The End of Procrastination: How to Stop Postponing and Live a Fulfilled Life

The End of Procrastination: How to Stop Postponing and Live a Fulfilled Life

by Petr Ludwig, Adela Schicker

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Overview

Over 100,000 copies sold worldwide, The End of Procrastination offers science-based, practical tools to stop procrastination

Even with overflowing inboxes and unmet deadlines, most people still can’t manage to take control of their time and stop procrastinating. The End of Procrastination tackles the problem head on, helping you stop putting off work and reclaim your time. Author Petr Ludwig shows that ending procrastination is essential to developing a sense of purpose and leading a happier more fulfilled life.

With eight clear, approachable tools—from quick daily worksheets to shift your perspective to to-do lists that actually help you get things done?The End of Procrastination provides everything you need to change the way you manage your time and live your life.

The book will help you learn:

- The science behind why we postpone things

- How we can motivate ourselves so that we enjoy our work, feel less stressed, and focus more

- How to avoid becoming a goal junkie—a high achieving but unsatisfied person

- How to organize your daily life and follow your vision

- How to acquire new positive habits and end bad ones

- How to cope with decision paralysis

Based on the latest research, The End of Procrastination synthesizes over one hundred and twenty scientific studies to create a program that is based on the way our brains actually work. By understanding exactly why procrastination happens and how our brains respond to motivation and self-discipline, the book provides readers with the knowledge to conquer procrastination on an everyday basis.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250308054
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/31/2018
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 203,946
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 5.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Petr Ludwig is a science popularizer, entrepreneur, and consultant for Fortune 500 companies. He explains crucial and difficult things simply and easily. Peter helps to improve intrinsic motivation, efficiency, and the happiness of people at work and in their personal lives. In The End of Procrastination and in his talks, he transfers the knowledge of neuroscience and behavioral economics into practice.

Adela Schicker is the co-founder of Procrastination.com, the institute that helps companies and individuals to reach their full potential. Adela translated The End of Procrastination and is helping it to reach the international audience. She speaks at conferences and training companies worldwide, making sure that science can be explained simply and made useful for everyone.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

MOTIVATION

HOW TO GET MOTIVATED AND STAY THAT WAY

When I was in Denmark, I had the opportunity to spend some time at the offices of Novo Nordisk. This company, which employs more than 30,000 people, is the world leader in insulin production with a global market share of more than fifty percent.

Upon arrival, I immediately noticed that the people I met there seemed highly motivated and happy — from the receptionists and the cleaning women I met in the hall to the people working in drug development. Since Novo Nordisk is, after all, a pharmaceutical company, it occurred to me that they must put something "special" in their employees' drinks. Later, I had the chance to spend some time with company executives and ask them what they do to have such happy and motivated employees. The explanation I received was surprisingly simple. So, what is the secret to motivation?

In the real world there are several types of motivation; some do more harm than good. Therefore, you need to find the one that will benefit you the most. The right kind of motivation will make you procrastinate less, it will become what drives you every day, and it will lead you down the path to long-term happiness.

Extrinsic Motivation: The Carrot and the Stick

Not long ago, I had an appointment with a new client. After speaking with him for a bit, he began to describe how he had been feeling for the past few years. He confided in me that his life was lacking meaning. He had even thought about taking his life on several occasions. I asked him how much time he spent doing things that he truly wanted to do, and, in contrast, how much time he spent doing things he had to do — things that were expected of him. In our discussion, it slowly became clear that he was driven almost exclusively by extrinsic motivation.

What kind of feelings do you have when you must do something that has no meaning for you? How do you feel spending your time doing things you are obliged to do even though you don't want to do them?

Recent research has shown that doing meaningless activities is usually very unpleasant and de-motivating. These types of tasks, such as learning a poem by heart in school or doing assignments at work in which you see no purpose, can be a real turnoff, so it is no wonder that people put them off.

