Organizational Tip #3: Procrastination Nation

September 8, 2007 at 2:09 pm (dream, goal, Organizational Tips, perfectionism, procrastination, video games, wasting time)

Anyone with mostly human DNA and a beating heart has experienced the joys and woes of procrastination.

Why do we clean the entire bathroom ceiling to toilet when a paper is due? When you are dreading prep for a job interview? Suddenly, you have an emergent 5 course meal to plan. We’ve all been there. So, I will include the psychology lurking behind this, and a few steps to push on through.

1. Fear of failure/perfectionism: Especially if you have a reputation of success, the bar is set high. Your mother, your buddies, the tollbooth lady, whoever you know or have bored with your life story, know you can achieve amazing things. Disappointing these people is scary, so often instead of completing a task, you have an unfinished novel, a partially baked cake, or a half painted Monet look-a-like in your den aka scary junk room. By avoiding completion, you effectively don’t disappoint.

Solution: Your imagination or nightly dream world may run wild with potential conversations or scenarios with people you don’t want to disappoint. These play-acted scenes may include people screaming in horror. There are two things to understand. Most people are so wrapped up in their own lives (i.e., failures/successes/romances/digestive woes) that they barely notice what is going on in front of their little beaks. Little Chimichanga here certainly wouldn’t notice your foibles.

And second, by taking chances, you will gain respect and admiration, because most of those people you know also suffer from fear of failure as well. You will end up inspiring those around you with your strength. And aren’t you always curious to know what happens at the end of a story? Well, those that love you want to know what happens next in your life.

2. Pain avoidance can be fun: Spending hours blogging (lol), painting your fingernails, toenails, and walls, or playing X-Box until arthritis sets in, are all completely engaging, fun activities. That’s the point. They distract to such a degree, that you can forget all your plans, your problems, your hopes and dreams. Is that a good thing? No. Do you want on your gravestone “here lies Bob who achieved 5 billion points in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider?” No, I didn’t think so. Your nerd friends who also haven’t bathed or achieved much in the last 10 years might build a shrine for you, but no one else will.

So, get a game plan together so that you can take breaks, but spend most of your time working on your life goals.

3. Hard work is hard: Yes, it sounds dumb. But, that’s what it is. Not easy. In addition to pain avoidance, this point also includes the fact that completing a difficult task may require long hours of concentration. Your mind might wander, your rear may hurt, your head might explode, but sometimes this is what it takes to get hard work done.

Solution: Get a good chair, make sure your desk, monitor, keyboard are all at a healthy height/position, have energizing snacks available. Make your work environment friendly and comfortable. Maybe add a house plant or a nice photo too. Warn others in the house that you will need quiet for this time every night and also tell others what you are doing to keep yourself honest.

Next, take your goal and split it up into little bits on a list. Make your dream a reality by making it less dream and more practical reality by turning “get a graduate degree” goal into “make phone call to dean to get transcript, call Professor Schmuckinsky for a recommendation” and others. Then put a due date next to each of these. Be realistic. Set aside 30 minutes a night or morning, depending on your day job, to focus. The first night, set a timer for 10 minutes.

Work for 10 minutes on this task. Then you can blow off the next 20. The next night, add 5 more minutes, again keeping yourself on track with your trusty timer. Each night, add 5 minutes until you are at 30. If you want to push this longer, go right ahead. And make a big X over what you have accomplished and tack it up on a board in front of you so you can witness your progress. I’d recommend taking breaks every 30 minutes, of about 5 minutes to feed your brain with a snack, to do something mindless, to recharge your energies. Also, try to avoid an all or none attitude. If you mess up one night, you are not a failure. Do not just chuck the whole plan. Keep plugging away. Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you’d like to write in with comments regarding your goals and your progress, I’d love to hear them.

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