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Antidote for Procrastination

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  • Antidote for Procrastination

    Hello everyone.

    In this my first post, Im looking forward to find a cure for something thats been poisoning my path towards acomplishing my goals: Procrastination.

    When searching for an antidote for this poison, I came across an interesting article about it and I thought I would share it with you. Some of you might have this or other resources already, but it might provide some help for those who havent read this yet and who also have this problem in their lives.

    http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Procrastination

    I believe what the authors of the article say about overcoming procrastination is quite true. Although Im willing to apply some or all of their advise, I think Im looking for a (or several) quick antidote(s), that I can carry with me while Im out there in the battle field, so I can use it to put me back in the right track. Therefore, Id like to get some support/advise from the members of this forum, as to know how you deal with this problem. Hopefully Ill start usiing some of this advise, before I leave this issue for later to deal with! LoL (See my problem?).

    I have a theory of my own, as Im trying to make this as simple as possible so that my brain can understand it and apply better:

    "Procrastination comes from not feeling like or not wanting or to do something.
    Then if I need to get something done, I must find a way to trick my mind so that I get motivated to invest the necessary effort in order to do it.
    Therefore, motivation should beat procrastination."

    Thats as far as Ive made up my recipe. But Im stuck in the next part, which is, how do you keep motivation during your whole day? or how can you make it handy so you can use it every time you have to do the next actions?

    Any help, comments or even criticism would be greatly appreciated.



    Mercury
    Last edited by Mercury; 02-04-2007, 09:04 PM. Reason: Mispelling

  • #2
    Eat that frog!

    I have just read the book: Eat That Frog, by Brian Tracy, which deals with procrastination and trys to help you to focus on the big important things and get them done and out of the way. The name of the book comes from a quote from Mark Twain, "If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long!"

    There is a lot of good info in the book about beating procrastination and personal productivity. I would recommend it.

    Comment


    • #3
      What works for me

      First up, I've read Eat That Frog!, and it didn't help me much. Perhaps I need to go back and read it again.

      What I've found is that:

      1) I need to make my Next Actions completely specific, otherwise I go all wiffly on them. Currently there's something on my @Errands list that says "Buy present for Barb", and this is naughty. I need to specify what present, and where I'll get it. This is crucial, and requires discipline, but it means that once the thinking part is done, all I need to think about for any NA is When, not What or Where or How.

      2) Do a dash. There's a few good ideas on Merlin Mann's 43 Folders site: look in the archive under the Procrastination tag. This removes the stress of "I've got all these things-to-do that will take forever, and ooh I'm tired, I think I'll have a nap". Promise yourself you'll only do 10 minutes of each task, then break for 2, or whatever. Use a timer. A dash will get you over the starting hurdle, and it's much easier to keep starting when you've got a finite time.

      3) This brings in Neil Fiore's book, The Now Habit. There's some useful info in there about why we procrastinate, and part of the problem is starting: we often see the whole project in its entirety, and this understandably puts us off.

      4) I tend to keep my NAs classified not by context (not strictly true, but for our purposes it is), because my most common context is @Home, where I have @Computer, @Online, and @Phone. So I have my NAs classified by Nice and Nasty. I know that when I look in the Nice tray, I'll only see NAs that are positive, whether by themselves or in the connotations of the related projects. The Nasty tray contains things I feel bad about for whatever reason. I've found I tend to get more of the Nasty items done this way, because I do them when I feel brave (early morning, usually). And I know that I won't be unpleasantly surprised by something on my Nice list.

      5) Momentum. We enjoy achieving things, so once we start doing Stuff, we tend to keep on doing Stuff. The trick is to build this up, using all the techniques you can lay your hands on. This also helps because procrastination is learned behaviour (a habit), so it takes time to unlearn it. That's why forcing yourself doesn't work: every time you force yourself, you reinforce that negative feeling, which makes it worse the next time.

      Hope that helps.

      Comment


      • #4
        Antidote for Procrastination

        Hi

        This is a major problem for me at the moment. I am reading The Procrastination Workbook by William Knaus. I've found it very helpful so far.

        He describes lots of different Procrastination patterns some of which I recognise as a problem for me and some of which I don't which made me feel quite positive.

        I also procrastinate when it is something for me personally I suppose because other things 'are more important'.

        Pixlz

        Comment


        • #5
          Procrastination by studying it.

          The most scientific form of procrastination is studying it - reading books about procrastination, writing an reading posts on the Internet forums etc. instead of just doing what should be done.

          Just do it!

          Comment


          • #6
            Antidote for Procrastination

            I disagree, I think there are reasons that you procrastinate and that if you can get to the bottom of why this is you can do something about it. I have already had some success since starting to read the book.

            If you can 'just do it' you probably don't have a problem.

