Procrastination matrix (procrastination cases)

Original author: Tim Urban
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For a better understanding of this post, first read the previous post on procrastination.

If, when I was in school, you asked me if I was a procrastinator, I would certainly answer “yes.” School students are taught to “keep pace” with large projects. And I proudly kept pace more than anyone I know. I never missed the deadline, but I did everything at night before the deadline. I was a procrastinator.

Actually, I wasn’t. The curriculum at the school is full of deadlines and short assignments. And even long projects consist of intermediate deadlines that do not allow much relaxation. There were only a few terrible moments, but in most cases, I did everything at the last minute anyway, because I knew that everything would be fine with me, so why not.

Without a doubt, in my head was the Monkey of Immediate Pleasure , but she was sweeter than anyone in the world. With constantly hanging deadlines, the Panic Monster never slept and the Monkey knew about it. Of course, she constantly distracted, but was not for the main thing.

My brain at school:

- If I do my homework now, I can then watch TV
- Or!

Or you can work out garbage for 4 hours and increase stress!

After 4 hours:


Enough, monkey! Now is really the time to work!

Once the school ended, and with it my life as a normal person ended. The college is not like a school. The tasks are large, with a lot of time between deadlines, and since you are no longer a child, no one treats you like a child - no one forces you to keep pace. Most of my classes included several term papers, mid-term exams and a final exam for 4 months, which means there were no strict deadlines on the horizon.

Without deadlines, my Panic Monster, who can't think too far ahead, spent a lot of time hibernating. My Decision Making Person (Decision Maker), who never realized how much he always relied on the Monster of Panic, is starting to have difficulty making plans.

- To get the most benefit from classes, you need to read the set.
- Never ever.


The more the Monster of Panic slept, the more confidence Monkey gained. The Decision Maker, the only one who sees the world clearly, was worried - he knew that college assignments were much larger than school ones, and maintaining the pace was no longer a reason for mockery, but a critically important thing. He would stop going to parties, but that would not solve the problem.

- Hey! We are going to the cinema. Will you come with us?
- I would love to, but I need to work. Next time.

- Only 2 days are left before the deadline for completing the term paper. That was the right decision.
- Charming

After 2 hours:
- What a wonderful movie!
- How is your work?

- Work to be handed over in 5 hours, but I have not even started yet. How did I allow this again?



It doesn’t matter how obvious the decision for the PDR (Decision Making Man) was, it was very clear he was not able to control the Monkey without the help of the Monster of Panic.

Wait ... wait ... there was an extension.

Extension of the deadline. Praise all!


Too good to be true. A minute ago, I swore at myself for bringing things to such a terrible situation. And now, as if by God himself, my life was extended. I now have enough extra time that I dreamed about. I can relax, really do some coursework and do it. This is the best ...

- Time for fun

While for PEV, college was most often a discouraging experience, for Monkey it was a complete renaissance, she studied the whole spectrum of activities in search of herself. With the synthesizer next to my desk, the monkey incredibly wanted to play the piano. There was a feeling that the harder it was to work, the stronger Monkey wanted to put on his headphones and play the piano.

Education was definitely not my thing, and I was delighted when college ended. I burst into the world of 1000 ambitions to do 1000 things. I had everything that could be offered to this world except knowledge, skills, and work ethics.

My PDR thought a lot about this, and understood that in Monkey College I tried to tell him something very important - I want to be a composer. Obviously this was a thing that I was completely absorbed in, and finally, it will become what I should do every day. No more battles with the Monkey - she would finally get what she wanted. I figured out what I want from life and moved to LA to write music for films.

To pay the bills, I began to do homework with the children at school and prepare for the SAT (US University entrance exam). I chose this work because it would not distract me from becoming the next John Williams (American composer conductor, one of the most successful film composers in history - approx. Per.). Then the strangest thing happened. As soon as I was sure that I had found myself, the Monkey began an emotional quest. When the PDR and I would sit down at the piano to write something, the Monkey refused to join us. CPR was starting to feel helpless, like in college.

