The 7 Stages of Procrastination—as Illustrated by Ari Gold GIFs

We all have to do stuff we don't want to do. But sometimes, we put it off. 

As it turns out, procrastination happens in stages — and they might be familiar to you, no matter what you're putting off. 

Can you tell we're learning from our own mistakes here (chiefly watching too much Entourage)? 

As always, let Ari do the talking. The seven stages of procrastination:


1. Reality

The Thing you have to do is, in fact, a thing. In other words: you can't not do it. 

Yes, this Thing might suck. It might be tedious, frustrating, boring, or seemingly pointless. But again, you can't not do the Thing. Bad things happen to you if you don't do the Thing.

The only question is when you'll do it. Sooner is obviously better. But maybe that doesn't have to mean right now

This—we would suggest to you—is "reality" as most working people experience it. 


2. Denial of Reality

But still, you resist doing the Thing. Which is practically the definition of "procrastination."

You'll locate your reasons for resisting very quickly (see Step 3 below).

But no matter how sophisticated your next thoughts, the reason for them is universal: you're pushing away reality, or the simple fact that you should do the Thing now. 


3. Rationalization AKA "Compromise"

On some level, you already know you're not doing the Thing now. Perhaps, in a sense, you've always known.

But you can't just say that. "I know I should do it, but I'm not going to." What are you, a psycho?

Just wait for it. The magic thought pops into your head. You've got your angle: your Official Reason why you're not gonna do the Thing.

Maybe you choose to be honest and own it. I'm just don't have the brain cells today, so I'll try again tomorrow.

Maybe you evade entirely. Like, you just got the flu even though it's summertime. I'm sick, please leave me alone. Cough cough.

Or maybe you just stay quiet and hope no one asks today. If no one hounds my every move, those moves must not really matter—right?


4. Action (on something else)

You've officially committed: you are NOT doing the Thing.  

Congratulations! (Sort of.) 

But now there's a problem: your brain knows it's in enemy territory. You also know you can't stay motionless.

You need to do something. This is where our brains invent productive procrastination.

As we've written, productive procrastination is sometimes useful—but it does have some rules, and we follow those rules so our brains don't yell nasty things at us.

The main rule is simple: keep moving on something, even if it's only tangentially useful.



5. Fleeting Sense of Accomplishment

You still haven't touched the main thing... but you are DONE with the other thing.

Congratulations! (Sort of.)

Take a step back and admire your sparkling clean desk (or office, or whole apartment). Revel in the new filing system or process you invented. Bask in the glory of your cleared inbox and empty Desktop.

No, seriously. Enjoy them for a bit...


6. Reality (Reprise)

... because, for one thing, they're not going to last. Unless you have taken the care to diagnose and fully fix a real problem, whatever you did is going to pick up dust again.

And let's just say that tomorrow, or next week, or wherever you're pushing the real work... yeah, it's gonna sting later.

On some level, you always knew that. You accepted it at the beginning.

So as long as you're stopped, may as well stop hard and enjoy it for a bit. 


7. Deferral

Because once you hit 5pm, or whatever magical hour when you're "off the clock" (and can safely ignore most messages), you get another window.

You get to go home and continue not caring for the time being. Isn't that nice? 

If you tell yourself you're gonna do the thing later tonight, just stop. You're guilting yourself in advance. If you didn't do the thing during work hours, why do you expect the willpower to come to you on your couch at home?

So go home. Eat dinner, have a drink, relax. You've officially procrastinated for the day. Don't call it a victory, because frankly it's not. But no one's perfect and, yes, tomorrow is another day when you can do better. We've all been here—and we'll all be back again.



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