Procrasti-learning — How We Hurt Growth and How to Avoid It

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Photo by denis ng on Unsplash

our college buddy is in town. You suggest going out for drinks on your treat. You have a great time and your buddy tells you that they are on track for early retirement in 5 years. You spent $2,000 last month on food, drinks, and entertainment and want to do better. YouTube magically recommends some personal finance videos. You watch a few videos over the course of the next 2 weeks. You go on Amazon and buy some personal finance and wealth books. You feel good because you feel like you’ve made progress due to knowing more about the subject matter. You spend another $2,000 next month and don’t find out until the card statement arrives.

You’re tired of the same 8–6 routine and feel spiritually burned out. You want to switch up life a little. You stumble upon motivational videos. You listen to podcasts about entrepreneurs who’ve spent years grinding to beat the odds and scale their small projects into successful businesses. You start learning about side businesses. You watch more motivational videos. You go back to working the same 8–6 until you find another job that maybe lets you do 8–5 with work from home Fridays. Turns out the new job ends up being 8–6:30 but now you’re being paid a couple extra thousand, so you take it and settle.

You see a body transformation picture on social media. You feel inspired and motivated for yourself to do the same. You do research on paleo diets and look at other people who’ve transformed this way. You prepare meal plan spreadsheets and then prepare a grocery list for the weekend. You feel great. Friday rolls around and your coworkers know a spot that has dollar oyster happy hour. You tell yourself that oysters are protein so it’s good and you wash them down with a couple of happy hour drinks. You spend the weekend and next week eating out for lunch and getting takeout for dinner. You tell yourself it’s because there were too many fires to be put out at work. Maybe when work gets less hectic you’ll be able to start that paleo routine.

The above are all examples of procrasti-learning, one of the greatest obstacles that gets between who we are and who we want to become. It’s knowing enough existing information to take action, but instead of taking action, you tell yourself you need to learn more. You’ve procrastinated on actively applying solution by wasting time learning more than you need to at the moment.

Procrasti-learning affects the best of us, it gets in our way and makes our brains temporarily satisfied if we are unaware of it. Especially in the content rich era that we live in, this can be very dangerous. I’m extremely guilty of this in the past as well, but luckily I’ve found some key steps that have worked for me that hopefully will be helpful for you.

Prioritize Implementation

Less thinking, more doing. I can go on forever about how this is key. If you want to successfully implement a new habit, skill, or achieve a goal, you need to treat it like a full-on project.

  • Track everything and give your future self the gift of data. Spend a few hours setting up an Excel, Google Sheet, or Air Table to track everything you need to keep yourself accountable. There are tons of templates on the internet for trackers for anything you need.
  • Create a healthy environment to minimize friction between you and your goals. One of the books that influenced me the most was Atomic Habits by James Clear. A key takeaway from the book that I think about daily is that we don’t rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems. The better you design the systems in which you operate everyday life, the higher probability you’ll have towards hitting your goals. For example, if you know you might forget to track your progress, download the apps for the spreadsheets and save it to the home screen dock on your phone.
  • Be patient and give yourself room to make mistakes. Don’t seek perfection or you’ll talk yourself out of the game. Seek progress instead, and find a balance between forgiving and holding yourself accountable.

Going On A Content Diet

In many ways, this goes hand in hand with implementation. The less content you consume, the more time you’ll have to implement things that you’ve already learned.

  • Instead of seeking something new, go back and re-watch or re-read something that was impactful. A lot of times after learning about something once, we tend to forget it after a couple days. Most people lose retention of information unless they revisit it multiple times. See the forgetting curve illustrated below:
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The forgetting curve demonstrates how spaced repetition benefits information retention
  • Though it may seem counter intuitive, the slower you learn, the more you learn. Don’t just read something; take notes and reflect as well. If there is a passage that resonates with you, write it down somewhere so that you can look at it from time to time. Being more deliberate about your learning and practice will get you farther than rushing through a high volume of content.
  • Go for depth, not breadth. Focusing on a single subject matter for months to years and drilling deep into it will give you more knowledge than learning a variety of subjects. This is because of the compounding of knowledge on that single subject.

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. — Bruce Lee

Slow, consistent, and purposeful learning with implementation has been the most effective way I’ve made personal progress. It’s an amazing time to be doing something new, let’s make the most of it.

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