhere some time ago, that you can weed it and plant healthy seeds yourself, is an eye-opener for me

    • Interesting thought, Hoi-Ying. Now that a month has passed, how do you feel now? Has the realisation of the addiction helped to shift it at all?

      • Hi Julian, nice of you to ask. It has, but I am still in the ‘in between’ phase of the transition.

        I still have reoccurring fears, and moments of drifting back to isolation and lethargy. But I am feeling more at ease with myself and more inclined to open up. For this I needed to create new and simple rules in my head. like:

        – Anything that gives me long term fear or makes my gut turn around = not loving or respectful for me. Warmth = good for me. (hereby not saying that people don’t have good intentions!)

        – Absence of unsubstantial excitement, or peace if you will, = a good thing. (boringness but in a good way)

        – Small deeds do count even if it doesn’t feel like that right now. It is OK to do things at 50% of your energy. It is better than doing totally nothing.

        Of course it isn’t as black and white as I’m putting it here. I’m still checking every emotion with my ratio. Sometimes getting hurt is acceptable, if it’s by the ones you love and unintentional. Sometimes you just have to do things that you don’t like.

        But my thumb rule is, or has become: ‘the body remembers’.

        • That’s an interesting take on it – thanks for the insight.

          I’m interested in how you’re progressing – partly because I’m interested in following your story, and partially because I see parallels with my own life. I have phases of leaving things too late and ending up with adrenaline, self-focussed anger and doing things in bursts of highly focussed intense productivity.
          I hadn’t considered that those physical feelings themselves might be the ‘reward’.

          I’m curious about how your transition goes – and about how long it takes. (I assume it’d be a gradual process, at some point you notice that you haven’t been the old person lately.)

          • Perhaps that’s exactly what your body and mind unconsciously are aiming for? The thrill of making it just in time, the adrenaline gushing through your veins, causing you to feel very much ‘alive’.

            And that’s okay you know, the high you’re on afterwards is so addictive, I totally get it! And your mind gets to say ‘See, it told you it was worth it’, so you’ll keep listening to it.(however, a whole other story when you DON’T make it)

            • Agree on the unconscious ‘aim’ and reward being the adrenaline – that’s my current theory, too. Life’s more “exciting” then than when everything is proceeding smoothly and predictably and *yawn*.
              Still, I doubt that adrenaline is worth the overall cost.

              As for your privacy – I can understand that preference. I’ll stop asking about your experience out of respect for that.

            • I agree. As long as it’s not damaging to your health and it doesn’t become a goal in itself, it’s fine.

              And no problem. I’m also curious about how you’re progressing… Too bad Disqus doesn’t have a message function or some kind! 🙂

  • Nathan Cutrell

    I feel like us procrastinators are an example of just not fitting in to this societal structure. Not everyone lives a successful life in this new dynamic of ‘normal life’. We would probably be PERFECT for the ‘hunter/gatherer’ era, really the hunter side of it. The thing about being a procrastinator is that if I actually do get focused on something, and enjoy it, I will literally do it for hours on hours and love every second of it. When you break down the quadrants into life sustaining issues like hunting, looking for water and finding shelter, we wouldn’t be sitting around procrastinating in Q4 then. We are really wired to focus on something and use the ‘panic monster’ to help us. He is actually on our side too, in some cases. That fear and drive makes us alert and oriented. We used to live in a constant state of fear or panic, but not in a bad way. Just in a, if I don’t find food and water today I might die, kinda way lol. Thoughts?

    • Anonymous

      It’s an interesting comment. Procrastination, put in hunter gatherer’s life. Early man may have used the panic monster to survive. But our survival isn’t a matter of avoiding becoming part of the food chain as much as it is ‘being consumed by a trivial existence’. I’d run from that.

      Try this: Try thinking of your life in these 4 quadrants, instead**. To me, it makes more sense than Eisenhower’s divisions. Think of the stuff you do as belonging to these 4 categories:

      1) routine

      like chores around the house, get gas for the car. groceries. make dinner. mow lawn, go to work. things that repeat but take up time every day and must be done.

      2) important little things

      different things that come up every day-get taxes done, go to physical, meet with lawyer, birthday party, take car in for inspection and so on. (some people think these time fillers are what makes up life-they are important and plentiful, but not a reason for being)

      3) Great Tasks

      soul search for 3 days before choosing a great task. They may be subtle and hard to define. Use your panic monster to bring these to the surface. And only work on 3 at any one time. they are very important reasons for living. They are something like the next step in whatever your obsession is-ask yourself, what do you love to do without getting paid because it is so absorbing. Break these long term projects into 1 hour tasks.

      4) harmony

      things you must do about every hour to get back to yourself. hear music, go for a walk, play a game, etc. do it for a few minutes.

      Think of using your time these ways. Using these 4 quadrants, can you see where life sustaining issues like finding water and building shelter would place themselves? For Neanderthals, survival issues may have been their continual and only ‘Great Task’. No need for more. For Homo Sapiens, another ‘Great Task’ idea may have crept in…symbolic wall painting, carving a flute from a bone, improving an arrowhead. To ancestors who pioneered America 300 years ago, survival might have been their ‘Great Task’. Until the Great Task became ‘write up a constitution’. It might be possible that, to Mozart, say, having shelter, water and food could fall into the ‘important little things’ category. Or ‘routine’. Rather than ‘Great Task’.

      Someone I knew who found he was dying of cancer said “But, I never did anything I wanted.” (he had volunteered to fight in WWII and Korea and raised 5 children) There is a lesson there. It’s all too easy to become diverted from the harder to define, more personally significant things. Something we want to get done that’s above all the rest. This blog helps remind us not to be fooled when those diversions tug at our sleeve. And this schedule for creatives sets apart Great Tasks clearly as time to be set apart from rest. It is in continual danger from the many diversions of life. Until you put it on your schedule.

      If you want to live your life switching from one important little thing to another, it’s possible that that could be a rewarding life. Not to me. I like a thread weaving through my life. It’s like having a gauge. Having a Great Task. It’s something that tests me and that I can improve upon year after year. It’s a focus.

      **From Schedules for Creative Types: (The Muse and the Beast-by Yana Frank)

    • nijikawa

      I find this comment interesting because when I tried to imagine the “hunter” era Nathan describes, it seemed to me that Q2 is almost non-existent in it. I tired to think of things that could belong in Q2 in this era, such as becoming more attractive (hence increasing your chance of mating and having offsprings) or becoming more physically fit (hence increasing your chance of survival in the wilds), and realized that most of them can in fact be accomplished simply by doing Q1 and Q3 tasks, such as hunting and fighting against opposing clans.
      So how is the modern era different from the hunter era? Think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Modern humans don’t really lack anything ancient humans own; modern humans just gotta worry a lot more about the top two levels of the pyramid: esteem and self-actualization, which are highly related to Q2 activities. Also, there are way, way more time and means for a modern human to stay in Q4. Judging from these fact, I think a good way to combat procrastination is to learn to be thankful of the things we have. Doing so does not get rid of the monkey in any way, but it could make Q2 look more attractive and make the monkey less likely to go to Q4.

    • Tipsy

      I’ve been thinking what you just said since I was a child in primary school. Holy shit I’m not alone. Rock on dude.