Meanwhile, Monkey found a new interest - she was interested in my tutoring work. Everything was going well, recommendations were growing, and as soon as the NPI insisted that we were already working with too many students, Monkey accepted every new incoming job offer. Then the Monkey began to think wider and hire my friends who would be tutoring for me. I spent all day getting phone calls. The monkey went into business.

The monkey refused to give us the opportunity to pursue a musical career, and the PMR refused to join Monkey's business career.


That was when my best friend Andrew moved to LA. Andrew is not like me. He lives and breathes business, without any interest in achieving anything in art, and since I met him when I was 5, his Monkey was an accustomed little infection that did what she was told. After moving, we discussed the opportunity to do business together. My PDR refused to take the business seriously, but the prospect of doing business with Andrew and really making every effort was tempting. And the Monkey was obviously very interested in business, there that maybe IT is what I should have been doing in reality. Together we founded a tutoring company.

NPR was still struggling with the decision to postpone a musical career, but the company was growing rapidly and NPR was slowly starting to feel “ok” about the business.

That signal for Monkey was a signal to become an avid blogger.

- Oh,

come on, I posted something at that time from time to time for several years, but the take-off of the business was just what Monkey needed to plunge into her new hobby, and over the next few years I wrote hundreds of posts during non-working hours. I went to work every day, but instead of doing what n business owners should be engaged after work to develop the company, I thought about what to write in a blog.

In 2013, Andrew and I decided to start something new, we looked at the monkey and its blogging, and decided maybe this is what I should have been doing all this time. And we started Wait But Why. Andrew would continue to develop the company, and I would completely immerse myself in the new project, giving Monkey what she so passionately desired.

What college was a classic procrastination transformed into a bizarre form of insanity as soon as I entered the real world. It seemed I was chasing a monkey. After she defeated me in college, it seemed to me that to fight with her was initially wrong. She was born in some inner part of me, so it may make sense to pay attention to her inclinations and use them as a guide.

This is what I did. Every time Monkey was fond of something new, I built my life around this hobby. The problem was that it was like a mirage. As soon as I ended up there, the Monkey was no longer there. She was somewhere else. It was confusing. She was there because she wanted to be there or because there was no emergency response. Was it really her calling or was she constantly distracting me from achieving anything great with my talents and energy?

Last year, a small diagram occurred to me that seems to answer these questions. I called it the Eisenhower Matrix.


1 quadrant = important and urgent
2 quadrant = important but not urgent
3 quadrant = urgent but not important
4 quadrant = not urgent and not important

Eisenhower's matrix relates everything that you do to 2 spectra: from the most urgent to the most not urgent, and from the most important to not important.

The Matrix was popularized by Stephen Blood's book “Seven Skills of Highly Effective People” and named after President Eisenhower. Eisenhower was known for his extraordinary productivity, which Covey credits to his “first things first” attitude to waste of time. And for Eisenhower, the “first things” were always important things. He believed that you should spend almost all your time in quadrant 1 and 2.


Q1 - do now
Q2 - decide when to do
Q3 - delegate
Q4 - delete

And that's great for Dwight, damn him Eisenhower. But did you know what Eisenhower did not have in his bald head? Almighty Monkey Immediate Pleasure. If he had, he would know that the procrastinator matrix looks like this:

Q1 - do when it turns from urgent to terribly urgent
Q2 - delegate yourself for the future
Q3 - do when Q1 is urgent
Q4 - do now

If you need any information on quadrant 4 - how to get there , where to eat and so on - ask any procrastinator. They live there. For a non-procrastinator, Q4 is a happy venue. After a productive day, having worked on important tasks, it is very pleasant to spend time in Q4. And for this there is a square name - Happy Playground. But procrastinators have no tendency to spend time there after a productive working day - they are there more often, against their will, because the Monkey dragged them there, while the CPR begged to leave there. And they have their own name for this quadrant - Dark Playground .

