The time comes to work on a project and suddenly I come skidding to a halt. Either my muse is throwing a tantrum (Joan has suddenly morphed into a 6-year-old and stands there glaring at me with jam smeared on her face…she’s refusing to work) or the demon Resistance is rearing its unlovely head (for the Nation of Procrastination is surely one of the minions of Resistance).
Recently I managed to defeat Procrastination (and all its tiny flag-waving procrastinators) by writing a post about procrastination. So, when I would normally have nothing to show for all of my procrastinating, I ended up with a blog post. Point to me (take that, tiny procrastinators. Oh yeah!)
After writing that post, I started to think about how I could overcome this problem that has plagued me mightily. Chris Dodd has a great post about list making and procrastination and list-making does work…except when I spend all my time making the lists and not checking the items off. Kenny Nicholson’s post suggests that, if you commit to doing whatever it is for 5 minutes, you’ll likely keep working long after the 5 minutes (works brilliantly for my exercising) and that’s a highly effective technique too… except that I sometimes start something and then get sidetracked anyway. And I love the idea of just choosing to procrastinate as Robert Chazz Chute suggests in his post. And I’m sure I could spend a looooong time researching other ways of overcoming procrastination…but then I probably wouldn’t get this post done for a looooong time.
All of these things do work for me, but not always. It seems that I either haven’t hit on the sure-fire way to defeat my brand of procrastination or the procrastination itself (or the reasons behind it) is fluid.
And that makes me wonder why exactly I procrastinate…
Maybe I’m afraid to finish because I’m afraid to fail spectacularly. Or maybe I’m afraid to succeed. Maybe it’s both. Maybe there’s some deep childhood trauma at work. Or maybe I’m just lazy. Or maybe it’s not as bad as all that…maybe, as Eisenhood reports, the procrastination itself could be a positive thing, a shifting of values. But maybe not.
I think the truth is that I’m addicted to procrastination. Fear (of both success and failure) surely plays a part but somehow the procrastination has become and end in itself (how bizarre is that?). I procrastinate and procrastinate (and not just with my writing), I feel guilty about it, I vow to get stuff done and I stick to that for a while, I slip back to the procrastination, and the cycle starts all over again. I don’t think it really matters how the procrastination became an addiction; it only matters that it has. Now what am I going to do about it?
Do they make a patch for procrastination? Wouldn’t that be nice? Maybe it’d be called Procrastinix. And there’d be step-down patches and gum or something. There’d be solemn, serious commercials about how procrastination was ruining someone’s life until they found Procrastinix and now they’ve been procrastination free for 30 days and counting. Or maybe an actor in a white coat and reading glasses posing as a sympathetic doctor. Or maybe there’d be a whimsical commercial with little cartoon characters…hummingbirds maybe…because they can’t seem to focus for very long. And all I would have to do is to remember to change my patch and I too could be procrastination-free.
Since there isn’t a patch, I guess I’ll have to figure it out on my own. Writing the last post on procrastination gave me the idea to beat procrastination at its own game. Whenever I come to a project and feel the need to procrastinate, I will. I’ll give myself permission to work on something else. The something else will have to be related (another writing project if it’s writing I was supposed to be working on or some household task if it was housework related, etc). Eventually, maybe I’ll work my way around to procrastinating one of those other projects by working on the original project. And the best case scenario would be to break the procrastination habit by re-learning productivity habits (without them feeling like productivity habits). Someday, I might not feel much need to procrastinate at all because I let the procrastination have free rein in a way that worked for me.
This is my new plan: to work with my procrastination instead of against it, to embrace it in a way that still gets things done, and to short-circuit the guilt cycle which further drives the procrastination addiction.
I’ll keep you posted.