  • Ravind Budhiraja

    I think you didn’t spend enough time considering the most important insight of the article, that the monkey avoids Q1 and Q1 because “the stakes are high, and you’re shooting for the stars, which means you might fail to reach them.” If procrastination is a symptom of our fear of failing, shouldn’t we try to address the root cause and stop fearing failure?

    • SA

      Yes! I would love for Tim to write something on this subject too.

    • Delly

      doesn’t the fear of failure sorta come from social stigma, that I can’t make mistakes cause society will judge me for me, or the puppet master will be disappointed in me. That’s dipping into “taming the mammoth” post.

      Unless you’re really just a perfectionist (tim says he is in the ‘why i can’t post on time’ mini.), so far, he hasn’t posted any solutions for perfectionism, hopefully he will in the near future after he’s done with his Elon Musk posts

      • Ravind Budhiraja

        Social stigma plays a part. However I think failure can be equally scary to your self image. Thinking “I could have achieved so much if I wasn’t a procrastinator” is a fairly comfortable place to dwell in. On the other hand, if I stop procrastinating and actually go for my dreams and still fail, then I must admit that “Despite trying my best, I just wasn’t good enough.” Do I really want to take that chance?

        • Delly

          yes you’re right, procrastination might stem from not wanting to harm your self image, which should be an article on WBW.

    • Word. Let me illustrate where ‘shooting for the stars’ and ‘following my dreams’ lead to.

      1. Realizing that you’re just ordinary like everyone else (hence, the mouse).

      2. Impending doom and paralysis over not realizing your ‘potential’, whatever that is.

      Sorry for being so depressing guys! But I love returning to this post, it gives me consolation.

    • Word. Let me illustrate where ‘shooting for the stars’ and ‘following my dreams’ lead to.

      1. Realizing that you’re just an ordinary wallflower, a grey insignificant mouse, not destined for greatness at all.

      2. Impending doom and paralysis over not ‘living up to your potential’, whatever that is.

      Sorry for being so depressing guys! But I love returning to this post, it gives me consolation.

  • mnrsiat

    This is fantastic. I have worked this way for years, making some small gains in productivity but not as much as I want to. One thing that sometimes I am able to do is trick my monkey into Q2 from Dark Q4. Like if I am procrastinating on laundry, I can make my monkey wash dishes. Or if I am procrastinating on client work, I can make the monkey evaluate accounting software. I hope to make more progress now that I have the monkey metaphor! It fits so well.

  • vellyr

    I would propose a fourth category of procrastinator, the relaxtinator. I’ve defeated the monkey by simply removing all urgency from my life. I still have Q1 things occasionally, but they’re never very difficult. As a result, I spend most of my time in quadrants 2 and 4. The downside is that my ship (as driven by the RDM) isn’t really going anywhere. Without urgency there is no opportunity to fail or succeed. I’m personally OK with this, but according to the “social ladder” paradigm, I’m failing.

  • Bruno Ramos de Sousa

    First comment here . I got to WBW though the AI articles and have been really impressed with everything, but with this procrastination series you really hit the nail – went beyond “very interesting information” to “serious and insightful self-knowledge shit”. This is pure gold, thanks and congrats – you got a new follower and active fan.

  • Sarah

    The monkey’s a fucking pirate.

    Brilliant article.

    I’m not a success story by far, but I think I am slowly gaining ground by
    – logging everything I do
    – scheduling everything (so much easier to log , if I just stick to the schedule)
    – reassessing sced log differences each week
    – and telling myself over and over again that I can do this, just as long as I keep trying and never give up. (Hope you’re listening you Effing pirate monkey)

    Pressure is still killer…I tend to ostrich in Q1

    And so is being too sick to stay in the flow once it start s. (It’s hard to pull the Cape off the monkey too) – I have SEID – systemic exertion intolerance disease, which is very painful.

    But hopefully with a sched/log/accountability/belief in my story thing , I’ll achieve some Q1 – 2 progress.

    Now it’s time according to the sced to turn off the phone and rest.

    Wish me luck.

    and thanks again -great articles!

    • kalsonmandela

      ☁☁☁☁it’s Easy Make With waitbutwhy < i started working online, completing some basic jobs that only requires from you a computer and internet access and I am happier than ever… It's been 6 months since i started this and i got paid so far total of 36,000 bucks… Basicly i profit close to 80 bucks/h and work for 3-4 hrs most of the days.Best part to whole this thing is that you can decide when to work yourself and for how long and you get a paycheck
      at the end of each week.
      Here’s A More Detail

  • DanielV

    I like the quadrants idea, it’s a good way to categorize a list of activities that always grows up, and almost never shrinks…
    Hey!!!, I use to work with 4 desktops in my computer, and 90% of my work is computer work, I could use each desktop for a matrix quadrant!!!.
    So yup… moving this web browser window to the 4th desktop/quadrant 😛

    There you have a software idea for us: measure the time spent in each desktop and when we are too much time in the monkey quadrant/4th desktop an alarm pops up or something (the scare monster comes noticeable loudly to remind us we have to get out of the dark place).
    And if we spent a good chunk of time in the 1st quadrant the monkey could invite us politely from the screen edge to play a little and we can choose to give him a banana (no thanks monkey, lets continue in quadrant one) or go to play a little time – I say LITTLE time- well earned (with a timer, once time elapsed the monkey starts to make noise or the scare monster appears).
    But if we switch out of the 1st desktop the monkey will sit in the screen corner that remind us that we are doing it wrong.

    No need to mention that I have procrastination issues also, right?

    • Bernard

      Great idea, i would love an app Like that, use it like an exercise chronometer.

  • Panicked

    i love the post, but i think you missed out a lot about the panic monster, he is a complex and dynamic being in his own right. I think he could take up a post all on his own TBH. Sometimes when the monkey get the better of you all the time, the panic monster doesn’t go away, or get weaker. He gets stronger, like a supervillian origin story. He used to help you get rid of the monkey, now he has the wheel, and he’s driving like a crazy person. He has no goal, he has no quadrant, he is a crazy, vindictive, awful thing. He’s the reason you can’t sit through a lecture, because the moment you walk into that room, he fills your head with all the panic. You’re not procrastinating, you’re learning, but he invents things you haven’t done, achievements you never realized you haven’t gotten, that your never going to achieve. There is no schedule in the world that would appease his thirst for your faults. The Panic Monster is the real demon, a monkey is annoying, the monster will kill you.

    • GenderEquality

      It’s Easy for make with waitbutwhy < i started working online, completing some basic jobs that only requires from you a computer and internet access and I am happier than ever… It's been 6 months since i started this and i got paid so far total of 36,000 bucks… Basicly i profit close to 80 bucks/h and work for 3-4 hrs most of the days.Best part to whole this thing is that you can decide when to work yourself and for how long and you get a paycheck

      at the end of each week. SEE MORE INFO

    • newCodeYorik

      Yes, the Panic Monster brings a little gift of shame with him every time he arrives. Eventually all that shame builds up, and the next thing Tim knows is his life is nothing but shame. The Panic Monster likes to make himself indispensable.

  • Lorena Ibarra

    I’ll leave a comment later

  • marcela

    This is brilliant! And life changing – or so I hope!
    I just realized I started and failed a whole company because of the monkey. Damn.