As for quadrants 1 and 3 - urgent quadrants - most procrastinators will be there from time to time, usually in a cold sweat, with a Monster of Panic screaming in their face.

There is still Q2. For procrastinator, Q2 is a strange and unfamiliar place, somewhere far, far away. Type of Atlantis, or Narnia. He knows that this is an important place, and tried many times to get there, but there is a problem - the Monkey refuses to go there, and the Monster of Panic is not very concerned about him. And this is a deadly combination.

The reason this is disastrous is because the path to the dreams of the procrastinator goes directly through Q2. Q1 and Q3 are places where people survive, and Q2 is where they grow and prosper.

If you're a procrastinator, you're in luck. We have an ace up its sleeve - some courageous and fearless, with unlimited energy and talent, someone who can overcome the Monkey as easily as stepping on an ant - The Future You.

The future You are your most important ally - someone who is always there and ready to support no matter what. I know everything about this guy. Future Tim is a great guy.

My to-do list consists of two parts - a short, easy part for me, and a long one, consisting of things that I can’t even imagine what I will do, because they make me itch nervously. Future Tim will always deal with him, without complaint. Future Tim also has no problems with vile social obligations. I was recently invited to give a feedback for a 3-4 hour performance written by someone I almost don't know. Of course, I had no intention of participating, but I would feel guilty if I refused. Therefore, I said that I have been very busy for 2 months, otherwise I would be happy to join next time this summer, then this will be the problem of Future Tim, not mine.

Future Tim also has the discipline and balance of life that I could only dream of. I never really went to the gym, but Future Tim lives in it and does all the exercises for both of us. And I like how Future Tim is passionate about healthy eating, because personally I do not have time for this. Future Tim is the kind of guy we all want to be like. You can get to know him better by buying his books, for he is a prolific author.

But the most important role Future Tim plays in my life brings us back to the Eisenhower Matrix. By a happy coincidence, Future Tim spends most of his time in a place that I would never have been to, in Q2. Future Tim is the Q2 ranger. And when I make a list of important cases and notice that most of them fall on Q2, I do not need to despair, I know that Future Tim is above him. Which is good, considering the terrible situation of Past Tim, this useless dick from the mountain, left me:

Look at you, fucking Past Tim. You are the only reason we are in this terrible situation. Do you see the future Tim over there? Thank God he is here to fix it. I would have cleaned your mess myself if I hadn’t been busy with this damn Monkey.

But to all the merits of Future Tim, he has one drawback that kind of spoils everything: he does not exist.

It turns out the Future of You is a mirage like the Monkey passion for a hobby. The future Tim is never near, there is only this nonsense Real Tim. Which can not perform any tasks, since they can only be performed by someone without a Monkey. You set tasks for Your Future and all hope that it will exist.

Here's what happened when I pursued a composer's career:
Q1 - nothing
Q2 - all the important things for my career as a composer
Q3 - tutoring with students
Q4 - managing a tutoring company

And when I decided to follow Monkey and do business, I missed an important point: “doing” business meant doing business what I should do, which transferred it from the category of not important tasks to important tasks - moving from Q4, Monkey’s favorite place, in Q2, the least favorite.

Q1 - managing a tutoring company
Q2 - developing a tutoring company
Q3 - a ton of insignificant things that take at least half of my time
Q4 - blogging

The fact that I thought Monkey will keep his enthusiasm for business after moving him to Q2 indicates how little I understood Monkey . Monkey's passion was never music or business or blogging. The Monkey's passion has always been Q4.

When I started writing posts for Wait But Why, I knew that I wanted to write about procrastination. It was necessary to somehow pronounce the madness that was happening in my head. I did it once .

