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From Procrastination To Productivity – Transforming Your Work Ethic Through Mindset Shifts

Written by: Drake Kirkwood, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Drake Kirkwood

What if you overcame procrastination and became more productive? How would that change your life? Overcoming procrastination and becoming productive has little to do with how we feel and everything to do with our mindset. Let’s explore how you can control your time and tap into a limitless supply of motivation through mindset shifts.

Businessman holding smart phone while sitting in front of laptop

Understanding procrastination: Identifying root causes


Let’s get one thing clear right away: Procrastination is a natural survival mechanism of the mind—it’s natural to procrastinate. There is nothing innately wrong with our tendency to procrastinate—this is just one psychological trait that our brilliant mind has developed and fine-tuned over thousands of years. It has helped us survive and evolve as the dominant species on planet Earth. So, let’s do something different and show some appreciation for our procrastination prowess, just for a moment or two.


Okay, let’s go a step further. I would wager that if your procrastination habit is strong, your ability to survive is pretty strong as well. Having a strong will to survive is very important. The issue with this, however, is that more and more people are less focused on surviving in today’s modern world. No, no, no. What people want more than ever is to thrive. This is where things get tricky.


Let’s explore evolutionary psychology to identify the root causes of procrastination.

For much of our history, survival was the name of the game. Nothing else really mattered. Unless we hunted for food, found shelter, or ran away from predators, there wasn’t much need for the brain to waste vital energy. So, to preserve our precious energy, the mind convinces us to take it easy until we need it. Why waste precious energy now when we may need it later, right?


If we fast forward to the modern day, I think we can all agree that for the most part, our survival is nearly guaranteed. If you are reading this, I bet you live in a warm shelter with heat and electricity, a well-stocked storage of food, and a phone that can practically ensure your survival needs. With our vast increase in comforts, we’ve lost touch with our innate desire to evolve—an unquestioned characteristic of all living things.


Now that I’ve mentioned phones, let's take a brief moment to address how they influence procrastination. What are we constantly doing on our phones? Checking social media. And what are we doing on social media apps? Well, as clinical psychologist Meg Jay describes in her book The Defining Decade, and her Ted Talk, we’re ‘comparing and despairing’. This mental activity not only heightens procrastination habits, but it develops (often unconsciously) a strong feeling of lack, which inevitably leads to a desire to have and be more. Instead of running our race and doing the work, we get trapped in a cyclical mindset of lack that feeds our tendency to procrastinate and watch Netflix.


So, to wrap this idea up: It’s natural to procrastinate. If we wish to overcome it, we should start by acknowledging its power and accepting that it is a brilliant survival mechanism that’s been fine-tuned over thousands of years.


Cultivating a productive mindset: A shift of the mind


First, let’s define what mindset is. I like Jim Kwik’s definition: The firmly held beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions we create about who we are, how the world works, what we are capable of and deserve, and what is possible. It’s lengthy, but it’s well-rounded and all-encompassing. Mindset is not a minor mechanism of the mind—it is perhaps the most influencing aspect that determines the quality of our lives.


Something we often confuse when it comes to productivity is ‘being busy’. Being busy is not an accurate representation of being productive. Anyone can be busy—doing the laundry (when you should be writing that article for Brainz), running non-essential errands, or checking email for the sixth time in the afternoon. Being busy is tricky because we think we’re being productive. What we’re doing is avoiding boredom. Hey, as long as I’m doing something, I’m being productive, right? Not quite.


Being productive boils down to prioritization and intention. This is why planners and calendars are essential tools. If we want to start moving the needle and making some legitimate progress in our lives, we need to shift from busy work to essential work. Now, oftentimes, the essential work is the work we do not want to do. It’s picking up the phone and making those sales calls. It’s blocking off two hours to work on that team project without checking email. It’s taking the time to work on our side hustle on the weekends instead of watching NFL Redzone.


A productive mindset is all about effective time management (or more accurately, self-management—we all have the same 24 hours in a day), eliminating busy work, and being intentional when we decide what to prioritize in our schedule. If we can shift our mindset from looking for busy work to one that is looking for essential work, productivity becomes much easier.


Building self-discipline: What a good work ethic looks like


Anyone can have a good work ethic when it comes to doing stuff they like or are good at. We all have strengths and although it is important to work hard on the things we are good at, a real work ethic is all-encompassing. A person with a good work ethic does two distinct things:


  1. They do the work that needs doing

  2. They play full out regardless of what the work is


This is super important. If we want to overcome procrastination, we want to build the habit of doing the work we do not want to do. Who cares if we want to do the work or not? If it needs doing, it needs doing. What is the point of delaying the work? Not only are we procrastinating, but we are prolonging our suffering. The more time we have between now and the completion of the task, the more time we offer our egoic mind to conjure up all sorts of wild miseries. Talk about a waste of energy.


What if you could bypass that obstacle? What if your mind was consistently motivated to complete the work, regardless of what the work was? I bet we’d become a lot more productive. Not only that, imagine all the precious time we’d reclaim to do stuff we enjoy—golfing 9 holes after work, cooking a healthy meal for our family, working on a side project to create some passive income. After all, time is our most precious resource.


I think we severely underestimate our potential to work effectively and manage our time properly. A work ethic transformation is just a mindset shift in how we understand work. This shift will break procrastination cycles and improve our work habits. And if you’re still reading this article, let me suggest this: Enough is enough. It’s time to take pride in your work ethic and use it to overcome procrastination, once and for all.


