This is a real-time account of how I overcame procrastination.
Let me explain what [REAL-TIME] means here.
Instead of writing about procrastination AFTER I have already figured it out and saved myself, I’m going to write about it AS I’M WORKING MY WAY OUT.
I’ve read many articles from the perspective of someone who has already learned or achieved a particular goal or habit.
Rarely do I get to read the perspective of the person at the start of the journey.
This is because of the so called, curse of knowledge:
The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand
Said more simply:
Once you know something, you forget what it was like not to know it.
So, since you are in the mindset of the person seeking help, hopefully my writing [REAL-TIME] from the perspective of someone also seeking help will resonate.
At least that’s the thought anyway.
Why, and why write about it?
I read a book called solving the procrastination puzzle and decided I wanted to flip my habit of procrastination on its head. It was bothering me, but as I went through this, I was confronted with just how much it was bothering me.
I asked myself what value I can get out of my procrastination habit.
One of the simplest silver linings from any situation is the strength and confidence from overcoming it.
That and the ability to give first-hand advice to people struggling with it.
That’s when I decided I wanted to write about it. So I just started, which was the advice from the book.
As I did, I realized what I was doing was describing how to overcome procrastination from the perspective of someone who procrastinates.
This again, was the genesis of the [REAL-TIME] concept. And it will HOPEFULLY help people who can identify with what I was feeling as I went through this exercise. Since I am publishing it from the perspective of someone who has already moved through these feelings, but writing in the moment as someone who is feeling it, I will denote when you are reading my real-time writings with [REAL-TIME] and note my narration with [NARRATION].
Now… on with it.
Starting to overcome procrastination [REAL-TIME]
I’m currently in it as I write this. I probably won’t have this perspective once I’ve actually fixed the habit, so I am preserving it here.
I feel like I can’t do anything. It feels like I’ve dug myself into an insurmountable hole. That thought keeps me from going forward
Back to the book. The advice from the book is just to get started.
There was more in there than that, but even the author states that’s the basic gist of it.
With me, I needed a replacement habit.
What I’m doing right now is writing this article anytime I feel like procrastinating.
I also asked my Higher Power for help.
Once I realized that it was possible to beat this. More possible than I thought, I was in good shape.
One thought that always killed me is thinking of the future negatives.
I get around those by just doing the right thing for today.
At this point, I’m pulling my phone out of my pocket constantly to check stuff and diverting myself here to write. That’s why it seems a bit fragmented.
In the beginning, I think it’s important to identify your biggest distractions and pick a simple replacement behavior to get in the habit of doing.
I feel like I’m using this as a replacement for the distracting behavior that usually goes with my procrastination. This is creative whereas my usual behavior is consumption.
Procrastination is delaying a task unnecessarily. Delay is not always procrastination.
Currently, I’m writing on this because I’m procrastinating on doing the dishes and cleaning up.
Is being tired a valid excuse for delay? I guess in the case of dishes, it’s not.
Perfection is the enemy of progress. It’s hard for my ego to be ok with just being 1% better every day. That’s all I have to do.
So I’m back here avoiding the dishes again.
What is the opposite of procrastination? Being on the ball? Johnny on the spot?
I find myself getting into a rhythm as I pull myself out of the funk. Writing on this instead of my go-to distractions has been fun.
I’m using the WordPress app to write on this from my phone so that any time I feel like I’m gonna procrastinate I can hit this.
One thing I thought of while writing this is how I rarely read every word of an article. I think many others do the same.
So I will come back later and edit this to be more punchy. Or maybe I’ll procrastinate on that too.
[NARRATION] Yeah, I procrastinated. Just gonna let it fly. Otherwise, I’m not gonna release it.
Something that had bothered me about procrastination is, it must have been advantageous to our ancestors or we wouldn’t have it. But why does it make us feel so bad?
I asked myself why I didn’t feel liking cleaning up my side of the bed and my part of the room and the answer was ” it will take too long”
So I timed it… it took 3 minutes and 11 seconds.