            Pixlz

            Comment


            • #7
              I think David Allen said it best when he said that with procrastination, either you are not sufficiently excited about the outcome OR you have not broken down the next action into a small enough piece.

              When I look at my lists and see something that has been lingering, it's always one of the two things I mentioned above. Either I need to decide for sure that I want to do something (or have it done) and if it's something I just want to have done, I may need to think about clarifying my next action.

              Sometimes that may mean re-thinking my whole strategy for doing something. The next action on my list may be very simple, but if it isn't part of a strategy for accomplishing something that my gut feels comfortable with, I struggle to do it regardless of how simple it is.

              Just yesterday in my weekly review, I re-vamped a project that has been lingering for four months and wrote out a strategic plan for getting it done. I now feel highly optimistic and motivated about doing the next step rather than wilting when I think about it.

              Again, you aren't excited enough about the outcome (is it really something you want to do) or you have not clearly defined the next step (or the path you need to take to get it done). That works for me 99% of the time.

              Comment


              • #8
                Short lists and habits

                Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
                So I have my NAs classified by Nice and Nasty.
                One thing that has helped me to increase my productivity is keeping short lists. If I have a short list of things do to, I can often work my way through the list. If I have a long list, I waste lots of time trying to choose the perfect thing to do next.

                Pre-selecting a short list from my NAs keeps the full NA list from distracting me.

                This also helps because procrastination is learned behaviour (a habit), so it takes time to unlearn it. That's why forcing yourself doesn't work: every time you force yourself, you reinforce that negative feeling, which makes it worse the next time.
                That was part of my reaction to the original post about "tricks." Tricks won't replace an unproductive habit with a productive habit. Work on motivation -- rewards for work done, clearer pictures of successful outcomes, more confidence in the ability to do the work well, that sort of thing. Unlearning procrastination isn't an event, it's a process.

                Comment


                • #9
                  what works for me.

                  I've still got a few issues with procrastination, but found the following process works well for me.

                  I write down answers to the following questions on a piece of paper :
                  1. What am I procrastinating on?
                  2. How I am currently feeling about it?
                  3. What's the desired outcome?
                  4. Are there any next actions I haven't captured? (if there are more than one or two I put them on a separate piece of paper that I work from)

                  I then put the piece of paper with the answers in my inbox and go on to complete the next actions.

                  On the next round of processing my inbox, I take out the original piece of paper and write down what the actual outcome was (ALWAYS much better than the scenarios I imagine.. ) and file the paper away.

                  Why I think this works for me :
                  - it helps me face into the fear etc in a controlled way
                  - it is a concrete process that I can follow - I can control a process more than I can control results/outcome.
                  - it builds up momentum
                  - putting the note in my inbox seems to take the crap out of my mind
                  - storing the results means I can look back at difficult situations that I have dealt with.

                  Hope this helps!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Sometimes it's not really procrastination

                    I know it's easy to blame good old fashioned procrastination, but I find people think they are procrastinating more than they really are. The most common culprit I see in my own system and in coaching people on GTD is a mislabeled next action that's not really what comes first/next. For example, I had on my list for months to call the insurance company to ask about a statement I received. I finally got smart and took a good look at what this thing was not moving and in fact was getting more repulsive as the weeks went by. "Call insurance company - 800-566-0000" was not my next action. Get my subscriber number from my files was my next action. You see, the insurance company recently changed my subscriber number to an enormously long set of numbers and letters that I have not memorized. The reason "Call..." was not getting done is that it wasn't what came first. And every time I was away from my files to make the call I couldn't do it because I need that number when I call them. I know this sounds like a small and insignificant difference, but it can make the difference for me in whether something gets done or not. I want the items on my lists to be as clear and accurate as possible so things don't get stuck. Otherwise, the mundane things like this can feel like I'm trying to ride my bicycle through sand.

                    And if it's still procrastination, there's always the trick to do the worst thing first to get it out of the way so that you can do the stuff you really want to do--and feel good about it!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Got some good ingredients now....

                      Many thanks to all of you who have spent some minutes of you time, in order to help me and others who might be dealing with this as well.

                      I find most of your replies to this post very interesting, and it's great to hear it from users directly, not only from authors. You see, authors might know well or better, but it is us, the people who are in what I like to call ''the battle field'' who I believe can come up with some of the best, field tested, practical advise.

                      I will soon come up with my personal recipe for improving on this, on beating procrastination, now that I have more ingredients, which I'm taking from the ideas you are kindly sharing in your replies.

                      Your help is greatly appreciated.

                      I'd like to commit to you guys in order to make it up, and make it happen, regarding this subject.

                      Regards,

                      Mercury
                      Last edited by Mercury; 02-05-2007, 09:55 PM. Reason: Mispelling

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Just do it is sometimes the only solution.