    • MJSANTILLI

      It’s very Easy with waitbutwhy < my neighbor's mom makes $64 hourly on the computer . She has been without work for 6 months but last month her check was $14236 just working on the computer for a few hours.

      learn the facts here now SEE MORE DETAIL

    • Auliya_Kesie

      ♝♞♟♚♛♜♝♞♛★♛♜♝♞♟ Best Job Experience At HomeKenny Amos/-/<–Creat profit with Google at [email protected]:::

      ➨➨➨➨ https://Work2015/Approve/currency/Get….

    • ElizabethLicata

      It’s simple to work with waitbutwhy < my neighbor's mom makes $64 hourly on the computer . She has been without work for 6 months but last month her check was $14236 just working on the computer for a few hours.

      learn the facts here now SEE COMPLETE INFO

    • DarrynBonthuys

      ♫♫With♫♫ ♪♪♪waitbutwhy♪♪♪.-. < my neighbor's mom makes $64 hourly on the computer . She has been without work for 6 months but last month her check was $14236 just working on the computer for a few hours.

      learn the facts here now GET MORE INFO

    • Scrippsjhon

      It’s simple to make acount balance with waitbutwhy < I didn't believe …that…my brother woz like truly making money part time at their computer. . there aunt had bean doing this 4 only seventeen months and resantly paid the dept on there apartment and bourt themselves a Lotus Elise .

      see this her SEE MORE DETAIL

    • iBall Announces

      Work with yahoo google Utube and waitbutwhy < I didn't believe …that…my brother woz like truly making money part time at their computer. . there aunt had bean doing this 4 only seventeen months and resantly paid the dept on there apartment and bourt themselves a Lotus Elise .

      see this her SEE MORE INFO

    • SultanAlbatati

      Great by google yahoo and waitbutwhy < I didn't believe …that…my brother woz like truly making money part time at their computer. . there aunt had bean doing this 4 only seventeen months and resantly paid the dept on there apartment and bourt themselves a Lotus Elise .

      see this her CLICK FOR MORE INFO

  • newCodeYorik

    Future Tim might not exist, but I think there’s a character you left out. Some psychologists (yes, real professional therapists!) have another tact for dealing with the Instant Gratification Monkey; the Consequence Wizard (my name, not theirs.) Their explanation is that present Tim can only see up to the point of gratification, the fun part, and can’t see beyond the 1st order effect of an action, that is, fun. (Addicts have this problem a lot too.) It’s impossible for present Tim to see Future Tim or even think about him. Instead, Tim can call up the Consequence Wizard who has a crystal ball and can show present Tim the non-existent Future Tim in the crystal ball of consequences. The Consequence Wizard gets Tim viewing the time after the IG Monkey has had the fun, when the Panic Monster comes out or when Future Tim gets angry. Tim is better equipped to tame the monkey when he can look into the crystal ball.

    OK, maybe the Consequence Wizard isn’t the greatest character idea, but it is a valid technique to train yourself to see past the instant gratification.

  • JohnsonMcKinley

    ✬✬✬✬✬✬✬✬✬♫♫Here is more profit with waitbutwhy < I didn't believe …that…my brother woz like truly making money part time at their computer. . there aunt had bean doing this 4 only seventeen months and resantly paid the dept on there apartment and bourt themselves a Lotus Elise .

    see this her ►►►►► ===—->-> SEE MORE DETAIL

  • afffff

    Monkey isn’t against you. It’s simply trying to conserve your energy, because evolutionary it worked.

    • wariowarewolf

      Don’t encourage it…

    • nalsan mangala

      ✬✬✬▆✈▆▆✈▆▆✈▆▆Take advice with waitbutwhy < I didn't believe …that…my brother woz like truly making money part time at their computer. . there aunt had bean doing this 4 only seventeen months and resantly paid the dept on there apartment and bourt themselves a Lotus Elise .

      see this her ►►►►► ===—->-> SEE MORE DETAIL

    • Valerie Williams

      ∎∎∎∎∎∎✈✈✈✈✈Take Easy with waitbutwhy < my buddy's step-mother makes $74 hourly on the computer . She has been without a job for 7 months but last month her paycheck was $14216 just working on the computer for a few hours.

      official website ===—->-> SEE MORE DETAIL

    • Tipsy

      If we had a better economic system then the current work-for-money we could indulge our monkeys more and feel no guilt about it, and channel our creative energies through the things that appear easy Q4, you saw how much work Tim got done when Blogging was his Q4.

  • SA

    Tim, this stuff is really brilliant. I am wondering if you would consider doing a rewrite so I could share it with my 10 year old daughter and other kids who could really use this model. I think kids could really absorb what you have shared here.

  • SA

    I woke up in a fowl mood this morning at 4:30am and only got up because the
    feeling of despair was keeping me from passing out. I want to share the
    following as it lead to some real transformation once I finally got to writing
    it down.

    I have a fantasy…to be current in all areas of my life. Why is it a
    fantasy? Perhaps because I don’t fully know what that means or how I might
    get there.

    As Tim might say, I have been leaving this problem up to Future Susie Anne,
    or who ever she is as she may have changed her name. Lets call her Suzanna. Or
    for the moment, Susa.

    See, if I start the list of what is not current and well-attended in my
    life (let alone try to put it in the matrix) I think I will come to a grinding
    halt with confusion and upsetness. The list just unhinges me and I want to
    drink more coffee.

    Got more coffee!! I think it is because I can write the list right now but
    I have to rely on my Future Self to complete what is on it and that is not a
    trust I can currently lean into. I know she won’t actually do it. She will do
    some because she has to but there is evidence that if I push her too hard she
    will simply keel over and watch every episode of Lie to Me back to back over a
    4-5 day period. (I will actually need to find another series as I have already
    done this one. Or she will need to find it herself.)

    Another part of this dilemma is that the list is not the full territory. I
    can make the list but the is always growing and changing and I forget there was
    already a list and I make a new list and then what I have is boxes and boxes of
    paper lists and very little in the way of tools to manage the lists or the
    boxes so I put them in storage for Future Self (lets call her Suze for the
    moment) to organize. Man, she is great. If only I could rely on her.

    Oooh Oooh!! This reminds me of this awesome procrastination tool I once
    learned from some great guy’s audio recording on how to do such things! (That’s
    as much credit as he is going to get until I figure out how to recover all my
    lost memories). Right. Squirrel!

    So this tool involves choosing a task, any task really on which one is
    “procrastinating”. We know which ones they are. So take the task, write it down
    and then break down the steps to doing it until you arrive at one that is so
    doable in the moment that you cannot resist doing it. If you haven’t gotten up
    and done it already then you haven’t actually gotten to the step I am referring
    to.

    I will attempt an example. I need to create some kind of exercise practice.
    Why? I don’t feel well a lot of the time and I am starting to gain belly fat.
    In fact, if I could lose my belly fat before the dance show I am in this evening
    that would be great (I wish I could claim the dance show as legitimate exercise
    but it isn’t really).

    So, I have now established a goal of losing belly fat by tonight. Can this
    be done? If I starve myself I won’t be able to dance, so that is out.

    And the goal seems ambitious. However, I could do something or things to
    move toward my goal without actually just totally discouraging myself.

    Wow, one really does have to have some patience for this.

    My goal has now shifted to feeling encouraged and supported to doing things
    that help me feel better. Or to even feel great. I would like to feel great.
    And by this evening I would like to feel quite well and good about being seen
    in public in my costume. It would help if I had a different shirt that isn’t so
    frumpy.

    I can get a new shirt today but not right now as it is 5:50am.

    I am now drinking water instead of coffee. This is also helping
    immediately!

