Today we get rid of the procrastination monster! In our first English conversation listening podcast, of 2022. We all know that procrastination makes little sense. And for some people, it’s a habit they find difficult to get out of. If you’re always waiting until the last minute to get things done and you plan on improving your English language fluency this year, then this is the podcast to listen to.
In today’s excellent listening practice, we have a conversation in English all about procrastination and some tips
(at the end of the lesson) on how you can avoid it. I talk about why we binge watch on YouTube, spend hours browsing the Internet, or stare out of the window for no reason. I give you some tips on what you can do to get focused on your goals in 2022, all before another year slips away.
So first, what is procrastination? Procrastination is when you put something off, even though you know that doing what needs to be done now would make things easier in the long run. It’s that task or activity we should do today, but we find an excuse to put it off until tomorrow, as some might say "mañana".
Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.
⭐ Mason Cooley, Author
You don’t need to suffer the ugly clutches of procrastination for another year. Procrastination is a wicked monster that needs to be slain. I am going to show you how to avoid all of those bad habits that stop you from achieving your goals and dreams. Along the way, you will learn some new English vocabulary and idioms, you will hear and learn the correct English language pronunciation and intonation from a native English language speaker. I’ve even included some helpful tips at the end of the lesson to help avoid wasting any of your precious time in 2022.
Hi there, happy new year and welcome to the 500th podcast from Adept English! Why don’t we start the year by talking about something which is really important to English language learners? And that subject is motivation, procrastination and how to achieve your goals. We’ve been here, helping you to learn English since 2016, providing you with quality English listening material, on a variety of topics, some random, some specifically on English language learning. So let’s talk today about something that’s psychologically interesting and useful, while your listening is helping you improve your English language?
Before we get onto that, just a reminder of our podcast downloads. As I mentioned, this is our 500th podcast! So if you want to go a bit further than just using our two podcasts a week, why not use our podcast download service? You can download fifty podcasts at a time for a small charge, have them ready on your mobile phone? Just imagine how much that could help your English language learning in 2022!
So New Year is here - and what do most of us do when it’s New Year? Well, we have a think about the last year and we make some resolutions so that we can be better, have a better life next year. The word ‘resolution’, RESOLUTION in this context means a ‘promise that you make to yourself’. ‘I’m going to do this! I’m going to do that!’ The word ‘resolution’ is related to the noun ‘resolve’ - if you ‘have resolve’ it means that you are going to stick with something, you’ve made a decision and you’re firm on it.
So I’m thinking about what I want for next year, for 2022. There are some things out of my control, of course - like the pandemic. I happen to think that the pandemic will improve in 2022 and we’ll get back some of our freedom. But that’s out of my control, so no point making resolutions about that. But my big resolution for this year is that I want to ‘work smarter’. I want to be more efficient in what I do.
I’m quite busy as a person - I have Adept English, I have my psychotherapy practice, I have another small business too and all of this work takes my time. I’ve also got family and friends to see, and I’ve got the things I like doing - like studying psychology, human behaviour and the brain, travelling, gardening, going for a walk, experiencing different cultures and different foods. Standard stuff for many people!
The stuff you like to hear about too in our podcasts. But what I find is that I often haven’t as much time as I’d like to do these other things - the things I do for pleasure. There are only so many hours in a week - and if I’m busy with my work, or something else arrives that I must do (like my tax return in January - ughh!), then the things I do which give me pleasure don’t happen. Or they don’t happen as much as I would like.
And yet there’s a certain amount of work which I have to do - and I want to do this work, yet still leave time for the things that give me pleasure, which aren’t work. So I want to ‘work smart’ - that means being efficient. It means my effort, my energy all goes towards being productive - none of my time or effort is wasted. And one of the things that I’ve recognised through my psychotherapy practice is that many people have a problem with procrastination.
That’s an interesting English word - do you know it? Well there’s a verb ‘to procrastinate’, so PROCRASTINATE and there’s a noun ‘procrastination’, PROCRASTINATION. And it’s from the Latin language - ‘cras’, CRAS means ‘tomorrow’ - and if you procrastinate, you say ‘Oh...erm, I’m not going to do that now. I’ll do it tomorrow. Or next week, maybe. Or maybe even next year’. That’s procrastination.
When I do psychotherapy work with students, I notice that procrastination really affects their lives - negatively. It effects their studies and their level of success. Even amongst really clever students like those doing a doctorate or a PhD. In fact, perhaps especially amongst the really clever PhD students, procrastination is a problem. Most students and particularly PhD students are working towards a deadline that cannot be moved. We’ve all done this perhaps. And at the start of a piece of work, an essay or whatever it is you need to do, there’s lots of time.
If you were being logical and sensible, you would take the date of the deadline, the date by which you need to complete, and you would say to yourself ‘How much time will this work take me?’ - and then you’d just calculate backwards. ‘OK. So when do I need to start? And how much do I need to do each day, so that it’s completed by the deadline?’ That would be logical! The word ‘deadline’, DEADLINE - means just that - the date by which I must have finished this piece of work. The endpoint. But most of us don’t work like that.
There’s a really funny TED talk by Tim Urban - you can find it on YouTube. And he talks about our brains having ‘The Rational Decision Maker’ - so that’s the part of the brain which thinks like I’ve just described. You would make that calculation - ‘Oh yes, there’s the deadline, so mmm...how much work is there? Oh right, that’s when I need to start. Let’s just get on with it!’ That’s the rational, sensible, logical way to be. But we’ve also got that part of our brain that wants ‘Pleasure now! - wants ‘Reward right now!’
