My name is Dave, and I’m addicted to video games.
Marvel Contest of Champions. Clash of Clans. Heard of these? I’ve spent hundreds of hours in the last couple years building up virtual cities, invading evil clans and battling against the world’s most powerful superheroes, all from the palm of my iPhone.
Before you get too jealous, I’ll add that I’m also addicted to Facebook, food and validation.
While this may not seem like great news, lately I’ve found a way to turn these addictions into something that helps me get more work done in less time, and something that actually gives me a lot of energy during the day. It’s honestly the best productivity trick I’ve ever used, and it’s working so well that right now it’s 6pm, I’ve been working the entire day and I’m full of energy.
Here’s my secret…
Lol. Yes, I’m taking two so-called terrible activities, addiction and procrastination and using them in tandem to create more energy for me to stay on task and be productive when I need to be.
The reason is that I know how addiction works.
How Addiction Works
To understand addiction we first have to understand craving. A craving is the temporary “high” you get when you think about doing something that gives you pleasure.
Note: I’m not a scientist, and I don’t read much about this stuff so don’t get too caught up in my definitions. I’m only speaking from my experience in a way that will help me make a point. I may even make up brain chemicals to sound smart.
So, to understand craving let’s first separate craving and fulfilling the craving. These are totally separate feelings. Craving gives you energy, because it gets you excited about the future. Fulfilling that craving typically drains you of energy because you have nothing left to crave.
For example, last Friday season two of Daredevil came out. I loved season one and I couldn’t wait for this new season. I was craving the experience of watching Daredevil.
The first chance I had to watch it was today and what did I do? I procrastinated. Instead of watching it I made a deal with myself that if I got X, Y and Z done that I would let myself watch one episode later that night. And a funny thing happened. After about ten minutes I stopped craving it, and got lost in the work I was doing.
That’s what happens when you procrastinate a craving, it goes away. Yet what we normally do with cravings is deny them, and that doesn’t work. If I told myself that I can never watch Daredevil, then I would have burnt out and binged on all 13 episodes in one night.
I do the same thing with Facebook. I get a dopamine hit off seeing those little red notifications, who doesn’t? Someone likes meeeee! When I’m in my depressed not-really-getting-anything-done-but-staring-at-my-computer phase I constantly check Facebook, because I crave it, and my brain wants some drugs.
When I’m being smart about my cravings I don’t deny myself Facebook, I procrastinate it. When I have the urge to check it, I simply say to myself “ok Dave, you can check Facebook but first pick one thing from your to-do list and get it done”. The part of my brain that wants to check Facebook (let’s call it my validation-seeking teenager) doesn’t get all crazy and rebellious, he quietly sits back down and says “ok fine, but only because I’ll get to do it later”.
The key to making addictions give you energy is not fulfilling them in the moment you have the craving.
Now I know some of you are thinking, “jeez Dave, you make it sound so easy, but when I get a craving it’s sooooo haaaaaaaaard to not do iiiiiiiiiiit”.
You don’t have to do it forever, just try it once. The next time you have a craving, whether it’s Facebook, food, meth, whatever… procrastinate it. Say to yourself “I’ll do it after I _______” and have that thing take at least 30 minutes, maybe an hour to be safe. Then after that’s done if you still feel the craving, let yourself go do whatever it is you were craving.
Or… at the end of that time, you can procrastinate again. In fact, my most productive days (like this one) are basically me procrastinating my addictions all day long until I look up and it’s dinner time. I swear, it works like a charm.
So next time you feel yourself crave something, whether it’s food, video games, porn, drugs, Netflix, whatever… don’t deny yourself the pleasure, just procrastinate it, then use it for more energy, productivity and peace of mind.