    And now I just did some stretching on the floor and feel better and more
    connected to my body. So, in fact, I think I have achieved part of my goal
    already.

    And now I have had some not totally disgusting green drink that someone in
    my family made yesterday. Now I don’t feel as though I am about to have a blood
    sugar crash.

    I actually feel really good right this moment!

    Wow. Now I just did more stretching and some tummy toning exercises. I
    might even go and get my laptop and put this entry into the comments on Tim’s blog.
    That is something I have only been pretending to do up until now so I could
    have a pretend audience which is always motivating for me.

    I woke up in a fowl mood this morning at 4:30am and only got up because the
    feeling of despair was keeping me from passing out.

    This transformation, however temporary was catalyzed by me, my Present Self, Susie Anne, and I am feeling good right now, tummy and all. Hmmm. I feel gratitude and appreciation, which is long way from where I started out this morning. Thanks for the stretch.

    • SA

      I mean “foul” not “fowl”. haha

      • Amanda Nudelman

        ∎∎∎∎∎∎❉❊❶❷❸Take Easy with waitbutwhy < my buddy's step-mother makes $74 hourly on the computer . She has been without a job for 7 months but last month her paycheck was $14216 just working on the computer for a few hours.

        official website ===—->-> SEE MORE DETAIL

  • Marthinus Bosman

    I read all of these articles on procrastination with a fear that they won’t have a doable solution. Then I get to the part on how to deal with it, and I sort of feel like I can do this, but obviously, since I’m writing this comment instead of figuring out how to make a wordpress site (which I guess is Q3 anyways, but I’m on holiday so shhhh) the solution still requires me to enter that dreaded Q2, which, since there are PhD students and Tim, who’s had a meeting with Elon Musk (very well done, btw) is not going to happen. I’ve also gone into this situation a lot in the past (usually before exams) and re-kicked my ass into realizing how I’m wasting life etc. Which only holds up for a week or two max.

    So now I need to figure out a solution that is actually realistic, after all, I’m part of generation Y so I must be special enough to do it. That’s not really sarcastic, it’s actually how I feel about this, but I read your article on that 5 minutes ago so I’ve just gained new wisdom into how true it actually is. Having gained this wisdom I realize again that there are PhD students and Tim who have already been unsuccessfully thinking of solutions longer than I’ve been alive.

    The best I can come up with though is to set a recurring weekly reminder to go into a life crisis on how I’m procrastinating too much, and have that epiphany last another week 😛

  • Bernard

    By using a very accessible analogy Tim has really given me some insight into my demons and of others as well. I am personally a successinator, which even that has taken years to cultivate even though I feel like an impostinator. My monkey keeps me from being efficient, the difficulty is moving things from Q2 to Q1, implementation! To compensate my inefficiency I overwork thus avoiding how to delegate properly.
    I think the deal my Decision maker needs to make is with the Monkey, explaining that if he can hibernate for a period of time enough for the Decision Maker to get organized then he can avoid the terrible terrible abuse he suffers from the panic monster, who basically is running the show in totalitarian fashion and destroying my health.

  • Dave

    why am i reading these comments??

    • Daniel Moore

      Because the monkey likes it.

  • Knotlexcel

    < col Hiiiiiii Friends…——–.???? ? @mi12//++waitbutwhy++ < Find More='' ……..''

    ?????????????????????????????????????????????9

  • WilliamTBlue

    nowRead this waitbutwhy … Here’s a Blog

    llllllllllllllllllllllllll

  • Gwen

    ▬▬▬▬★★★★ that’s a full enjoy with waitbutwhy——- ▬▬▬▬▬☛ Continue Reading

  • Dawn

    ▬▬▬▬★★★★ that’s a full enjoy with waitbutwhy… ▬▬▬▬▬☛ Continue Reading

  • Helen

    ▬▬▬▬★★★★ that’s a full enjoy with waitbutwhy ********* ▬▬▬▬▬☛ Continue Reading

  • Idan Dardikman

    hi! check this site (and app) out. it offers a free timer so you can keep track of what you’re wasting your time on.
    https://www.toggl.com/app/timer

    • Tipsy

      Pathetic.

      • Idan Dardikman

        why like that?

  • Sawly1971

    < col Hiiiiiii Friends..''.——–''.▬▬▬▬★★ that's a full enjoy with+ waitbutwhy+ ********* < Find More='' ……..''

    ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  • AaronSFontenot

    nowRead this waitbutwhy….. Here’s a Blog

    lllllllllll

  • Monkey’s pet

    I had actually been designating reading this article to future me after I got the email for it, a month and a half ago. My monkey likes WBW, but the appeal greatly diminishes once my RDM decides that an article could actually be useful for me ;-). Reading it now was a compromise between me and the monkey.

    One of my biggest problems I think is that I still have no real good idea of what is in my Q2. There are some things in there, like I want to get my financials in order (which I barely ever do anything about before it enters Q1 and my panic monster makes me) and I want to improve my house and keep it clean (which often is not done unless again, the panic monster makes me, for instance “OMG my mom’s coming to visit?!” *cleaning spree*), but I’m in a job I just kind of rolled into after flunking out of college and still don’t know what I’d really like to do (at 36). I might like to learn to code properly (I know basics), I’ve done a lot with that in the past but I kind of gave up on it after years of monkey sabotage (I’ve studied computer science three times now, four times if you count two attempts during my student years, but never got to completion) and never getting anywhere. I’m at the point now where I seriously have no idea if it’s just a pipe dream or if it’s not what I’d really like to do at all, which only feeds the monkey more ammunition to sabotage me.

    I’m also kind of jealous of your monkey. Not to diminish your problems with him, but your monkey seems to actually do stuff. Mine prefers to just sit back and occupy my mind with totally useless things like scrolling through 9gag or reading and responding to random newsposts on a techsite (not the kind that I’d actually learn something from though). Even playing games or watching something on Netflix can be too much effort for the monkey at times, let alone that the monkey would make me learn to play an instrument or something like that.

    I have however gotten better at handling him. There was a time where I would not do anything, the panic monster would show up and my RDM would freak out over the panic monster along with the monkey and they’d BOTH run up a tree leaving me unable to do anything at all, until the panic really got too bad and I’d pull some crazy stunt to get out of whatever pickle I was in. This left me with some nice debt after a couple of bailouts because of unpaid bills, and also an irrational fear of (physical) mail.

    I’ve learned to manage that better these days and the panic monster doesn’t have nearly as much hold over me as it used to, but so far that mostly just means I’m better at handling Q1 stuff. Doing anything that’s Q2 is a true rarity… I fixed the step under my front door a couple weeks ago, it had been busted for something like 8 years I guess.

    This post is a nice reminder of the presence of my monkey and gives some new tools to keep him in check, thank you for sharing this with all of us. The battle of confidence is a good point, I think the fact that I have tried and failed for so long now has only served to hurt my confidence even more, getting to the fact where I secretly don’t believe that I can actually ever achieve anything significant anymore, which is of course a very bad place from where to start trying to tell your monkey to back off. Knowing that seems like it might help in itself though, so I’ll be practicing (again) to recognize when the monkey is in charge, and maybe start tipping my own scale back in my favor again.

    • someone

      Procrastination might not be bad,just the way the brain tells you that he need time to think(without you knowing),needs to gather more info or just not waste your time on thing that seem worte if you think from the perspective of someone else or society but are truly worthless.

