Maybe one of your New Year’s goals is to end procrastination. Or maybe you have other goals—that maybe will get done someday but definitely not now.
How does one actually end the problem of procrastinating?
A recent post by psychologist Timothy A. Pychyl on his procrastination-themed blog Don’t Delay addresses the response writer Caitlin Moran once gave when asked how she accomplishes so much. Her answer: “Caffeine, alcohol, and fear.” Pychyl: “Although we might all recognize and find amusement in Caitlin’s response…it’s not a recipe for health or well-being if it’s the only route to success. The long-term costs, or the potential costs (because predicting the future is not an exact science), are too high.”
One of the top-rated books in recent years on how to end procrastination is Pychyl’s The Procrastinator’s Digest: A Concise Guide to Solving the Procrastination Puzzle (2010). How does he say we can change our tendency to put things off til an indefinite later? Start with self-awareness; use Pychyl’s test, taken from one of his posts:
The next time you put off a task until tomorrow, telling yourself tomorrow (later) is better, then simply note the next day whether you now believe that tomorrow is better. Chances are, it’s not. If anything you may feel more guilt and pressure related to the task at hand and yet not have any more motivation to do the task.
So, now that you’re self-aware, what?
One of my favorite quotes is David Campbell’s “Discipline is remembering what you want.” When you remember what you truly want, the doing will follow.
If you’re feeling up for all that motivation-seeking and follow-up, that is.
Oliver Burkeman points out (“This Column Will Change Your Life“) that most ending-procrastination advisors put less emphasis on the doing part and more on the “how to feel in the mood for getting things done.”
Even in the depths of serious depression, as the author Julie Fast notes, being ‘unable to get out of bed’ in the morning really means, to get technical about it, being unable to feel like getting out of bed…
What if you’re unable to feel like doing whatever it is you think you want to do? And what if that’s your pattern in general? And you’re so terrible at feeling like doing things, actually, that you’re beyond help? Burkeman quotes Shoma Morita, the late Japanese therapist, who basically advises…stop the excuses and self-name-calling already:
‘Give up on yourself. Begin taking action now, while being neurotic or imperfect, or a procrastinator, or unhealthy, or lazy, or any other label by which you inaccurately describe yourself. Go ahead and be the best imperfect person you can be and get started on those things you want to accomplish before you die.’
Let me know how this works out.
Thanks for all the good quotes. I’ve definitely been a fear-motivated, last-minute-panic procrastinator, which works in a disturbed, half-assed kind of way. I’m trying to move more toward baby-step motivation: I don’t have to do it all now; just get started. Then I usually finish and am surprised and happy! Happy New Year!