What the heck. My mind is making me miserable for no reason.
Day 2 – I laid in bed for a minute before my dog jumped on me to feed her. I reached for this after I got up because I realized that waking up is a tiny microcosm if the whole procrastination experience. I am averse to the task of waking up so I delay it needlessly.
I remembered Mel Robbins 5 second rule and that helped.
She just says to say 5-4-3-2-1 in your head and then act when you see procrastination. This works for people apparently. It works for me sometimes, but then at 1 sometimes I find myself immobile and I realize I have a manual override.
Take THAT helpful tricks!
Just now I caught myself about to commit a tiny procrastination infraction of putting the dog sweater down on my dresser instead of walking it to the closet where it belongs. Why? That seems so counterproductive. The thought seems to be “I can do this later”
I kept hitting snooze just now. I make more work for myself later by procrastination.
Now I’m supposed to cook and I felt like getting on the internet instead. Part of my reluctance was thinking that I wouldn’t have anything good to make. That makes a lot of sense… not.
Creative vs consumptive – I think there is something to this. Doing something that forces me to create or produce instead of consuming seems to kickstart my anti-procrastination. Still, need a good word for this that is not proactive.
So I’m supposed to make soup right now. Do I want to make soup? Do I want to make soup? I could probably spend hours here saying why I don’t. I think it’s gonna take an hour
Ok, back, it took 35 minutes.
I’m cleaning up now. Yet another thing I want to procrastinate on. I want to go look at Reddit. Cause that’s important right?
Alright now I cleaned up after cooking and I want to procrastinate on cleaning off the crap of junk building up on the counter.
I’m going to delay it long enough to call a friend.
As you can see, this one is a little more nefarious. But this is the kinda crap I LOVE avoiding. I can write a novel about how much I don’t want to do this. So I’m gonna follow the stupid simple advice and just get started.
I’m also going to do the Pomodoro thing.
One thing I just thought about too is my mind said “man if you start doing all this stuff you might do too much” the fuck? What does that mean? I’m crazy.
So after 25 minutes, I got this one cleaned up and man do I feel better. I also had plenty of distractions happen while I was doing this and it definitely slowed me down. However, I feel great now. Of course, my asshole mind is like ” you’ll stop doing this in a couple of days and then you’ll feel bad about yourself” thanks! Asshole! I thought we were on the same team.
So now I’m on this high where I’m like “let’s do everything!” But something smarter is telling me to pace myself, so I’m gonna go reward myself
Just ate some of the soup I made.
Well, I just “rewarded myself” with my distraction of choice. It didn’t make me feel good at all. Lesson learned. I probably would have been better off with reading something enriching.
Now I’m looking at this stupid door that has been broken for years! And I have the damn replacement door. But I’ve been crastinatin’ tellin myself how hard it is and how I gotta cut the door because it’s a weird fit and all this stuff. Right now I’m not doing it because my daughter is asleep and I don’t want to wake her.
I guess I can meditate but I have all kinds of things in my mind about that too. Like it won’t work or I’ll just quit anyway and all this stuff.
I’ve noticed that thought that I will just mess up anyway is a recurring theme. I think the best way around that one is to just focus on today. I’m only working on lot procrastinating today only.
I meditated for 25 minutes somehow miraculously. Then I was about to look on the internet again and I suddenly remembered. I was doing this instead.
Exercise is the next thing I’m crastin’ on. I think I’ll try the “put on your exercise clothes trick”
I did, it worked, I ran.
Now I’m avoiding making the bed so I can go to sleep. But I’m gonna do it. I think I will take 5 mins.
Day 3 1/21
So I am feeling overwhelmed now. I have competing things in my mind I want to do. I will decide what is most important and then put the rest on my to-do list.
