Expert Advice On Ending Procrastination
Have you ever wondered how to stop procrastinating? So has every person who has bought Petr Ludwig’s bestselling book, The End of Procrastination. I went one on one with Petr and asked him for his best advice:
Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your advice. First things first, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What about you would surprise people?
Petr: Two times in my life, I had what is called a near-death experience. Both situations were extreme, subsequently shaping my personal values and influencing my life profoundly. The first event was a medical emergency when I was 18. While playing basketball, a kind of brain paralysis affected half of my body and I became paralyzed. At that moment, I thought this was the end. Facing death was life-changing. Happily, a few days later, everything went back to normal without any side effects. But my life was different since then. I'm focusing only on what is essential and meaningful. Because the value of time is the most valuable resource, we all have.
The second event was a few years ago when I was flying from Amsterdam to Prague, and the right engine caught on fire. It was noisy, scary and there was a blaze; we had to make an emergency landing. The feeling I experienced was very similar to the first near-death experience that I had. Facing death once again reassured me that life is the greatest gift, and we should invest our time in what is important – live according to our values, do something with purpose, help others and society, and live life to the fullest – this is the exact opposite of procrastination.
Adam: So how do you stop postponing and live a fulfilled life? What are your best tips and tools that anyone can apply to end procrastination?
Petr: Basically, there are two leading causes of procrastination. The first is motivation. If we don't see the purpose in what we do, then we don't have what is called intrinsic motivation. And we often replace intrinsic motivation with extrinsic one. But the problem is that there is a large amount of meta-analysis that shows this can easily backfire. If you push someone to do something, it has only a short-term effect and can make one’s motivation even worse in the future. Extrinsic motivation often undermines the intrinsic one. What’s the simple solution? Use your strengths and ask yourself how you can help others.
The second main problem is willpower. We are often overwhelmed by negative emotions; we don't know where to start, or experience decision paralysis – we have too many options in front of us, and in the end we are unable to choose at all. And the simple solution for this? Start with small steps and make them a routine. Science calls this micro-habits. Remember that less is more, but it is important to be persistent.
Adam: More broadly, what are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives, and civic leaders?
Petr: If you are choosing people for your team, chose those with similar values. Similar values unite people. Group motivation can be very strong if we work with people that have the same purpose as we have. Know the strengths of all members of your team and help them to grow those strengths so they’d be able to contribute to their work and the world we live in.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Petr: Have the courage to be yourself. We often live the lives of others. We are doing things that others expect from us. We are often trapped in situations where we think we have to pretend that we are someone else. This leads to subconscious stress, the growth of depression in the modern world, and in the end we lose focus as to what is important. We don't live our authentic lives.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Petr: The core of leadership is the ability to inspire people and spark intrinsic motivation. It's about helping them to recognize their strengths and to emphasize the impact of their work. Great leaders make their team members proud of their work and common achievements. We live in a very competitive world, and if we want to have the best people in our teams, we have to stop being egoistic and start to be authentic, supportive, and purpose-driven.
Adam: How did you sell 100,000 copies of your book? What advice do you have on how to sell books?
Petr: I think that success is a combination of a few critical things. First, there is the issue of procrastination. With social media, with so many distractions, and with the lack of purpose at work that is present in the corporate world, we live in a century of procrastination. And research shows us that the problem is growing. Fighting procrastination is one of the key skills you need to be happy and successful in this day and age. The second reason is simplicity. My book consists of more than a hundred simple pictures and diagrams that explain how our motivation and willpower works. Simplicity is a crucial skill if you want to be successful. I love the quote: “If you can't explain it simply, then you don't understand it well enough.”
Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Petr: The key is to find your true life values and live according to them each day. In my book, I describe some tools that can help people to uncover what is called personal vision. It is an answer to what is our life’s purpose, what are our fundamental values, and what are the key activities that we can do to make the world a better place. Another tool is a personal SWOT analysis – write down your strengths and weakness. Think about the potential opportunities and threats you have in your life. If you know yourself better, you can’t be yourself.
I love the idea of finding a balance between emotional and rational decisions. We think that we have to choose one or the other. But there is often another choice that combines both. When the rational and emotional brain is in synergy, when it works in a win-win scenario, we reach our most significant achievements.