Extrinsic motivators — rewards and punishments, the carrot and the stick — have been developed to force people into doing these types of things against their will. These external stimuli make you perform actions you would never consider on your own.

There are, however, several major drawbacks to extrinsic motivation. When people do things they don't want to do, they are less happy and their brains release less dopamine. This substance, besides influencing happiness, also impacts creativity, memory, and the ability to learn. Another disadvantage is that the unhappiness that extrinsic motivation creates is socially contagious; people who suffer from discontent infect those around them.

It was extrinsic motivation that kept serfs working the fields during feudalism, galley slaves rowing in Ancient Rome, and people working in the first factories during the Industrial Revolution. These jobs involved practically no creativity. In contrast, the vast majority of jobs people do today require a creative approach. We need to carefully think through problems; we often have to improvise and look for unconventional solutions.

Many studies have confirmed that using extrinsic motivation lowers performance in activities that require even a little brainwork and creativity. It is irrelevant if motivation comes from the carrot or from the stick. If you expect a reward and don't get it, it has a similar effect on your psyche as if you were punished.

The imaginary stick hanging over us often makes us despise what we have to do. This stick may come in the form of mortgage payments that prevent people from quitting jobs they loathe, it might be parents picking out hobbies or college majors and forcing them on their children, or it could be the boss at work who gives his subordinates assignments without explaining why. Antipathy is a natural outcome of extrinsic stimuli and often causes procrastination to grow.

People accustomed to being extrinsically motivated stop being able to work independently. When the stick disappears, they can't get themselves motivated. School grades are a good example of an extrinsic motivator. Students, for example, get used to studying to receive grades, but once they graduate and this pressure disappears, they often stop educating themselves. Extrinsic motivation suppresses future initiative in people, and without the stick they aren't able to do hardly anything.

My client had been ruled by extrinsic motivation almost his entire life. Unhappiness, the inability to learn new things, and his literally murdered creativity led him to giving up on life.

The first good news in this chapter is that there is a way to get out of striking range of the stick: you can escape the trap of extrinsic motivation. But beware, however, as many motivational books and coaches can lead you into another trap. They often promote a cure in the form of intrinsic goal-based motivation.

Intrinsic Goal-Based Motivation: Joy That Doesn't Last

"Peter, think about what would make you happy. Picture those things in detail. Do you see a car? Imagine exactly what color it is, what brand, what kind of engine. Go to the showroom and get behind the wheel. ... Take some paper and carefully write down all your wishes, and, ideally, find some pictures to match. Make sure to assign a deadline for fulfilling each one. Now hang it all up in a place where you can see it. These will be your goals. These will be the things that are going to motivate you." This is how my first personal development coach worked. He motivated people by using their dreams and goals.

Over the course of my career, I met several people who have been nearly destroyed by this kind of motivation. As studies indicate, goal-based motivation can improve productivity, but it does not lead to long-term happiness. Instead it contributes to unexpected frustration and a strange form of addiction, not unlike being hooked on cocaine. Why is goal-based motivation so treacherous? What's behind it?

Goal setting involves the use of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that allows us to dream at night and which enables us to visualize things in our head that don't yet exist. The prefrontal cortex allows human beings, unlike other animals, to think about their own future.

What would make you happy? The partner of your dreams and two healthy children? Finishing school or doubling your salary? What about a new house with a pool, or a month long vacation, or something else you've been dreaming of?

Just as the prefrontal cortex can vividly imagine your goals, it can also visualize the happiness you will feel once you achieve them.

Recall that goals truly are strong motivators. Unlike extrinsic motivation, people who are motivated by goals do things because they really want to. This makes them work with great intensity.

Since their present situation doesn't meet their expectations and desires, they aren't particularly happy. Because they still don't have that car, it drives them in life, and they have the feeling that something is missing; they are not happy with their present. This is why on the way to achieving their goal they don't often experience the benefits associated with increased dopamine levels: better brain function, greater creativity, and the ability to effectively learn new things.

