Procrastination plagues the best of us. In this TED talk from TED 2016 in February, Wait But Why blogger and sorta-kinda professional procrastinator Tim Urban takes us inside the minds of serial procrastinators. He breaks down three distinct voices in our brains related to procrastination: the “rational decision-maker,” the “instant gratification monkey,” and the all-powerful “panic monster” that leaps into action as soon as a catastrophic deadline creeps up on us.
However, what starts out as a comical breakdown of what’s perceived as a goofy, bad habit becomes an examination of what happens when we procrastinate the big-picture life stuff that doesn’t have deadlines, like reconnecting with family, working on relationships or getting fit. Urban pushes viewers to tackle those challenges without the help of our inner panic monsters, because life is too short to wait on living until the last minute.
In the spirit of inspiring you to kick the procrastination, here’s a book list to get you motivated!
Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer (Anchor Books, 1997)
This classic story of the life and death of free spirit Christopher McCandless, immortalized by Jon Krakauer and turned into an Academy Award-nominated film, will stick with you. It might not make you want to wander into wilderness, but it will certainly challenge how you define the limits of your life.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life and Death, Jean-Dominique Bauby (Vintage, 1998)
This touching memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby, also turned into an Academy Award-nominated film, recounts his experience of locked-in syndrome: a condition where he was ostensibly trapped within his own body. He wrote the book over the course of 10 months using his final functioning organ, his left eye, by blinking. It’ll inspire you to appreciate the elements of life you may take for granted.
The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, 2014)
This generational saga, by Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, traces the evolution of computing and the birth of the Internet. From Ada Lovelace to Bill Gates, this history not only tells the story of technological development, but tries to define what it was about these specific icons that made them creative pioneers — and it’ll inspire you to find the creative pioneer within yourself.
Looking for Alaska, John Green (Speak, 2006)
This modern classic young adult novel by author-vlogger-wizard John Green will break your heart into a million pieces. It will then rebuild your heart by moving you to take a look at your loved ones with a measured and empathetic perspective. You’ll cry a little, but you might also come away with a greater appreciation for the relationships that have and continue to define you.
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, Alfred Lansing (Basic Books Reprint, 2015)
This book traces the extraordinary exploits of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, who planned to cross Antarctica on foot in 1915 but got sidetracked when his ship, the Endurance, was stuck and then destroyed in icy oblivion. He and his crew, after camping in Antarctica for a year, had to cross over 850 miles of arctic waters in tiny lifeboats to make it back to any semblance of civilization. If this story doesn’t motivate you, nothing will.
(More) Recommended reading:
Wait But Why: Year One, Tim Urban (Amazon Digital Services, 2015)
This e-book is a collection of essays from Urban’s Wait But Why blog. Subjects vacillate wildly between various realms of science, society and stick figure drawings. Equal parts silly and profound, this little e-book is a good primer for what will probably become an addictive jaunt down a rabbit hole of blog posts that will eventually evoke your next appointment with your inner panic monster.