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Why Do We Always Slack off?

Why Do We Always Slack off?

Life Hackers, have you ever paused to think why hacking your habits and behavior occupies you from time to time? Or why doing things better and faster will always earn you the respect of those around you?

Let’s take a minute to take a closer look at our evolutionary past and and the first human hackers.

In the past, we were part of a hunter/gatherer society; all were working to get an edge in an unforgiving environment. The tools we used and the techniques we invented gave us an advantage over rivals and made our existence more bearable, sometimes even triggering the next evolutionary leap.

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Take for instance the story of fire…

In the beginning (about 1.7 million years ago), humans discovered they could use fire. They didn’t know how to control it at first, but little by little they learned its advantages, how to manipulate it, and ultimately even how to create it from scratch (no pun intended).

Before we knew how to create fire, we used to “harvest it” from our environment which required a great deal of effort. It doesn’t grow on trees; quite the opposite, it sets them ablaze. Tribes would fight each other to own it and would invest considerable time and effort to maintain it.
…And then, someone found how to create it themselves.

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Just imagine the Eureka moment in which humans learned how to create fire and were able to reproduce the process. Imagine the ensuing era and the leap we’ve all made as a result. Those same feelings/hormone surges/thoughts the cave men and women felt back then are the ones you’re experiencing today when you hack a need.

Hacking was a trait that was developed in us through years of trial and error, or in other words, evolution. It was a trait driven by necessity. One can argue it is the key to our evolution. For me, hacking is much more than just about inventing or changing the functionality of a tool or behavior; hacking is about me masting my environment, but I, as most of you, also find myself slacking from time to time (i.e. not doing the things I need to do when they need doing). This brings up an important question: if my ancestors developed the hacking trait, why do I experience behaviors today that hold me back? Or, in other words, why do I slack?

Well, two reasons that come to mind:

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#1 Distractions over time

From the discovery of fire to maintaining it, and eventually creating it at whim took time; a lot of time. Why? The first hackers had an unstable environment with many threats and distractions, and it was a challenge to simply survive; we just didn’t have the brain capacity and ability to focus only on fire creation.

Just as our ancestors struggled with their environment, we too are constantly battling our environment. Granted, there isn’t a saber-toothed tiger roaming our backyard to distract us, but the seemingly constant distractions over time eventually break our willpower and lead us to slack.

We must learn to commit and focus. Distractions will never go away, so we must learn to control them, and fend them off so we can hack and make our leap forward.

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#2 Our success is the reason we fail

Minjung Koo and Ayelet Fischbach from the University of Chicago explain in their research that the reason we slack is because we can’t focus in the “here and now”: we are often distracted by things that we’ve done or the benefits we’ve derived from those accomplishments, which they call “to-date thinking”. Instead we should be focusing on the job we need to do or “to-go thinking”.

You might say that we start as good hackers, accomplishing a thing or two, only to finish as slackers. We pass time by reading about other people’s hacks, trying to copy rather than invent new ones. That’s why serial entrepreneurs are scarce (they don’t stagnate on past success) and repeat Nobel Prize winners are rare; the discovery of maintaining fire postponed the discovery of how to create it.

What’s it to you, you ask? Don’t rest on your laurels, and keep the saber-toothed tigers at bay!

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Last Updated on July 10, 2019

30 Best Procrastination Quotes to Get You Back to Work

30 Best Procrastination Quotes to Get You Back to Work

What do your 3pm fridge raid and perfectly alphabetised bookshelf have in common?

You most likely did both of them when you should have been doing work.

Procrastination is one of the most human behaviours. We’re all guilty of putting off what we know is important from time to time, and it seems the more pressing the task at hand, the better we are at avoiding it.

Sure, it means that every time we have an important deadline we end up with a spotlessly clean house and a completely empty inbox, but the real work gets left until the very last minute and is finished in a frenzy of stress and caffeine.

But we can gain control over procrastination by noticing it as soon as possible and stopping it in its tracks. On the contrary, you know you have a bad habit when you’re aware you’re putting something off, and you continue avoiding it anyway.

To start you off with combating procrastination, here are a few quotes to get you in a motivated frame of mind, because if procrastination has any enemies, it’s motivation to work harder.

