Friday, 22 May 2009

on procrasination

Procrastination is the thief of time. So they say. Seeing as from where I'm currently standing (or rather sitting), I can see the spectre of procrastination stealing my gym visit today (nasty fellow only pinched my half hour on the treadmill yesterday, too, bloody hell!) I'm going to put a stop to it. And allow myself ten minutes of blogging to try and talk myself mentally out of the motivation rut. A form of auto-ass-kicking! And then, of course, go. To. The. Gymnasium. Straight. Away...(I hope).

Here we go:

How Not To Procrastinate.

(1) Chop the oh-so-daunting onerous task into little manageable steps. I did this a few years ago (pre-kids, admittedly!) to overcome my lifelong vertigo (fear of heights): I decided to jump out of a plane!!

First step: call sky-diving company (I was in New Zealand at the time, at Lake Taupo, one of the most beautiful locations in the world to see from above, so that helped).
Second step: pay (stiff!) deposit. Funnily enough, money IS a super motivator...
Third step: Jump on a bus.
Fourth step: get geared-up.
Fifth step: Get into a small plane. From then on it was just literally a step over the edge and that was taken for me by my tandem instructor to whom I was strapped, so unwilling or not, over the edge I went. All in all, not a big deal really. (How was it for me, you ask? Amazing. Nothing comes close (dressed or undressed!). So you see, worth it not to procrastinate and, especially, worth overcoming one's worst fears, at least in that case. I do deal with heights much better since. A bit like dealing better with pain after childbirth).

So, let's translate to my current (less dramatic) scenario of gym attendance: First step - Get into the car and drive off! Second step - swipe card through gates. Once that far, it's hard to turn back if only because of the very fit examples of aerobic motivation you're confronted with in the lobby.

In general, though, I do find that once I'm on my way to something there's no feasible excuse to procrastinate any more: action has already been taken, time and motion. So turn on that laptop! Open that file! Make that phone call! Whip apart that wad of documents! you're almost half-way there (at least mentally, which is indeed half the battle) - promise!

(2) Give yourself a reward for each small step. The mind gets overwhelmed by large, seemingly unending projects but if you subscribe to: "A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step" (thanks, Confucious!) and reward the milestones along the way things become enjoyable instead of a slog. I'm going to have a few squares of chocolate on my way back from the gym and I do enjoy my forest fruits isotonic drink in sips at intervals as the distance counter ticks on!!!

(3) Don't think about the future - except in positive terms. It's not a 'mountain to climb' - picture yourself instead on the summit waving the flag: imagine that feeling of success inside your chest. Positive visualisation really does bolster up achieving that goal. Live the sweetness of satisfaction in advance, so you know where you're headed. And before you know it, you'll be there! (I'll have that serotonin racing when I'm done at the gym, and feel invigorated on the drive back. I know this in advance, so why I'd prefer laziness to that refreshing feeling is the million dollar question!)

(4) Concentrate on what you can do now, in the present, to help your cause. If you planted a bulb a day, you'd have a whole field of daffodils (for example. Or whatever analogy helps you on your way.) Personally, I wrote a novel of 80,000 words in about four months at a rate of a little bit every night (OK so it's not published, but still, it taught me about getting a job done bit by bit...)
And, back to the gym example, 20 minutes a day is better than an hour twice a week, ask any fitness expert...

(5) Override your brain's negative messages: they are self-defeating. It's NOT hard, it's NOT boring, it's NOT something you don't like: it's something positive you are doing to free yourself up, by finishing it off and giving you time to do stuff you prefer!
(Let's face it going to the gym is a pleasure, in that if you keep fit you look good. And, in my case this week, can then indulge at upcoming weekend barbeque with no feelings of guilt: what could possibly be bad about offsetting wine and good food with a spot of exercise?!)

(6) Just get on with it. Excuses like perfectionism are just: Excuses! Things can always be revised, but they have to be finished first. As with writing a book, without a first draft there's nothing. Again, I don't have to go to the gym to do a full olympic-style circuit and tick the boxes on an entire training regime per session. 20 minutes on the treadmill still counts but is an awful lot less daunting! Aim too high and it's easy to give up and give in. Slow, steady and achievable wins the race.

(7) Don't allow the turkeys to get you down! (I used to love this expression as a teenager. It means, don't allow other people's perceptions to affect your self-worth. Be your own best, toughest, but fairest critic and you'll do a good job).

Do remember that even (and especially) friends and family can (subconsciously) sabotage your good plans, either due to (subconscious) envy or by putting their own agendas before yours (human nature, so don't take it personally). A girlfriend cajoled me this morning: "Oh you can give the gym a break: come and have coffee and cakes with me!" -and I suspected she was most likely reflecting her own guilty procrastination onto me - as she subsequently admitted: "Well I know I should go too, but can't be bothered, so let's be lazy together...!" Oh no, no, noooo.......! What, both be fat and lazy??!! No way, girlfriend, don't count me in your guilt trip! (she tootled off to get the trainers on, grateful).

So, each to his (or her) own - get your own stuff done, your goals fulfilled, your own guilt assuaged. Forget others. We've all got our own individual responsibilities to deal with. I've only got my one life, I reckon - no time for excuses or sabotage.

(8) P.S. Reward yourself for finishing the job (but that's the easy part!)

(9) Remember no-one's perfect so the odd procrastination is human. As long as it's a conscious choice and not a habit, and you have the power to make that choice.

Bye! I'm off to the gym! First step.... log off....avoiding the latest gossip on msn and the temptation to log onto hotmail...and Nooooo, Helen, another quick cup of tea is NOT a good idea... and the bills to pay can wait...GET OUT OF THE DOOR RIGHT NOW WOMAN!!!


  1. I know this is an old post but I just read it and it was right on time for me...I'm enjoying your hold my attention. I hope u succeed with publishing a book much sooner than later 'cause I love the way u write

  2. thanks, Cheli. Relevance is never old (ha ha, what I tell myself). Thanks so much for the appreciation. It truly means the world to me!