This morning I was walking to a class and found myself stuck behind a giant 300+ pound gym junkie ambling along at a pace that my grandmother could put to shame.
I don’t know about all of you, but while going to the gym is something that I try and do regularly, it is usually not something that I do easily. It is always a mental struggle against my own laziness to get me out the door and on my way. And yet I know many people who I would deem far lazier than I am that spend 2+ hours at the gym every day.
Strange as this may seem, I believe that there are three separate, logical reasons for this phenomena.
- Endorphins feel good – once you get to a certain level of physical fitness, working out ceases to be as much of an effort and actually becomes pleasurable.
- The power of routine – when doing something difficult becomes a part of your daily routine, getting yourself to do it ceases to be a challenge.
- Tiered procrastination – doing a difficult task is far easier when you know that it is putting off doing an even more difficult one. This is the reason that I will be discussing today.
How it Works
Have you ever found yourself cleaning your room or doing dishes instead of doing homework? Why is it that cleaning then is so easy but when you have no obligations at all during a day it seems so difficult?
Webster defines procrastination as “to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.” In essence this stems directly from one of the base laws of physics: an object will always attempt to take the path of least resistance. When applied to humans, this is sometimes referred to as the Principle of Least Effort (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_least_effort).
Taken to its extreme, this would mean that people would sit around and do nothing whenever possible. And while this is, sadly, sometimes the case, usually it just means that when presented with two or more things to do we will generally try and take the easier task. One could then be thought of as procrastinating as long as they are doing anything but the most difficult of the tasks laid out before them. This explains both the gym phenomena and that of the dishes.
If you have some difficult work to do such as math homework or doing your taxes, suddenly going to the gym or doing the dishes becomes the easier of the two options. And yet you can do it without feeling entirely guilty because after all, at least you are doing something productive.
How To Use It
What makes a task easy or difficult to do is all about how you approach it in your mind. The next time you have a lot of work to do, take a step back and think. Instead of getting intimidated and thinking “this is a ton of work, what’s on tv?” think “that essay is going to be a paint to write, let me delay that by doing this other required reading.” Or, if you really don’t want to do any of your work at the time, instead of just watching tv try going to the gym. You will find that making yourself go then suddenly has become a whole lot easier than usual.