Here’s something funny– I’m a procrastinator, and a pretty bad one. And something I’ve always wanted to do is to really dig deep into all the articles ever written about procrastination, and put together a comprehensive analysis that goes through, well, all of them. But I’ve been putting it off because I want to prioritize these 1000 vomits. But then I get frustrated because I have multiple projects. So I’ve decided to just merge them– to use my 1000 vomits to analyze the procrastination pieces. So let’s jump right into it.
- You are never procrastinating– you are always deciding. When you don’t write for a month, you’re not procrastinating, you’re deciding to write for a month. (This reminds me of Anthony Robbins’ idea that ‘decision is the ultimate power’.)
- It’s not the thought that counts, it’s the action. (Talk is cheap.)
- Runners make time to run, writers make time to write. (Cool, I’m doing that now.)
- Be aware of your choices.
Fairly superficial post. The key insights– talk is cheap, and everything you do or not-do is a decision you made.
- “I watch TV and turn on the internet– excuses that I need background noise. But the truth is I can only really work when I have zero distractions.” – Environment problem. Solve by putting yourself in a situation with no distractions.
- “It’s also hard for me to keep to a schedule– I feel trapped, like I’m setting myself up for failure.” – Expectancy problem. Don’t make huge plans, make small ones.
- I enjoy writing but I need to think of it as a business and not a habit.” Decision problem. Have not made the decision to Go Pro.
- “Have trouble putting my finger on a single time suck– email would be a good candidate.” – Impulsiveness problem. Need to be more conscious of each action. Need to study/measure behavior.
- “No trouble brainstorming, but can’t prioritize best over good.” – Prioritization problem. Need to break it down into what makes things good vs great.
- “Fear of failure.” – Embrace it. Decide to fail 1000 times.
- “Brain drain from long commutes” – commutes can be spent writing, or thinking about what to write.
- “Feel like life isn’t interesting enough to write about.” – everything is interesting if you dig into it deeply enough.
- “Distractions at home and on the computer.” – Need to decide in advance that writing is a priority.
- “Confidence crisis + depression.” Exercise, and write about the crisis + depression. (“Well, you wrote this!”)
- “Can I really pay the bills with it?” – No point thinking about this early on. Pay the bills however you need to, and write as much as you can.
- “Writing procrastinators remind me of wannabe pop stars playing air guitar and focusing on the clothes and hair.” – Yup. If you’re a writer, write.
- “I used to procrastinate, then I had kids– my kid-fre time became so short and sacred that I had to write immediately because later didn’t exist.” – Interesting point about constraints. Shobha said something similar.
- “I have days where I want to do anything but my actual work.” – Usually fear, frustration, expectations. Expectancy/Value problem.
- “I don’t procrastinate until I get an assignment I don’t like. Agreed on writing on ‘insurance marketing in the age of obamacare’– didn’t know anything about it, was going to take really long. Waited until the last week to start researching and writing it.” – Ideally, don’t accept projects you don’t feel good about. Hell yes or no. Realistically we don’t always have that luxury of choice. Break it down into little chunks and get a little bit done everyday.
- “Fear of rejection.” – assume you’ll get rejected. War of Art.
- “Check Facebook too often.” – pomodoro, focused work, etc
- “What does stop me: Fear, doubt, anxiety.” – address it, write down the reasons. It’s less scary once it’s on paper. Might even sound silly. Check out the Asana co-founder’s article on it.
- “Exhaustion.” – Exercise and sleep.
- Procrastinators get stuck in the deliberation phase– weighing our options. Failure to enter the implemental phase. This requires terminating the deliberation process.
- Procrastination either leads to or is caused by fear. Important tasks are the scariest, so we choose zero-risk and unimportant filler activities. Trivial games, social media, etc.
- Perfectionism is an excuse, worn as a mask to disguise fear. Imperfect action is the only reality we have.
- Psuedo-benefit of procrastination is that it maintains the illusion of perfection. When you pull the trigger and say “I’m going to work on this now”, you’re exposed to an entire wave of imperfection. Before the action, it seems possible to enter the perfect mood, have the perfect idea, get the perfect result.
- Act, Adapt, Conquer.
I alluded to this in a post about Minimum Viable Content– doing too much research is actually dangerous, because you exhaust yourself and you have too much context and now can never do it justice. Write fast and write imperfectly.
Fear that you won’t be able to complete the task.
Fear the consequences of perceived failure– that others will judge you for your failure. Procrastination then is cathartic risk avoidance. You’re procrastinating to avoid facing up to the fear of failure.
If you’re afraid of letting yourself down, take clear steps to ensure you don’t fail. (Avoiding Catastrophic Failure.)
Fearing social judgement– outcome doesn’t matter as long as you gave it a good shot. And you can always say that it’s a draft, and that you don’t know what you’re doing, and you’ll do better after some feedback.
There is a problem preventing you from working, so identify it and solve it.
- Tired? Gain energy– exercise, eat, nap, meditate, rest.
- Unmotivated? Watch a video (one!), remind yourself of the reason why you’re doing this
- Distracted? Change the environment to one of no distraction
Simplify your thoughts and energy to begin the first tiny, easy step.
When you’re procrastinating, don’t start “what’s wrong with me this time”, just identify and take the first step. Make it a habit.
Do nothing. (Meditate. Take a walk. Go for a run.) Instinctual response to being overwhelmed is to escape– by mindless web surfing, distractions, etc.
Write down what you’re not doing.
Is there something with a specific deadline that needs doing? Do that.
What sounds like a smart choice right now? Do that.
What would make me feel good tomorrow, having done it today? Do that.