The response was overwhelming. In addition to 1,300 comments, I received a huge number of emails:
- Emails regarding procrastination
- Emails regarding the rest of the blog posts

Thousands of emails . It seems all this is not only about me.

My post made many cry. And not from my crooked drawings, but because they read about one of the most serious problems in their life.

The profiles of those who wrote to me were very different. All ages, different professions from almost all countries of the world. But all of them, including myself, had the same problem - the Monkey of Immediate Pleasure, which cannot be controlled. But I noticed one thing. The differences between the stories can be divided into 3 categories:

1. The Disastinators (Disasters)


Of all procrastinators, disasters are the worst form. The disaster is constantly in Q4, and procrastination completely destroys his life. Most often, a procrastinator becomes a Holocaust for 2 reasons:

A. Their monkey ceased to be afraid of the Monster of Panic and became omnipotent
B. They are ordinary procrastinators, but there is no external deadline or pressure in their life

Situation A is very gloomy, and as I learned from the letters, it’s not so rare. These people have lost the ability to do almost everything that is important to them and either fly down a spiral or give up completely.

In situation B, the Holocaust is no worse than any other procrastinator, just their circumstances are catastrophic for their personality type. The nature of their life and work does not give rise to Monster Panic to wake up.


As a result, Catastrophes do nothing, never. Many PhDs fall into this category.

2. The Impostinators. (Rogues)

We did not talk much about Q3, but it can be a particularly dangerous quadrant of all, and Rogues reign there. Their life looks like this:

The crook seems productive, but in fact he is an impostor - a procrastinator who put on a mask of a productive person. He always seems busy as he spends a lot of time in Q3. He is actually busy. But it seems he never makes progress for true purposes.

Rogues have smart Monkeys, and Q3 is Monkey's smartest trick. The little monkey knows that the PDR can be quite gullible, can be reassured if she spends most of her time outside the Q4 Dark Playground. Rogue Monkey arranges a battle between Q3 and Q4, and it works, since Q3 feels productive. It seems to the rogue that being busy = productive.

The crook will respond all day to email, call, fulfill assignments, organize lists and schedules, and participate in meetings. Those. if you condemn yourself only for the time spent on the Dark Playground, then we can consider this a success. But at the end of the day, satisfaction from the work done seems empty and the Happy Playground never brings a complete state of happiness. He may be baffled, thinking that he lives a productive life, but in the subconscious, he knows that he is not doing what he should do. His sense of accomplishment goes side-by-side along with an undercurrent of despair.

Another complication for Rogue is that sometimes Q3 disguises itself as Q1. A busy Rogue often believes that the urgent work he does is important, but as Eisenhower said:

What is important is rarely urgent, and what is urgent is rarely important.

In other words, Q1 most often does not exist. Not always, but most likely for most people who are just developing their careers, this is so, because if something important is actually urgent, then something good is happening to your developing career.

But the farther, the more your permanent employment means that you spend all the time in Q3 (mixed with Q4). I know that when I’m in one of these zones, where I tell everyone around how busy I am and that I don’t have time for them at all, it almost always happens due to all kinds of crap being loaded into Q3. People who are truly at the top of their lives, who have everything under control, have a freer schedule. But society is smiling at busy people. The phrase “I think you have too much free time” is an insult, so crooks often look and feel like they are doing everything right. While the Rogue will always feel superior to the Holocaust, the truth is that in terms of productivity they are equal.

The main lesson is to beware of Q3. Q3 grabs you by the collar and drags you to react to things. If you are not careful enough, Q3 will suck you all your life. I know for sure, because I spent too much time in my life as a Rogue.

The most frequent professions in this category are artists and entrepreneurs. In both cases, you are the master of your life, and important work, such as developing your skills, expanding your circle of contacts, and working on a creative vision, is rarely urgent.

3. The Successtinators (Successes)

After I started Wait But Why, I wrote 250,000 words. These are approximately 1000 book pages. And what I do is really important to me. For the first time, satisfaction from work done does not go with guilt or emptiness. I did it! I am a doer!