      • Onyatam Niakade

        YES, exactly! Thank you man, couldn’t have said it better.

  • Brandi

    ——— SSSSSSoooooo Extra Cute profit with waitbutwhy ——- ——— Keep Reading

  • Richard

    Where are all the peeps who have “The 7 habits” but still haven’t read it??…….
    Always put your birthday down as one of your yearly goals, so at least you will “accomplish” one of them.

    There are these folks who goof off on the Internet all day when they are supposedly “working” and I’ve often wondered about them….Impostinators? Though I can’t judge since i’m a disastinator….

  • Lorraine

    ——– i like me waitbutwhy… _________ Keep Reading

  • NeilCBarfield

    Reset your job with waitbutwhy Find Here

  • Gayle

    ———- that’s a full enjoy with waitbutwhy ****** _________ Continue Reading

  • 3R

    With some people, there’s a second monkey. Its when your monkey has its own monkey. And the second monkey is much worse – this is where the rock bottom is. The first monkey, at the very least, does fun things. Those things might not be productive or useful, but its still doing something. The second monkey doesn’t want to do ANYTHING and for him, the first monkey is the RDM.

    This is my story:

    When I was in high school, Deadline Monster kept me going. When I got into college, the first year the RDM was in power, but after a while, because of reasons I won’t go into, RDM started sinking and the monkey grew stronger. After a few years of doing nothing and elaborate lying to my parents, letting them think I was doing something while I wasn’t, just to keep the show going, I got even worse. My monkey gave birth to another monkey, the second monkey. This second monkey drained almost ALL of my energy, even for the easy and fun things. I stopped doing my favorite easy and fun things, like gaming, listening to music, even watching TV shows. I was just there, doing nothing, nothing except thinking, feeling guilty and projecting The Future Me and how he might change things for the better, when the next semester comes. Its been 7 years since I got into college and 6 years since the monkey is in complete control. Its been 1 year since I’ve killed the second monkey. I feel I’m making progress in terms of awareness and planning but I’m still not doing. The fucking monkey is still there, at the wheel. Tomorrow (because its 3am right now) I’ll go buy a toy monkey and it will represent the monkey inside of me. First, I thought I’d keep it at my desktop so I’d stay aware of it all the time, but now I’m thinking I’ll just set it on fire and throw from the 3rd floor window and see if that works.

  • Margaret

    ———- that’s a full enjoy withwaitbutwhy… < Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $177 per hour. I work through this link,

    go to tech tab for work detail _________ Continue Reading

  • Lefuld

    < ✜✱✪✪✲✜ +waitbutwhy +*********….. < Now Go R­e­­a­d M­o­r­e

    21

  • JohnASilcox

    Reset your job with waitbutwhy Find Here

  • JohnGBolin

    Your first choice waitbutwhy Find Here

  • KarenDWingo

    All time hit waitbutwhy Find Here

  • Mainer122

    My monkey brought me here, and my RDM thought, whoa, this is Important to my life.

    And instead of really thinking about it, and writing out how to make changes, I bookmarked this page so, you know, Future Me will read it again.

    Meanwhile, I’ve set a goal that I will read one Wait Buy Why post each day. It’s not Urgent that I do this, but I do feel it’s Important. (Unless that’s my Monkey talking, ’cause he knows it’ll be fun.)

    P.S. All joking aside, thanks. I’m going to start tracking my hours tomorr- no, right now.

    • Month

      🙂 Love you humor dude. How are things going now, after a month?

  • NormaRSmith

    Your first choice waitbutwhy Find Here

  • Troarat45

    < ✜✱✪✪✲✜.+waitbutwhy+ ********* ….. < Now Go R­e­­a­d M­o­r­e
    3

  • Damien Monkey

    I’ve become too comfortable playing in the dark playground and sitting on the swing dreaming big things while the monkey plays.
    Start of next month I start a training which will put the major weekly component of my life immediately into Q1. From this consistent work foundation by necessity leisure time is naturally going to fall into Q2 as I my most enjoyable leisure hobbies (climbing trees, swimming and playing in nature) are actually important to the bigger goal.

    As for now in the limbo days leading up to start my monkey firmly has the reins and the panic monster is in complete slumber. Oh well.

  • Jenna

    I have become a disastinator. Panic Monster doesn’t bother yelling at the Monkey anymore; waste of oxygen. And the level of self-loathing I’m feeling measures in at Future Me being as unimpressive as Present Me (no disillusioned mirage here). This downward spiral I’m trapped in feels as unrecoverable as a certain F-14 tail spin…

  • AshleyJMille

    ….All time hit the waitbutwhy Find Here

  • Hannah

    —-*****—- i like me waitbutwhy… ………… Continue Reading

  • Losent

    < ✜✱✪✪✲✜.+waitbutwhy+ ********* ….. < Now Go R­e­­a­d M­o­r­e

    18

  • Joe

    I have enjoyed your post and I have not converted it from a Q4 distraction to Q@ research on getting my sh*t together. However, I have a single comment. To improve Eisenhower’s Matrix, which I understood to be your ideal, I would rename Q4 to “DELETE IT or DESERVE IT.” It kind of gives you the option to put Q4 back into Q2 as relaxation, which is important. Feel good about being able to spend time in Q4. Do something that doesn’t contribute to anything but your selfish little monkey.

  • ElsaCWalker

    Your first choice waitbutwhy Find Here

  • MichaelHFerguson

    22222Ultra Income source by waitbutwhy Find Here

  • LaurineEBailey

    …..All time hit the waitbutwhy Find Here

  • DavisCMarsh

    Next few days start your new life…waitbutwhy… < Find Here

  • zibar

    What was the role of the monkey in this story?راهبند اتوماتیک

  • Shubhra

    When I read the first part of the procrastination post, especially the part where it says “The monkey thinks he is on top of his life. Eats when its hungry, sleeps when its tired.” I reacted by loudly shouting “Oh my God he’s right. I am a monkey!!” Everything you say is 100% relatable and that scares me. I have always been a procrastinator but ever since joining college..its just getting worse. I used to be able to beat off the monkey so it could retreat to its perch on the tree but now its like we’re best friends and I can never say no to it. Not even a half-hearted attempt at saying no. I somehow managed every thing for the first two years without noticing I had a serious problem but the third year..the third year was the worst! I would fail to attend the first, second or sometimes even the third class in the morning. Wouldn’t shower until I needed to. Wouldn’t sleep until I absolutely had to. Wouldn’t drink water until my throat was parched. My friends think I’m an alien because I’ve still somehow managed to maintain a 7.6 gpa but I don’t know how long I’ll be able to maintain it. I’m supposed to be working on my online internship right now. But I’m here writing to you about how I should not be writing to you right now. I’m just glad I’ve realised it is a problem. The terms you’ve provided would probably help. The tips you’ve given, I hope they help. #AlwaysKeepFighting for all the other people whose lives are a mess.

    • Preocupante

      An excellent observation. I’ll leave the full passage you mention here:

      “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.”

  • barisan

    Does this change in life is difficult in practice?کرکره برقی

  • Anks

    The posts completely shook me off the chair.As if I got struck with a hammer on my head (not exaggerating).My situation is quite like the 2nd form of disastinators , working in an environment with no real challenges or deadlines to be met.It sucks.Big time.The problem with my monkey is, it has been nicely and sufficiently fed mostly throughout my life thus far.Result being as lazy as fuck it is now ,it has made my RDM one too.This article came in as a breath of fresh air to my otherwise Melancholic and non action filled schedule.It feels for sure I have reached the threshold of this nonsense living.Things must only go up north from here.And this blog definitely provides the hope of their being light at the end of the tunnel.