                        Originally posted by pageta View Post
                        I think David Allen said it best when he said that with procrastination, either you are not sufficiently excited about the outcome OR you have not broken down the next action into a small enough piece.
                        I think there are tasks that it is impossible to be excited about so you have to just do it. It is sometimes the only solution.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                          I think there are tasks that it is impossible to be excited about so you have to just do it. It is sometimes the only solution.
                          I agree. I don't think there's any way to get excited about doing the routine minutes for a recurring meeting other than looking forward to the satisfaction of getting them done, knowing full well, next week you'll have to do it again.

                          Or doing your taxes when you expect to pay.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Tricks do help, though

                            Originally posted by flexiblefine View Post
                            Pre-selecting a short list from my NAs keeps the full NA list from distracting me.
                            Yes, that's very true: it can be overwhelming or confusing or distracting to face the full whammy about all the Stuff-To-Do. This is the principle behind traffic calming: by reducing the maximum speed for vehicles, the actual speed increases, because there's not that stop-start effect. It's a principle of fluid flow, I think, although it's years since I studied that.


                            Originally posted by flexiblefine View Post
                            That was part of my reaction to the original post about "tricks." Tricks won't replace an unproductive habit with a productive habit.
                            The real value of tricks is that they can remove the resistance to starting. If you can get something done without feeling anxious about it, that reduces the anxiety for the next time, and so on. If you force yourself to work while feeling anxious about it, you'll just feel more anxious about it next time.


                            Originally posted by flexiblefine View Post
                            Work on motivation -- rewards for work done, clearer pictures of successful outcomes, more confidence in the ability to do the work well, that sort of thing.
                            I think both approaches are useful, because they both lessen the anxiety associated with doing something we don't want to do and begin a healthier association with positive connotations.

                            Originally posted by flexiblefine View Post
                            Unlearning procrastination isn't an event, it's a process.
                            Exactly.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Procrastination was and is one of those things that still creeps up on me from time to time. I thought when I first found GTD that I had completely wiped out procrastination, until I procrastinated on GTD itself.

                              So I decided to again restart GTD from scratch. Much to my amazement when I tossed things into "In", I found a book and a set of tapes about procrastination which I never read or listened, never spotting them during my first incarnation of GTD.

                              The book was Edwin Bliss' Doing it Now. (Ironically, the cover says Bliss wrote an earlier book named Getting Things Done -- hee, hee!) I did make it a project to read that paperback and was surprised to learn that procrastination has many causes. We're otherwise led to believe it's only due to laziness, and thinking that can really make us feel so down about ourselves that we fall into an endless spiral. (I also liked that the late Charles M. Schulz endorsed it, because I felt as bad as Charlie Brown.)

                              And something that helped me from Bliss was this statement: willpower alone won't work!

                              Beyond laziness, there can be factors like boring, indecision, waiting for someone else, and the old "friend" fear, fear of failure, and even fear of success, that more may be expected of you if you actually succeed. Bliss calls it "Pigeonholing," to know what's causing it. You can really decide if you can proceed, change your mind about the activity to actually do it, or not do it at all because that's reasonable too.

                              The tape was Neil Fiore's "Conquering Procrastination." I got this from Nightingale-Conant, the same company that published David Allen's 8 CD set some years ago. Fiore's got a great concept called the Unschedule. Instead of thinking of things you "HAVE TO" do, think first of things that bring you pleasure. I combine this with GTD so that when I think of projects, I first focus on enjoyable things. Then those obligations that are otherwise not as exciting can also become GTD entries for "In." It's a way of creating momentum.

                              Interestingly, when I saw how much procrastination was hurting me, I was ever so curious to see if David Allen addressed it. I was surprised that yes, there it was towards the end of the book. I really never paid attention to that section because I thought with GTD, I'd never have a 416-point plunge in productivity ever again (which like stock market analysts I now call a correction!) So I was somehow delighted to read David Allen suggest that the people most prone to procrastination are the brightest because they have so many things to consider.

                              And about this time, another life-changing book came across my way. It's received plenty of press coverage lately. It is Barry Schwartz's The Paradox of Choice -- Why More is Less. He begins by saying how he just wanted to get a pair of jeans, and at the store he was confounded by choices galore, including boot cut, classic fit, relaxed fit, loose, etc. So he recommends limiting your choices instead of thinking you have to try out all 26 models of printers. I've found setting an upper limit on things helps in sizing both projects and Next Actions.

                              Conquering procrastination is easier said than done at times. So to help me I've created some personal reminders. Because that Next Action is so important, when I'm stuck, I hear the Rolling Stones say "if you start me up, I'll never stop." That really gets me going. (And I also modified one of their songs slightly by penciling underneath the label of my GTD "Waiting For" folder the words "A Friend.")

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