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If Ph.D.’s in procrastination were a ‘thing,’ I’d be at the front of the line. It’s a behavior I’ve suffered from all my life and, for me, is combined with a relatively extreme dose of perfectionism. Left unchecked, the impact it has on my life is acute. Not only does it eat away at my productivity, but it also erodes my confidence and self-esteem.
My particular personal traits involve two things:
- “Procrasta-learning” – I have to know everything that there is to know about a topic before I can even contemplate producing an article or resource about it. Over the years, this behavior has eaten away at my progress and, ultimately, my success.
- “Procrasta-preparation” – Don’t ask me to do anything until I’m good and ready! My desk needs to be tidy; I need to have the correct retractable pencil on hand (the 0.9mm Pentel, of course), my notes need to be highlighted and tabbed with pretty sticky things……
As a Master Procrastinator, I consider myself well informed to write a quick round-up of the best procrastination TED talks. Here’s a summary of my top six procrastination TED talks. While the topics covered don’t always relate precisely to procrastination, they are insightful and meaningful for anyone who struggles.
Click on the title of each TED talk and you will be magically transported.
Procrastination TED Talks
Tim Urban, February 2016
Recorded at TED
Length: 13 minutes 56 seconds
Find Out More: Wait But Why
Writer and blogger Tim Urban delivers a warm, engaging, and witty talk that had me laughing out loud. I watched this with a smile on my face. Urban, a naturally funny guy, shares his personal experiences of procrastination that will chime with anyone with even a modicum of the gene.
His procrastination explanation, involving the Monkey, the Rational Decision-Maker, and the Panic Monster, is light-hearted and enlightening. His description of the Dark Playground (the place where all procrastinators hang out when they should be elsewhere) is a scarily accurate description of what happens when we are in the full throws of a procrastination binge.
Although he makes light of the behavior, Urban does an excellent job of shining a light into the darkest corners or procrastination. His takeaway, the Life Calendar, is a startlingly valuable tool for dealing with the issue head-on.
Andy Puddicombe, November 2012
Length: 9 minutes 9 seconds
Find out More: Headspace
It might seem strange to recommend a TED talk about doing nothing to procrastinators. But as I discussed in my earlier article’s procrastinators are rarely lazy people.
In this soothing TED talk, Headspace founder Andy Puddicombe discusses the lack of care that we show our minds, despite relying on them to be always alert, agile, and focussed. This comes back to bite us as we become stressed and distracted. So much so that a research project at Harvard found that we spend roughly half of our lives lost in thought and unhappy.
Puddicombe offers meditation as a scientifically proven solution to this. Spending 10 minutes a day effectively doing nothing but looking after our minds can positively impact our whole life. Through meditation, we can experience what it means to be present, to ‘step back and appreciate that things are not always as they appear.’ He argues that we can’t change some of the things that happen to us, but we can change the way we experience them.
To a procrastinator, silencing the internal narrator, the constant self-admonishment, and the feelings of guilt and shame is a welcome relief from an over-active mind.
TEDxBeaconStreet, November 2015
Length: 12 minutes 39 seconds
It comes as no surprise that almost 36 million people have watched this TED talk. I can only describe psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Robert Waldinger’s presentation as beautiful and inspirational.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development is one of the most wide-ranging studies in history. Starting in the 1930s, this incredible research project has followed the lives of 724 men from its inception to the present day. Today 60 of the original participants remain, and the study has expanded to include wives, children, and grandchildren.
Watching people’s entire lives unfold, from teens to twilight years, is profoundly moving. The knowledge learned gives us priceless insight into how we can best invest in our future selves.
The most evident learning about the power and importance of relationships is a sobering message for the procrastinator. It’s not about working hard or rising to the top professionally. Instead, it’s about the quality of the relationships that we choose to invest in. Maybe, just maybe, that work task that we are fearful of messing up isn’t as critical to our existence as we thought it was.
Length: 6 minutes 4 seconds
Life happens. We all have sadness, depression, anxiety, fear, and worry deal with. The issue is how we choose to respond to these emotions.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson believes that mindset is a skill that can be taught and learned. Just as an athlete trains their body, he believes that we can also train our minds.
Wilson explains that negativity is always successful in its intention, yet positivity doesn’t always work. Sometimes we need to shift our minds to neutral, stay focused in the moment, and decide on the next step we need to take. We don’t need to get over-emotional; we need to stay focused.
This procrastination TED talk is a short and sweet 6 minutes. Wilson’s strategy is a great takeaway we can use when we feel overwhelmed by how much we have to do: shift thinking to neutral and dial down your emotional response, ask yourself – ‘what is the next step?’, and then move forwards.
Length: 18 minutes
Find out more HERE
In this more technical and scientific procrastination TED talk, Neuroscientist Amishi Jha looks at the way our brains work. As she explains, our attention system is designed to notice, select, and direct brain functioning – in other words, it’s in charge of the brain. However, our minds suffer from information overload, and they wander wildly, flicking between the past, the future, and back to the present like a skilled time traveler. Our brains are wandering almost 50% of the time. When they are wandering, the power of our attention diminishes. This can be accelerated even further by the presence of stress or overwhelm.
When our minds wander, we make mistakes, miss critical information, and struggle to make decisions. We stew in the past, and we catastrophize about the future.
Jha’s takeaway is that we need to pay attention to our attention. The best way to train our brains to achieve this is through mindfulness. She asks that we learn to spend more of our time in the present. Just like a muscle, we can strengthen our attention by building daily practice in our lives.
Emily Esfahani Smith, April 2017
Length: 12 minutes 10 seconds
Find Out More: http://emilyesfahanismith.com
Meaning is more profound than happiness. Studies show that people who have meaning in their lives are more resilient, prosperous, and have a greater life expectancy. In this fascinating TED talk, writer Emily Esfahani-Smith shares her research findings of finding meaning in life through four pillars – belonging, purpose, stepping beyond yourself, and storytelling.
She shares an inspirational story about her Sufi childhood and her father’s experience about what true meaning looks like.
This insightful talk gives us a gentle prompt to reflect on the meaning in our lives for the procrastinator. If you struggle to get things done, is it because you don’t see the value in them? Where do you belong?