Not really.

In reality, I did not overcome the problems of my Monkey a gram more than the Catastrophes or Rogues. The difference is that I drove myself into a big, fat Q1 situation in my life. Not fake Q1, which is actually Q3, but real Q1.

For procrastinator, this is the opposite of PhD type, which I described as catastrophic for procrastinator. Writing regularly for a large audience is ideal for a procrastinator. This makes Monster Panic your close friend.

With other projects, my Monkey spent time in Q4 pursuing ambitious projects, and she was allowed to do this, since the PDR was not sure what he wanted. But for now, work on Wait But Why satisfies the CDR. He allows Monkey to dance around Q3 and Q4, because he does not have the power to not allow, but he will not allow Monkey to do something serious.

At the moment, I am a Successor. The smallest evil of all three types.


The successor found a solution, or something like that, of his problems, but it is not the best, most often not very healthy and most often not sustainable. Cleverly taping a problematic mechanism to maintain temporary work.

Successes may be content with their lives, but more often than not, they are not happy. This is because Success does not make you successful. Someone who successfully does something in his professional life to the detriment of balance, relationships, and health is not a successful person. To be successful means to be successful in both professional and personal life. And the Successes are in constant stress, too inaccessible and often deprived of a Happy Playground, and this is a critical component of a happy life. A success is often limited in his professional abilities. Great work can be done in Q1, but more often than not, it is keeping things current. And like all procrastinators, the Successor rarely deals with Q2.

There are more problems in the world than procrastination. Poverty, illnesses, mental disorders, and drug addiction make procrastination look like a problem for the privileged. Type of suffering for those people who do not have real suffering.

But if a skeptic spends a little time and reads letters from my readers, I think he will agree that this is a terrible problem in the lives of so many people. And this not only harms the procrastinator, it harms people close to the procrastinator, spreading the effect.

For every Steve Jobs, John Lennon, J.K. Rowling or any other person whose talent has improved our lives, there are thousands of people with much greater potential who will never achieve much because they spend their time in the wrong quadrants matrices.

Clarifying the fallacy
If you want to increase productivity, the first step is to begin to perceive the world through the Eisenhower Matrix. It is necessary to learn to distinguish between urgent and important. “What matters to me the most?” Is a question that should be seriously considered.

Bret McKay defines “important tasks” as things that will affect the long term and goals.

Ideally, urgent things will not be “that grabs you by the collar”, but a list of things that can bring maximum benefit as soon as possible. Using this definition, spending time with your children falls within the urgent range, whereas by the typical definition it is not urgent. The order of your priorities should be determined by the CPR, not by the Monster of Panic.

You may want to understand how you are spending time now, recording hours during the week and determining how many of them fall into each of the four quadrants of the matrix. Most likely you will be unpleasantly surprised.

Becoming the boss of your brain
Once you figure out your Eisenhower Matrix, the hardest part will begin - to take control of how you spend your time. For the procrastinator - the greatest life test.

The reward is obvious. It is incredible how much one person can do, while maintaining a balance in life, when he controls where he spends time. And those who spend time in Q3 and Q4 will feel that they do not have time either for work or for personal life, and at the same time they have achieved very little.

You'll find thousands of articles on how to stop procrastinating on Google with great tips. The problem is that they are written for sane people, and procrastinators do not apply to them. Being insane, procrastinators are always under the illusion of sanity, and, reading advice, they think that they will be able to apply them in their lives. But that does not work.

The only way to do this is the Storyline .

At a deep level, it comes down to a battle of confidence. NPR and Monkey have their own ideas about how to spend time. And one of them has more confidence that he is an alpha male, that one prevails. The difference between a procrastinator and a non-procrastinator is that both Monkey and PEP, in the head of the procrastinator, both believe that the Monkey is an alpha male, while the non-procrastinator believes that the boss is PPR.

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