I’ve been wanting to write more on this today but I have been too busy doing the things I need to do. Seriously, but of course, I have all the fear of not being able to keep this up. Plus I am noticing a new level of things I’m procrastinating on. The maintenance light on my car, the pile of garbage that is my closet. Getting my taxes filed this year.
So I did that and I am finally trying to replace the damn door.
Home Depot won’t cut the door for me, which I need because measuring it revealed it to be slightly too big. So I have to make a decision to either cut it or spend money on a custom sized door. My dad and others are telling me not to cut it, but I have first-hand experience with another door that tells me it’s ok.
Now I’ve opened the saw in the back of my car and I’m telling myself how hard getting the blade on is going to be and getting the tools and now I’m realizing I don’t know how to use this thing nor do I have saw horses and it’s about lunch time so I’m gonna go do that and see my daughter
Is this delay or procrastination? I think I’m just delaying it until after I eat.
Ok, ate. I’m in a weird spot. This exercise is forcing me to face my years of prior procrastination. I’m trying to be nice to myself about it. Asking the universe for help again.
I noticed that I’m being forced to make decisions about how I’m going to do these tasks. Am I going to rush through them or am I going to do them the right way?
When put that way, the answer seems obvious. But when I’m feeling impatient, it’s the opposite.
I’m going to go see if I already have some of the things in the shed that I need to do this task.
Hmmm, the shed looks pretty organized…
Ugh, damnit. Now I want to really run away. Is there like a reset button somewhere?
Back to the saw. I finally got the blade on. It was really easy. All I had to do was read the directions. I’m realizing a lot of this is fear based. If I just focus on the question “what is the next action to complete this” it’s not so bad.
So I’m amazed at how this has been going.
Definitely feeling like knocking off for the day and going to watch the NFC championship game. But… I really don’t want to procrastinate on getting ready for the week.
I really need to clear out my inboxes and go through my to-do lists and make sure I have a plan for the week. I have been procrastinating so hard on implementing GTD in my life. Plus my bed needs to have its comforter put back on it after the toddler peed on it.
I feel like stopping really bad. I keep saying in my mind “It’s gonna take so long to do this”.
I’m about halfway through it. I want to quit so bad. Just had to say that.
7:05 – Want to quit. It’s only been like 17 minutes, ha, this has felt like 2 hours.
Just looked at the game score.
Ok, hold on a second. Why do I want to quit so badly? Obviously, something interesting is happening that I want to be doing instead. The problem with delay here is that I probably won’t feel like doing it later in the evening. And honestly if I just buckle down and do it, I bet it won’t take much longer. I’m going to check back in at 7:30.
7:36 – OK, I guess I’m done.
8:52PM – Things I am delaying on right now. I would call it procrastination, but I’m just tired. I mean, I don’t know what to do here. I can clean out my closet, but it’s almost 9PM and at some point, you have to cut yourself off. I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished today. I did NOT get the door installed. However, I did mostly clean out the shed. I actually cooked a lot. I got my weekly planning done. I spent time with friends.
Overall, I feel like the key that I mentioned yesterday about fighting procrastination is just get started, coupled with a productive project to use as a “procrastination preventer”, is the best way to beat this complex foe.
I’m going to end this article on day 3 and pick up a new one for day 4. I don’t know how long I will keep this going, but man, it’s really helping me avoid procrastination to write on this and work on it, so I am going to do that as long as it works.
I think the key is remembering that Rome wasn’t built in a day. The difference in how I feel in just 3 days is incredible. I still have the crazy thoughts. I still wonder if this is going to stop. But I’m hopeful. Let’s see. Either way, I’ll have a record of it.
As you can see, I started out saying:
I feel like I can’t do anything. It feels like I’ve dug myself into an insurmountable hole. That thought keeps me from going forward
And after 3 days I was saying:
The difference in how I feel in just 3 days is incredible.
So it’s clear that it works.
I’ve been procrastinating on pushing publish on this article, so I’m going to do that now.
I have more of these I’ve created. Any thoughts on how I can make it better are welcome.