    Great Work there
    Cheers all the way from India.

  • JeremyEHayes

    Some New Features with waitbutwhy….. Go To Next Page

  • MaxMWheeler

    Some New Features with waitbutwhy….. Go To Next Page

  • MarthaFErvin

    fdf

  • MarthaFErvin

    Best Quality performance waitbutwhy… <…… Find Here

  • bahooz

    Interesting story.زومر

  • Foggia

    Reading this post was clearly in my Q4, and bait for my panic monster…

  • Angela

    Thank you so very much for your set of posts on procrastination. You brilliantly described the problems I have been creating for myself for as long as I can remember. I am not exaggerating when I say your posts have changed my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s wonderful to know I am not alone, and there is a way out of this. I admire your ability to explain such a complicated topic in a very entertaining and understandable way. I am your newest fan!

  • These posts have actually made me change some of my habits already. Just small stuff; the bricks. My most important goal now is to not overreach and burn myself. Need to do one brick a the time and not overextend and try do an armfull simultaniously.

  • Grzegorz Nitwinko

    Question to Tim: What’s your current Q4?

    Tim, please don’t let the monkey to follow Q4!

  • Adam Short

    I’ve just spent the last few hours reading all the available procrastination articles here because frankly they’re amazing. I have a huge problem with procrastination. I can spend whole days, nay weeks, in Q4 without batting an eyelid. I suspect I’m probably a successtinator though, and probably always have been. I spend an awful lot of my time in Q3, doing things at work that I know are not remotely worthwhile, but that look productive. I have even worked through nights and weekends at this stuff, and it makes me seem like a great employee, but actually, if I’d said to someone “screw this stuff, we ought to be doing things differently” I might have ended up in a Q1 place at the very least. That would have meant taking charge, and encouraging people to make me accountable for things, and yeah… just no…

    • ANON

      >encouraging people to make me accountable for things
      AAAAAAAAAA

  • Shane

    I’m 21. I have been a Procrastinator all my life. I barely graduated High school because of it. I went to summer school every year and had to stay an extra semester to make up four core credits online. That’s fitting four semesters into one! My dad made me switch schools for my last year so that I would get more homework done (I did). I probably turned in less than 10% of my overall high school homework. I was late to school probably more than 60% of the time.

    In 11th grade, I was seeing the school counselor for a couple months because I wasn’t getting any work done and was failing all of my classes. It was my choice to see her but I had trouble expressing myself to her and explaining why I wasn’t doing work. Out of an hour long session, I would only say a few sentences. She told me to write down everything I did for a couple weeks because I couldn’t explain to her what I was doing at home instead of my homework. This was still quite difficult, and the things that i did and wrote varied from day to day, but there was a pattern: I would wake up, 10 minutes later get up, then go to school, arriving 15 minutes late. I go through school normally, then take the bus home. I would spend the next 3-4 hours in the Dark Playground, then eat dinner, then a couple more hours in the Dark Playground, then go to sleep. Those first 3-4 hours in the Dark Playground were key, but I couldn’t really express to the counselor what I was doing during that time. My RDM wanted to do homework, but my Monkey wanted (mainly) to play video games, but both were too stubborn to do either. After a while I would get fed up with the Dark Playground and I would go out to shoot hoops in the driveway. This pleased my Monkey and somewhat my RDM, who reasoned that at least my jumpshot was getting better. “Playing basketball” turned into somewhat of a euphemism between us of the four hour long Dark Playground time that I would spend every day.

    Anyway, she said I was starting down a spiral of depression and I stopped seeing her because I didn’t agree. After that year I switched schools and I’m still a Disastinator. Skipped a bit there, but maybe I don’t need to tell my life’s story. So In short, I’ve been able to become more happy by coming to terms with my procrastination. Tim says to take the reins from the Monkey, but I let him steer the ship. I’ve given up that eternal struggle. After all, that struggle is the only thing that turns Q4 from the Happy Playground into the Dark Playground. This approach will never make me successful and I’ll never reach my full potential, but I should be happy. I haven’t defeated procrastination and there are still real world problems that I have trouble with. For instance, right now I don’t have an I.D. or a food handler’s permit and I work at a bar, so I could get fired any day.

    • yuyu2809

      Man, you should totally get that food handler’s permit.

      No, but seriously, I feel you, and though I haven’t been through problems more than my close friends and family being disappointing at me, I know how hard it can get. For your situation I would suggest, if I may, trying to think of what you would like to do with your life, and realizing how being a procrastinator of any sort isn’t gonna get you there. I too have felt the need to just give up to the monkey forever, but I do believe there’s a better life out there, and the first step is wanting to change. If you don’t want to change and are happy just giving up, it’s also OK – I just don’t think that’s what’s really going on in your head.

      If not anything else, you might have friends or family that you’re disappointing by “being lazy” according to what they see from outside your mind. If you care for those people, you could try to change at least for them.

  • Mikebjones

    Go toOur Community w a i t b w- Online money

  • Natala

    This is legitimately the story of my life squint emoticon. I also have an electric piano right next to my desk, and I sometimes use that as an excuse to not do any meaningful work. This article was a very enjoyable read, to say the least.

  • norarcarr

    0=03Now Get this advantage

  • Ahwal

    There be no monkey inside my head.
    I am the monkey.
    RDM is dead.

  • Bosman

    Very helpfull articles. I’m a procrastinator too, and hoover between an impostinator and succestinator. I hope to conquer my monkey now that I can understand and acknowledge it’s existence. This way I can more enjoy my free time more in the happy playground rather than my dark playground.

    I also noticed my personal life and the people in there are dragged into my procrastination habits. My wife is NOT a procrastinator, but gets dragged into my ever-slacking-day routine of watching series and playing on the iPad rather than doing chores and productive work.

    Many thanks for all the insights, and I hope it will help me and others like me.

  • Anyone interested in creating a Skype Anti-Procrastination group?
    If we have a social outlet for every time we start procrastinating we can get quick motivation from people who understand us 100%. I can see this can be a distraction too, so the whole point is to get a quick feedback and then back to work.

    The only rule would be to be serious about ending this problem and periodically participate (that is to avoid inactive users). Besides those huge benefits, we’ll surely share insights to take Q2 action.

    If you’re interested just reply to my comment.

    • Pierre Leuret

      this is actually a good idea.

  • Romika Maitra

    Heartbreaking but true.. in fact nothing read or heard in a long time has been more true than this. Thanks to Tim, I met my Monkey. Even though I must get rid of my Monkey to do something meaningful in my life, I must admit that my Monkey is adorable. He is cute. The best part is, meeting My Monkey through this piece made me laugh throughout. I could remember all those times and days when My Monkey was the winner.
    Anyways, keeping all the fun part aside, I agree when Tim where he says that Monkey and I should be a team.
    That’s how we are supposed to be. I don’t have to fight with My Monkey, I have to be friends with him.

    To Tim,
    This is great. Stumbling upon this was the best thing My Monkey did today. You have a follower for life now, actually two followers, I and My Monkey. 😛 Thanks for helping me meeting the Monkey. I will be on my best behavior to be friends with him now.
    Love From India 🙂

  • Kelly Whiteman

    You have articulated something I didn’t even realise I wanted to articulate, THANK YOU!