Goals drive people forward, causing them to work hard, which means that sooner or later, they will indeed achieve them. And when that finally does happen, a one-time dose of dopamine is released, resulting in an intense emotion: a type of happiness we call the emotion of joy. The problem is that what follows next is something the prefrontal cortex wasn't counting on. A phenomenon known as hedonic adaptation sets in.

Try to imagine what it was like passing a hard test in school or finishing a difficult project at work. Try to remember how you felt the last time you bought something you really wanted. What was your feeling immediately afterwards? Were your emotions just as strong two days later? How about after a week?

Hedonic adaptation causes people to unexpectedly get accustomed to their accomplished goals. A few minutes, hours or, at most, days upon reaching a goal, positive feelings tend to disappear. If you have ever bought a new car, perhaps you were surprised to find that after a week you were beginning to take your new vehicle almost for granted. After a few days, your emotions were incomparably weaker than immediately following your purchase.

Even if you reach the highest rung of the ladder, for example if you win the Nobel Prize or a gold medal in the Olympics, after a few weeks even these accomplishments will have hardly any effect on your happiness. Soon enough, they will stop writing about you in the papers, and you will slowly fall into oblivion. Hedonic adaptation will have caught up with you once again.

One study measured how happy people felt after winning the lottery. Simultaneously, researchers also studied how people who were recently paralyzed felt. The results indicated that just after one year both groups were almost comparably happy. You can adapt to things that at first you might not expect.

Some people are very envious of others. From the perspective of hedonic adaptation, however, envy is not very reasonable. Even if they are envious and do manage to get what they desire, hedonic adaptation will not allow them to feel happier. They would soon get used to having the things they had once craved.

Extensive studies on how money influences happiness have come to a clear conclusion: money affects happiness only to the point that it helps you secure basic needs for yourself and your family. Beyond this point, more money barely affects your happiness.

The pitfall of the prefrontal cortex is that although it is exceptional at visualizing goals and the happiness you will feel once you achieve them, it cannot foresee the short lifespan of these positive emotions. The prefrontal cortex is unable to foresee hedonic adaptation.

If you are looking forward to getting a new car, your brain can imagine the joy you will feel when it is new, but it can't see any deeper into the future to realize that this joy is only temporary. This is one of the main reasons why we are often wrong when it comes to judging how happy we will be in the future.

But how do people motivated by goals react to hedonic adaptation? It's simple. Once they have reached the desired goal and their positive emotions have worn off, they set another, even bigger goal: "I guess the Audi didn't make me happy. But a Porsche will." And the chase begins all over. Once again, they aren't happy on the way to achieving this new goal because they still don't have it. They work and work, and perhaps they will get what they want again. Then they will experience the emotion of joy, but thanks to hedonic adaptation that feeling will once again soon disappear. And their reaction? They set another bigger goal. And the cycle repeats itself over and over.

The emotion of joy produced by achieving a goal affects the same part of the brain that is activated by a hit of cocaine. Thus, joy can lead to what is called arousal addictions. Addictions to pornography, video games, and adrenaline sports also belong in this same category.

Adrenaline junkies have to jump off higher and higher cliffs and do more extreme things in order to experience the same rush. Pornography addicts have to watch increasingly more perverted videos to reach the same level of arousal. In the same way, people who are motivated by goals must constantly set their sights higher and higher. They become what we call goal junkies. They might have big houses and expensive cars as well as the positions they have always dreamed of, but at the same time they are capable of feeling only short bursts of happiness. They are often depressed; they have everything except long-term well-being.

The first good news I shared in this chapter was that you can escape from the stick of extrinsic motivation. The second piece of good news I have is that there is an alternative to intrinsic goal-based motivation. It is called intrinsic journey-based motivation, and it provides the benefits of the intensity of intrinsic motivation but at the same time avoids hedonic adaptation and thus can keep you happier in the present.