This part of our brain isn’t thinking of the future, or what we want to achieve - it’s just wants to do nice things! Tim Urban calls that ‘The Instant Gratification Monkey’. That part of our brain is only interested in what’s easy and what’s fun. And it’s the part of our brain which says ‘Oh, it’s OK. You can do that tomorrow. Why don’t you have a look at YouTube or let’s watch some TV instead?’. In fact almost anything can look appealing, if you’re a procrastinator and you’ve got some work you must do. If I have work I don’t want to do - I can end up watering my plants, cleaning the floor.
A photograph of a woman thinking. In today’s episode, we talk about why we procrastinate, what it does to us, and what we can do about it. We also give you some tips on how to get focused and achieve your goals in 2022 before another year slips away.
Almost any boring household task suddenly looks appealing - suddenly becomes a really interesting. Let’s reorganise the cupboard. Shall I just do a bit of hoovering? Mmm..let’s put the kettle on. But all of this what we call ‘displacement activity’. It’s something that gives us a short-term pleasure or reward and it ‘displaces’ the thing which we should be doing, which has long-term reward. And it takes up our time. ‘Let’s just have a look at email. Mmm...let’s have a look in the fridge. Oh - shall I check my messages again? Maybe I’ll just send a couple of messages on Whatsapp and get a conversation going. I’m sitting in front of my laptop so it looks as if I’m working!
Many people find it hard to feel motivated when you’ve got loads of time to complete a task. Your brain says ‘Ah, there’s lots of time. Don’t worry about it! You can do it later’. The problem is that we might keep on saying this to ourselves. And what’s happening then, the more we procrastinate, the more what we have to do each day to catch up and still make the same deadline.
Until in the end, we have a mountain to climb. And in the end - I know this from my students - many students and the PhD students in particular do something that’s not good for study, not good for the brain. They ‘pull all-nighters’ in order to finish in time. There’s an idiom for you - ‘to pull an all-nighter’ means that you stay up all night, you don’t go to sleep, because you have to finish something that you must hand in in the morning and that you should’ve done earlier. That’s ‘pulling an all-nighter’. And not surprisingly, we don’t do our best work this way.
For many people, the only way that they can find motivation, is when they’re really, really scared and frightened, panicked even, that they won’t complete their work in time for the deadline. It’s only out of fear and panic only that the motivation comes. ‘Oh, oh my god - I going to have to pull an all-nighter to get this finished’. I’m sure most of us have been there. Not the best way to work. Tim Urban calls this feeling ‘The Panic Monster’. And he says that ‘The Panic Monster’ is the only thing which chases away ‘The Instant Gratification Monkey’ and makes it ‘run up a tree’!
The worst thing of all is that many things that you want to achieve in life - big, important things - they don’t have a deadline. They may not be like a piece of work which you hand in as a student. Think about your English language learning. Sometimes there may be a deadline.
You may have an IELTS test coming up - or you may have a job interview. I sometimes receive emails from Adept English students, who contact me, saying ‘Aahh. What can I do to improve my English quickly? I’ve got a job interview in English next week?’ But more often, learning English is something which is a long-term goal, perhaps even a new year’s resolution, year after year. There’s no deadline.
The fear and the panic which makes you put in all the effort at the last minute - makes you ‘pull an all-nighter’ - well that’s not there to motivate you, is it? So how do you find motivation?
What about three tips to help you?
- Spot what your displacement activities are. Notice when you’re doing them. Get to know your own ‘bad habits’ around procrastinating and stop! Technology is the favourite displacement activity for most of us - Instagram, email, YouTube, Google, Snapchat - we’ve all accidentally spent far too much time on our apps, when we should’ve been doing something else. Spot your favourite displacement activity - even if it’s something laudable like cleaning your desk! Notice it, know your habits and stop it! Much easier when you recognise you’re doing it!
- Don’t rely on last minute deadline fear and panic to be the thing that motivates you. Don’t wait until it’s ‘Ah! I’ve got this deadline coming up and I haven’t even started yet - I’m going to have to pull an all-nighter!’ Learn to be motivated in a different way. Say to yourself ‘Let’s do this in the sensible way - a little at a time. Let’s spread it out. Let’s set up a regular schedule of tasks - a little bit each day and stick to it’. That’s the best thing to do for your language learning, by the way. A little bit every day - and a routine that you stick to. When I am going to do my Adept English listening? I know, I’ll listen every day in the car on my way to work.
- Keep what we call ‘the big picture’ in mind to help motivate you. As I said, many of the important things in life that we want to do, that we want to achieve - they don’t have a deadline. So the sad thing is that if we rely on fear and panic to get us to do them, we never will. How many of us made the same resolutions in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 and we still haven’t acted upon them? We still haven’t progressed them? If we keep procrastinating, our life passes us by and towards the end of it, we realise ‘Oh! We never did that!’ That feels quite sad! Again the answer to this - little and often and consistent. Decide what you want to make important in your like - it might be your English language learning - or it might be something else. If it’s English, do a little bit each day. If you miss a day, just get back onto the task the following day. Make it part of your routine, like brushing your teeth. And little by little you’ll get there. So for 2022 and for 2023 and for 2024, your new year’s resolution might still be ‘I want to improve my fluency in English’ - but the difference will be that you’ll have made progress. Each year your English will be better. That kind of resolution is a good one.
Hope that helps you with your procrastinating and your displacement activities!
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.