A Few Home Truths

    “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”
    ― Mark Twain


    “It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.”
    ― Leonardo da Vinci


    “Someday is not a day of the week.”
    ― Janet Dailey


    “Success is not obtained overnight. It comes in instalments; you get a little bit today, a little bit tomorrow until the whole package is given out. The day you procrastinate, you lose that day’s success.”
    ― Israelmore Ayivor


    “The man who waits to know everything is the man who never does anything.”
    ― Craig D. Lounsbrough


    “Procrastination is like going to a fancy restaurant and filling up on bread and not leaving enough room for dinner.”
    ― Richie Norton, The Power of Starting Something Stupid: How to Crush Fear, Make Dreams Happen, and Live without Regret


    “Procrastination is the lazy cousin of fear. When we feel anxiety around an activity, we postpone it.”
    ― Noelle Hancock, My Year with Eleanor


    “Doing things at the last minute reminds us of the importance of doing things at the first minute.”
    ― Matshona Dhliwayo


    “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
    ― Abraham Lincoln


    “A day can really slip by when you’re deliberately avoiding what you’re supposed to do.”
    ― Bill Watterson, There’s Treasure Everywhere


    “By what right do I, who have wasted this day, make claims on tomorrow?”
    ― Alain-Fournier, Le Grand Meaulnes


    “If you want to get ahead in life, I’ve found that perhaps the most useless word in the world is “tomorrow.”
    ― José N. Harris


    Some Practical Advice

      “If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.”
      ― Hilary Mantel


      “Thinking too much leads to paralysis by analysis. It’s important to think things through, but many use thinking as a means of avoiding action.”
      ― Robert Herjavec, The Will To Win: Leading, Competing, Succeeding


      “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone”
      ― Pablo Picasso


      “It is only by working the rituals, that any significant degree of understanding can develop. If you wait until you are positive you understand all aspects of the ceremony before beginning to work, you will never begin to work.”
      ― Lon Milo DuQuette, The Magick of Aleister Crowley: A Handbook of the Rituals of Thelema


      “Do first what you don’t want to do most.”
      ― Clifford Cohen


      “How often do you find yourself saying, “In a minute”, “I’ll get to it” or “Tomorrow’s good enough” and every other possible excuse in the book? Compare it with how often you decide it’s got to be done, so let’s get on and do it! That should tell you just how serious your procrastinating problem really is.”
      ― Stephen Richards, The Secret of Getting Started: Strategies to Triumph over Procrastination


      “How to stop procrastinating starts with believing you can overcome procrastination.”
      ― Robert Moment, How to Stop Procrastinating


      “Never put things off…you will wake up and find them gone.”
      ― James Jones


      Some Tough Love

        “Do something instead of killing time. Because time is killing you.”
        ― Paulo Coelho, Aleph


        “If you take too long in deciding what to do with your life, you’ll find you’ve done it.”
        ― George Bernard Shaw


        “If you want to get ahead in life, I’ve found that perhaps the most useless word in the world is “tomorrow.”
        ― José N. Harris


        “What is deferred is not avoided.”
        ― Thomas More


        “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work”
        ― Chuck Close


        “If you always do what is easy and choose the path of least resistance, you never step outside your comfort zone. Great things don’t come from comfort zones.”
        ― Roy Bennett


        “Your ideas have legs and just as they run through your head, they could be running through someone else’s head and it’s just a matter of who gets to the finish line first. Nothing is new under the sun so act on your ideas.”― Sanjo Jendayi


        “You may not be punished for your procrastination, but for sure you will be punished by your procrastination.”
        ― Debasish Mridha


        When You Need Pulling out of Procrastination

          “Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.”
          ― Denis Waitley


          “A year from now you may wish you had started today.”
          ― Karen Lamb


          Print these quotes out, stick them on the wall in front of your desk – do whatever it takes to remember why you shouldn’t be putting your work off, or getting distracted by a desire to rearrange your socks into colour order.

          It won’t be easy, but being aware of how detrimental procrastination is to your longer-term goals is the first step towards overcoming it.

          More Motivational Quotes

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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