Intrinsic Journey-Based Motivation:

Happiness Now

So what substance were they adding to people's drinks at Novo Nordisk? What was their secret? At my meetings with company executives, I discovered that the key to keeping employees highly motivated and happy is having a very strong company vision and values. Their purpose is to make the lives of people with diabetes better.

I was told stories about the company that proved to me that their vision statement is not just an empty phrase. For example, my hosts told me about how, during the war, their company provided insulin to both sides for free, or how the NovoPen, a tool for painlessly injecting insulin, was invented. Nearly every employee, no matter their position in the company, can connect with the higher cause expressed in the company's vision: the idea of improving the lives of people with diabetes. When people see meaning in their actions, particularly when they actually want to perform these actions, one of the strongest forms of motivation arises: intrinsic journey-based motivation.

This type of motivation, the third one I discuss, is based on the concept of having a personal vision. Unlike chasing goals, a process that we know is affected by hedonic adaptation, a vision is an expression of something lasting. A personal vision answers the question of how you would most like to spend your time in life. It focuses on actions, not results. It focuses on the journey, not the destination. As the old saying goes: "The journey is the destination."

On the way to living up to your vision, you can set milestones. They assure you that you are headed in the right direction and that you are truly moving forward. The difference between a goal and a milestone is that when people are motivated by goals, they work just to reach them. In contrast, a milestone is a helper, a landmark that provides you feedback about whether you are headed in the right direction.

For example, completing this book isn't a goal for me; it's a milestone. If everything goes well, I will know that I have done something real, something in line with my personal vision. I am not writing just to finish this book. I am writing so that I can help people better utilize their time and potential.

The prime benefit of journey-based motivation is that it helps you be happy in the present more often. You don't need to reach a goal to be happy nor will you experience the negative emotions brought about by the stick of extrinsic motivation.

You will more often experience a state of happiness now — a sense of contentment with your present situation. If you do things that match your vision, you will get the feeling that everything is the way it should be. But this doesn't mean you are stuck in one place because your vision and its motivational effect drive you forward.

If your actions help you live up to your vision, it means you are doing exactly the things you want to do. Therefore, you are happier and your brain is flooded with more dopamine. Thanks to this, you are more creative, your brain and memory work better, and you are better able to learn. Thus, the skills required to perform actions that lead you to fulfilling your vision improve constantly. Every improvement increases the chances of seeing even further improvement. This positive feedback loop can help you achieve true mastery. This is why people who are motivated by their visions achieve things that not even the largest stick or the greatest goals can accomplish.

Studies on the most successful athletes, scientists, artists, and businesspeople show that they all have something in common. The activities they do put them in a state of flow. You find your flow when you are up against a challenge and put your strengths and skills to work. You become fully absorbed in what you are doing. Time stops for you. Unlike the emotion of joy, which is experienced only briefly after having achieved a goal, reaching a state of flow can release dopamine over the long term.

The mentioned studies on flow and hedonic adaptation indicate that long-term happiness can't be found in a material object, goal, or state. It's found in the journey, on the way to fulfilling your vision, in doing things that are meaningful for you.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The End of Procrastination"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Petr Ludwig.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

The Table Of Contents

Author’s Preface

Introduction: What is Procrastination and Why Fight It?

Motivation: How to Get Motivated and Stay That Way

Tool: A Personal Vision

Discipline: How to Give Yourself Orders and Follow Them

Tool: Habit List

Decision Paralysis

Tool: To-Do Today

The Comfort Zone of the Masses

Tool: Heroism

Outcomes: How to Find Happiness and Also Keep It

Tool: Inner Switch

Tool: Flow-sheet

Tool: Hamster-restart

Objectivity: Learning How to See Your Flaws

Conclusion: The Key to Longevity

Tool: A Meeting with Myself

The End of Procrastination and Your New Beginning

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