Setting goals and non-negotiables: Clarifying the vision


We all want to achieve certain goals in life. This is a powerful motivator and it is part of what drives us to evolve personally and collectively. One mistake we often make when setting goals is not setting non-negotiables. If there is one idea you take from this article, I suggest you take this one.

A goal is the point we wish to achieve. Non-negotiables are commitments we make to ourselves that we will do no matter what happens. Say the goal is to become financially free in the next 10 years. That is a beautiful goal. But what would some non-negotiables look like for such a goal? Perhaps, no more drinking on weekends. Or reading two financial books each month. Or spending 8 hours a week on a side hustle. Or saving 30% of income each paycheck. When we establish non-negotiables, we get a clearer sense of whether or not we are willing to commit to the goal or not.


When we set goals, we want to clearly define what we are willing to sacrifice. As Napoleon Hill suggested,” There is no such thing as something for nothing.” What are we willing to give up for the attainment of the goal? What aren’t we willing to give up? That’s an important part of the equation too. It’s not enough to know what we’re willing to give up; we need to know what we aren’t willing to give up as well.


The beauty of setting goals and establishing non-negotiables is that we are clarifying the destination as well as the journey. Before committing to a goal, it’s necessary to understand what the journey is going to look like. Now, let me be clear, this does not mean we try to plan out every little detail—that is a waste of time. We merely want to identify some of the big points—things like when we’ll be working on the goal, what methods we’ll be investing in, and who we want to help us along the way—these are the points we need to consider.


This sense of clarity is going to help us when we don’t want to do the work. Doubt and fear will creep up and it is our responsibility to not let them infect our mindset. If we maintain the vision in our minds and our hearts; and stay committed to our non-negotiables, we are much more likely to navigate the troubled waters of indecision, doubt, and fear.


Mastering your mindset: Extrinsic motivation & intrinsic motivation


Motivation is a feeling. And as with all feelings, it is fleeting. Sometimes we feel it, sometimes we don’t. Most of the time, we don’t feel motivated. A common mistake we make is thinking we need to feel motivated before taking action. We need to let go of this facade. Motivation is not a reliable source and one of the worst habits we can create is needing motivation.


Pro Tip: Motivation doesn’t come before doing the work. It comes after. Prioritize starting the task and watch your productivity skyrocket.


Now, although motivation is fleeting, there are two different types of motivation that we want to be aware of. Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation comes from external sources, like winning a trophy or earning a bonus. Intrinsic motivation comes from within. Things like personal satisfaction or self-confidence. Both forms of motivation are valuable and they serve as drivers towards mastering our mindset.


Let’s cover extrinsic motivation first. As mentioned, this motivation stems from external factors, such as the status of finishing first place or earning a sales bonus. These external rewards can motivate us to show up and do the work. We can think of them as short-term, intense boosts of motivation. However, because of their short nature, they should not be relied on as consistent fuel. This is where most people go wrong. They fixate on extrinsic motivation cues and wonder why they rarely feel motivated. External motivators are ineffective when it comes to a winning mindset—they are fleeting. We need to quit relying on them so heavily.


Now, intrinsic motivation, as stated above, stems from internal factors such as feelings of satisfaction, peace of mind, and personal joy. The power of intrinsic motivation is that although they don’t hit as hard, they do last a long time. This is the lasting fuel that helps shape our mindset. When it comes to enhancing our productivity mindset, we want to rely on our intrinsic motivation. The reality is that most goals take time to achieve and require delayed gratification. If our mindset lacks the necessary attitudes and beliefs needed to break free from procrastination, we will never play the game long enough to engage in a breakthrough.




Procrastinating gets a heavy wrap. If we want to overcome this natural aspect of the mind, we need to understand why we do it in the first place. Developing a productive mindset is foundational if we wish to lead productive lives. This involves cutting out busy work and bringing a good dose of intention to our priorities. It’s not enough to work on stuff we enjoy—we need to cultivate the habit of working on the stuff we don’t want to do. More times than not, once we get started, the activity is much less daunting than our mind made it out to be. A clear vision makes the journey much easier to navigate. If we want to work smarter, we need to be willing to not only set goals but set non-negotiables as well. When it comes to consistent productivity, nothing is better than intrinsic motivation to keep us going steady. Good things take time—use extrinsic motivation to establish direction and intrinsic motivation to establish momentum.


If you made it this far, let me give you a virtual high-five—you’re a beauty. I wish you less procrastination and more productivity moving forward.


Ready to achieve more and procrastinate less? Take our Achieve More, Procrastinate Less Quiz to uncover your mindset, motivation, and procrastination triggers. Find out how to boost your productivity today: Click here.


If you want to overcome procrastination and boost your productivity, hiring a 1:1 coach can help you make the shift once and for all. It’s amazing what a little knowledge and accountability can do to create lasting change.


Stay sharp!

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Drake Kirkwood Brainz Magazine

Drake Kirkwood, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Drake Kirkwood is a mental performance coach who specializes in brain health, psychology, and mindset. After playing collegiate baseball and voyaging into entrepreneurship, Drake has spent his life leveling up his own mental game. He believes that everyone has the potential to win in life by harnessing the power of their mind through psychology and mindset. He is a young and energetic entrepreneur on a mission to empower high performers with the skills and wisdom to master their minds and master their lives.



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