THE MISCONCEPTION: You procrastinate because you are lazy and can’t manage your time well.
THE TRUTH: Procrastination is fueled by weakness in the face of impulse and a failure to think about thinking.
Want never goes away. Procrastination is all about choosing want over should because you don’t have a plan for those times when you can expect to be tempted. You are really bad at predicting your future mental states. In addition, you are terrible at choosing between now and later. Later is a murky place where anything could go wrong...
If you fail to believe you will procrastinate or become idealistic about how awesome you are at working hard and managing your time, you never develop a strategy for outmaneuvering your own weakness.
Procrastination is an impulse; it’s buying candy at the checkout. Procrastination is also hyperbolic discounting, taking the sure thing in the present over the caliginous prospect someday far away. You must be adept at thinking about thinking to defeat yourself at procrastination. You must realize there is the you who sits there now reading this, and there is the you some time in the future who will be influenced by a different set of ideas and desires; a you for whom an alternate palette of brain functions will be available for painting reality.
The now-you may see the costs and rewards at stake when it comes time to choose studying for the test instead of going to the club, eating the salad instead of the cupcake, writing the article instead of playing the video game. The trick is to accept that the now-you will not be the person facing those choices, it will be the future-you—a person who can’t be trusted. Future-you will give in, and then you’ll go back to being now-you and feel weak and ashamed. Now-you must trick future-you into doing what is right for both parties. This is why food plans like Nutrisystem work for many people. Now-you commits to spending a lot of money on a giant box of food that future-you will have to deal with.