  • Winch

    Thank you for explaining procrastination so well! Even without really giving tips, your article is more useful than anything I read before about procrastination. Probably because you’re just as insane as I am!

    I’ve decided to make my own matrix (a regular sheet of paper), and spread my to-do list in all four quadrants using tiny post-its. I’m trying to work on Q2. I’ll move my completed post-its to my agenda as a ta-daa list (my monkey loooves ta-daa lists).
    Also, I’m trying to motivate my monkey by reminding him how much he loves when the task is done! At least, that works great while running the threadmill 😉

  • Alex

    ….yeah I should probably start my homework. >.>

  • bfn

    I’m a thourough procrastinator but I don’t fall in the tree categories. I live in q4 just about all the time. The panic monster never wakes up for q3. Panic monster wakes up only for q1. And when it’s q1 stuff it doesn’t just scare the monkey away, it beats it up unconscious for some time. That’s why I’m not homeless I guess, but my life isn’t tidy eather (little q3 stuff done). q2 is fantasy land.
    Anyway, I’ve tried many tactics to beat procrastination, none worked I’ll try some of your advice and if they work, I’ll really send a case of beers to you.

  • Having the same kind of troubles as you, I’d like to share a handy little trick to fool the monkey.

    Suppose I need to clean out the garage. The monkey tells me that browsing the internet reading science stuff certainly will make me a whole lot smarter than that stupid work in the garage. I agree wholeheartedly.

    Knowing that it has to be done, my response is to try and identify the first brick to be laid. Clean the garden tools and put them in their proper place? Take that old furniture to the thrift store? Wipe the floor? Too big, the science web sites are still too much fun. So I take one brick and start subdividing it into smaller bricks. And again, and again, until I’m left with something that I can finish in, literally, seconds.

    I tell the monkey: “Ok, here’s what we’re going to do, I’m just popping over into the garage to pick up the rake and hang it on the wall. Then I’ll come running back to you and we’re gonna have fun reading MIT Technology Review and Science Daily and Spaceflight Now and whatever you like. I Promise.”

    But once I’m in the garage and after having hung that rake in its proper place, I see another, equally easy brick. Ah, while I’m here I could just do that as well. End of story: the monkey will be waiting behind the laptop for the entire night for me to return.

    So: when you’re tempted, just reduce your Q2 task to the smallest possible first step and do that while focusing on all the fun you’re going to have in the Dark Playground. That latter part is important, fool the monkey into believing he will get what he wants very soon. immediately after just this one tiny little thing is done.

  • Jeroen Rombouts

    Wow. I was recently diagnosed with inattentive type ADHD and reading your posts about procrastination really hit home. My therapist touched on the matrix, but not as thorough and easy to understand as you. Thanks!

  • ì want to guíde you to% amazíng online work opportunity.. 3-5 h of work a day.. payment at the end of each week.. performance dependíng bonuses…earnings of six to nine thousand dollars /month – merely few hours of your free time, a computer, most elementary familiarìty wìth www and trusted web-connection is what is needed…learn more by headìng to my page

  • ì want to guíde you to amazíng online work opportunity.. 3-5 h of work a day.. payment at the end of each week.. performance dependíng bonuses…earnings of six to nine thousand dollars /month – merely few hours of your free time, a computer, most elementary_ familiarìty wìth www and trusted web-connection is what is needed…learn more by headìng to my page

  • Alexandra Ioana Irimia

    Dear Tim, firstly thank you for enlarging “myself knowledges”.. Secondly thank you for screwing my evening .. The regular evening of a procrastinator that I am. Getting back home from work was planing and replaning in my had what to do when I came home. Happily planing that, this evening ( like all the others before) will be diifferent, productive, finishing at least small tasks (trying at least to go from a disastinator state to a impostinator’s one) I ended up on reading all your procrastinator articles. :).
    As a small detail: being a procrastinator doesn’t make you unhappy, feeling miserable, even deppresed just because you know something is wrong in your way of acting. It puts actualy so much preassure because extrinsic factors: family, friends, coleagues, school, career…(society).
    I mean how do they do?!? How can they be so happy with their choises, how do they make choises so quicly, how come they act without thinking and overthinking again and again.
    And yes! I am also a Lucy!
    I have discovered your blog actualy by “Lucy’s problems” 🙂 .. And after reading it.. WaW .. My overthinking started to gane shape. For a cupple of days I was realy trying to understand my Real Expectations .. And than BANG BANG: the Procrastinators articles.
    Now, my question is: trying to feel better about myself by establishing some real expectations won’t make that fuckin’ monkey trick myself again and again ending in the same misery of dark playground?! Or am I wrong, or there is a trully fine line between those to things .. Or I am realy fucked up. “Decreasing” my expectations=settling the monkey and me in confortable sofa playing in the dark -> how will this help me out seing at least what path I should take.. What should I really expect for???

    Sorry for my English, hope someone read it, got my question.. And I would really appriciate if someone would say someting regarding my question!
    PS: I would reallllllyyy appriciate a small reaction. 🙂
    Thank you!
    Alexandra

    • Anonymous

      It’s hard to work for your own self, for your own goals, in your own home. It takes a level of anxiety to get something done. Home is usually where you avoid anxiety. Yet, anxiety is exactly what you have to be able to endure to get what you really want. That’s what I’m thinking.
      This article on the psychology of procrastination seems to make sense:
      http://www.wsj.com/articles/to-stop-procrastinating-start-by-understanding-whats-really-going-on-1441043167

      • Alexandra Ioana Irimia

        Thank you so much! It really helped me in understanding better the roots of my procrastinator behaviour.

  • Casper

    I’ve been a PhD disastinator A for 5 years. 3 years on par, then 5 years with 0 completed courses and dropped out. I’ve seen a few therapists, they gave the same advice for sane people (rationalize / plan / execute brick by brick), but that never worked for me. A few years later I did a couple of weeks of do it yourself therapy with a friend, and that did have impact. It also coincided with some other changes in my life, so it’s hard to say how much the therapy helped; my study loan stopped was maxed out, so I had to go out burgerflipping. Then jobhopped to other places where bosses told me when to do what. Also talking about it with a friend helped me, it’s easier to take advice from a cool guy than from the-most—lifeless-person-in-the-world-kind-of-therapist (can’t blame them, imagine the shit they have to cope with…). I also did some other selfhelp back then: Stephen Covey and Alan Carr. I’m doing really good now coding apps, had 200% increase in salary during the ‘financial crisis’, overcame a great deal of my social anxiety and am just happy most of the time. I still stop and smell the roses from time to time, I still use the panic monster sometimes, but then I’m able to let it go within a few seconds after realizing I’m panicking, and I’m always okay-late, none of it is ever problematic.

    The therapy I’m talking about is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (for businesses replace Therapy with Training). It is labeled as an “existential humanistic cognitive behavioural theraphy” :/ and is used for a variety of mental problems. The vicious cycle, battle of confidence, fighting with the monkey, the panic and the endlessy perfectionistic rationalizing trying to figure out how to erradicate every millisecond of procrastination had worn me out. ACT teaches: focusing on and trying to fix mental problems as if they are technical problems, by just applying more resources, could make the problem worse. It teaches you how to perform when you have feelings/thoughts of anxiety/uncertainty/low self esteem/distraction/stress. We all have those feelings sometimes, in some cases just more more problematic than others. You learn to accept that you have them and let those thoughts come and and go instead of fighting them, like where Tim says with the “Yup, there’s the monkey, right on cue.”, hug it so that the monkey, whom is very homophobic, thinks “WTF gay!!” and leaves, then continue with your work. There’s meditation excercises involved, which might sound like an unscientific hippie thing to some people, but I geuss it’s helpful. Furthermore it helps you set goals and commit towards living a valued life, like Tim allready discussed in his posts. It’s been a few years ago, it could be outdated by now, this nice article about it:
    http://www.actmindfully.com.au/upimages/Dr_Russ_Harris_-_A_Non-technical_Overview_of_ACT.pdf

    And here are also some practical one-line performance tips which I missed:
    – Take a break once in a while, dont overstretch your attention span. For studying take a 10 minute break after 45 mins of studying.
    – The more regularity in sleep, nutrition and work schedule, the better you function.
    – Know it takes about 2 months to form a new habit.
    – Vacations are necessary to sustain both mental and physical health, and, in turn, productivity.
    – Don’t worry that you MUST concentrate, if you’r worrying you’r not focusing. If you find yourself distracted and it’s interesting, take a note of it, then get back to your task.
    – Log the things you’ve done, the successes you’ve had, it helps realizing that you’ve made progress and change your selffullfilling proficies

    (English is my 2nd language)

    • Anonymous

      Thank You for this comment. This is brilliant. The ACT article (link) is amazing-mindfulness is key. To quote the article:

      “Be aware of what you are noticing.

      There are your thoughts, and there is you

      noticing them. So there are two processes

      going on—a process of thinking, and a

      process of observing that thinking.’ Again

      and again, I drew his attention to

      the distinction between the thoughts

      that arise, and the self who observes

      those thoughts. From the perspective

      of this Observing Self, no thought is

      dangerous, threatening, or controlling. ”

      “The willingness to feel anxiety doesn’t

      mean you like or want it. Instead

      it means you allow it to be there in

      order to do something you value. I

      asked Michael, ‘If taking your life in the

      direction of these values means you need to

      make room for feelings of anxiety, are you

      willing to do that?”

      “I don’t want you to think I’ve got

      my life completely in order. It’s more as if

      you’re climbing your mountain over there

      and I’m climbing my mountain over here.

      It’s not as if I’ve reached the top and I’m

      having a rest. It’s just that from where I

      am on my mountain, I can see obstacles on

      your mountain that you can’t see. So I can

      point those out to you, and maybe show

      you some alternative routes around them.”

      • Casper

        You’re welcome!

        I screwed up Tim’s analogy a bit, I think in a mindful person’s brain could look something like this:
        The Observing Self constantly receives a stream of packets from different parts of the brain and decides which ones will make it to bridge to set a new course. These packets contain a new course and a motivation. Most of the time it’s the packets from the Rational Packet Maker which go through to the bridge, he’s smart and his motivations are solid, and when he is in shape, you can trust him and switch on “RPM auto-forward”, then all his decisions go straight to the bridge (intuiton/flow). The monkey sends some funny jokes in his motivation, but they are often quickly discarded “hold that thought monkey!”. Sometimes the RPM gets tired and his packets production slows down, then we’d like to let the monkey-packets through. The panic-monster and social mammoth also want some attention, but their motivation never makes any sense. They’ll include bad language and threats in their motivation, to try to get their way; when the OS analyzes these packets they sometimes create a weird feeling in the stomach(anxiety). The OS has learned by now that packets from the zoo are badly motivated and that their threats are empty; they can never get to him and the feeling in the stomach is not that bad anyway. Since the OS update of last week these packets are now most of the time directly discarded, no longer blocking the chain of packets to the bridge.

    • Casper

      I’ll admit though that my happiness doesn’t really stem from living by the Eisenhower matrix.

      The system I use is:

      Todo:
      1) chit-chat
      2) play
      3) everything you need to do to get a suitable mate:
      – keep job (or get severence package and start own company)
      – cave maintenance
      – don’t pick nose

      Works great! As long as you don’t do too much terribly dumb shit, you’ll find yourself automatically doing stuff some other person would have put on his/her Q2 Eisenhower-list and is still procrastinating about.

  • AAP

    Had to vent some of this on here, quite a “Nail on the head” moment!

    Like many posting here, this could have been written about me! I managed undergrad (and got my First, the one saving grace) having been lucky enough to have the ability to pass exams and courses writing/studying the day before (still took me 6 years rather than 4, two disastinator years!). For me it wasn’t a 72 hour thesis, it was a 96 hour one! PhD dropout, disastinator (out of work) for 18 months, full on monkey for that period, living to party day to day until everything almost fell apart.

    Working now for an INGO which daily forces me to be a sucessinator with ever flowing Q1s, however I’m always wavering in the brink of falling back into disastinaor territory should I ever be completely overwhelmed. (I have seen colleagues completely shut down the same way)

    Even at that I’m working in a job well beneath my abilities, better to have that self-gratification and praise of doing something simple well, than run the risk of taking on something that will push you more and run the potential to not get the payoff. Am I right?

    Mound of Q2s waiting, many of them previous Q4s due to the ever changing monkey. Health (I vomit daily with stress, sleep little and have had a minor stroke at 30!) and relationships failing as the sheer magnitude of the Q1 load required to keep me going pushes everything else out. Friendships have become Q2 or even Q3. The moment work Q1s ease up, I stop doing anything at all and wallow entirely in Q4 (which drives my finance crazy)! Most of the main stress actually comes from ignoring Q2 until (in personal life) it becomes Q1, and then Q1 work drives that out. Q2 at work (Professional exams, management courses etc.) have never been touched. Successinator at work, disastinator in all else still.

    As I write this I have 3 days off from work, my partner is away and I have a mountain of personal commitments to get working on (wedding planning has crept into Q1 from Q2, as has my health). I’ll be playing the Xbox, not really enjoying it, sitting ontop a mountain of self-loathing until about an hour before she comes home at which point the panic monkey will leave me making a half-assed rush to get something done.

    Even after reading this I’m near powerless, but I’ll keep making small steps. I’m better now than the disaster years (I was weeks from being homeless!), and will be better still as I plod through my own journey. I’ve had using the Eisenhower Matrix on my to-do list for about 12 months. Nice future-me Q2, he’ll sort all this procrastination bullshit with it and whip us into shape.

    At least I can send this to my fiance to to explain my insanity in simple terms! (I have struggled with that!0

    Even if it changes little, at least knowing why and how you’re crazy is something, right? 😉

  • nevetőharmadik

    I just came across this today. Many thanks. As for these Matrix things, there’s one sentence that hit me hard:

    “A successtinator has found a solution-ish to his problems, but it’s not pretty, often not healthy, and usually not sustainable.”

    Which means it makes me burnt out. Well, it already made. I keep noticing how my mental capabilities and creative myself is fading away. My GF asks where the old me is. I’m on an almost free fall through the Impostinator’s phase (I currently feel myself being in) down to Disastinator’s phase (I fear rapidly approaching).

    My greatest fear though (other than I fail in life miserably) is that all what life keeps for me is endless fight with myself with no time to relax ever. This is a lie of the Monkey I know. Yet… nevermind. Time to get myself together once more!

Home Archive