Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The PRO in procrastination

Ever noticed how there's a "Pro" in procrastination?

Those of us who procrastinate don't take the subject lightly. We dive into it all the way, fully committing to doing our own thing in our own time.

There's so many of us, we've become a "Nation" of folks who just let it ride. Our national motto is "I'll get to it later."

Later's always better. First, later stretches to infinity, so there's no deadline imposed. Doing something later assumes you'll be fresher or better prepared or more motivated to take on that dreaded task. Postponing an action gives someone else the opportunity to step forward, and let's you off the hook.

Sound familiar? I bet it does.

When something comes up we're not interested in doing, it doesn't become any more appealing with time. In fact, once the task is postponed, it's easier to keep postponing it.

Got a household chore you hate? A work product you've been dreading? A term paper that's due tomorrow? Just thinking about those things is stressful.

Why do we duck out on certain things and not on others?

We're afraid we'll mess it up or do worse than last time.

The process is too complex to understand all at once.

We don't want to do it and you can't make us.

We don't care about the task.

We can't focus on something big; there's too many little things that have to be done.

We don't know how to get started.

It's not in our wheelhouse. The effort won't meet our minimum standards.

As a writer, I have definite tasks I procrastinate. First, I'm always reluctant to start a new book. The characters from the last story feel so real. I want to stay in their world. Second, I can research a topic to death. Once I start googling and opening files, the information flows all around me and leads me new places. Third, writing a synopsis makes me use the editing and creative side of my head at the same time. I worry my head might explode.

It's human nature to avoid pain and hardship and to seek pleasurable endeavors. You can't fail at something if you haven't tried it yet, but the trick is to understand why you don't want to do something.

If you're afraid, work on addressing the fear.

If you're overwhelmed, break the task into smaller steps and reward yourself for each step of the way.

If its out of your area, learn how to do it.

If starting is a problem, trick yourself by saying you're just going to get the tools for the job out.

Before you know it, you'll be motoring along on the road to completion. Commit to your task with a new focus and before you know it, you'll be moving on to better things.

Are you a Pro at procrastinating? Share with us something that you put off. And as a bonus, share with us how you've gotten past that stumbling block.

Happy November everyone!

Maggie Toussaint
www.maggietoussaint.com

In For a Penny, now $2.99 at Kindle
ps I'm looking for reviewers for my In For A Penny

35 comments:

  1. I was going to join the Procrastinator's Club, but I never got around to it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love your sense of humor, Jim! Someone asked me to be president of that club but I couldn't make up my mind to do it. Someone else has the job now, I think...

      Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  2. My blog this week was about the same thing. I am a procrastinator! If I can't knock out a project in a reasonable amount of time, it gets back-burnered, sometimes forever. I imagine my kids going through my estate one day and sorting through all the half painted canvases, the half crocheted scarves, the half written books...

    I am hoping accountability will help me break the habit. I've joined a critique group and NaNoWriMo and I'm trying very hard to make myself focus.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kate,

      I am guilty of getting materials for several craft projects at once, but only working on one of them. By the time I get done with that one, I've seen that other stuff too many times for it to feel new and fun. For me to get craft stuff done, I only buy one project's worth of stuff at once. Otherwise I'm swimming in materials not matter what project I work on.

      I just had to sort through my late sister's sewing projects, and she was worse than I am about buying projects and setting them aside before they even get started. But on the plus side, her legacy is making a lot of craft people in my community happy.

      With writing, I have to be accountable to myself. Otherwise, the time just fritters away...

      Thanks for stopping by, Kate. Its good to have you visit.

      Delete
  3. Procrastinate? Moi? You wrote this post just for me, didn't you, Maggie? Lately with so much social media interfering, I find I have to block it all out to write. I've just written several interviews for a blog that's due -- I wanted to be ahead of schedule. I love your suggestion to break it down. If you let work snowball, that's when you want to run for cover and it seems overwhelming. Everything this day is to make life simpler, but it's coming at us faster and at amore furious pace, that's when procrastination easily takes over. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wrote this topic because ... drum roll, please ... I couldn't figure out what to blog about. Everything seemed like it had already been done better and by someone else.

      But then I remembered why I still enjoy going to basic craft workshops. I always take something home from such a workshop because of the person's perspective on the subject.

      So, I hoped I touched a few folks today, and that I didn't encourage too much procrastination by inviting folks over here to hang out.

      Donnell, the only way I can get my word count in is have a rule I can't check my email, facebook, twitter, etc, until the words are typed. All you have to do is click over once to a social media function and an hour is gone.

      I'm glad you're finding a way to deal with your distractions.

      Thanks for propping your feet up on my sofa for a while.

      Delete
  4. Yep, I should be writing at this very moment, but I just had to check messages first. Then I wanted to read your post. Now I want to reply. Next maybe I'll forward to friends, read their answers, check out Coast to Coast, look to see if there are more replies here, ... You're preaching to the choir, procrastination is just another part of the writing process. Writing is hard work, at least the first draft is. Hard like math. Boy, my little pea-brain will go to great lengths to avoid math. Once I get into the story line though, into the "zone", it's pure pleasure. Hmmm, I could write a blog on pain and pleasure in the creative process. Later.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey IC,

      You and I are cut from the same cloth. That first draft is so challenging for me. I can edit anything to a full gleam, but starting with nothing, that always gives me pause. Then I think, I don't have to do the whole book today. I only need 1,000 words. And then once I get a few words down, the story gates open and the fear subsides.

      I can't tell you how many days I did exactly as you describe, until I realized my dream was to write books, not to have the most comments on my Facebook posts. Refocusing on what was important to me helped me kick the habit of socializing first.

      So glad you dropped in. The door's always open!

      Delete
  5. I think the older you get the more you put things off. It's hard to realize that you just don't have the energy and sometimes the ability to do the things you used to do when you were 20. Also, sometimes I look at it like, "I've spent my life doing things for others -- hubby, kids, sis, etc. and now I'm going to do something for ME. Even if it's sleeping until 10:00 a.m. or reading a magazine." Growing up, there was always something that had to be done--never time for just daydreaming. Then of course there was no time after getting married and having kids, working a full time job, etc. Now that the kids are grown, I'm taking advantage of being able to just not wear a watch if I don't want to and take it easy. If the house doesn't get cleaned...oh well.There's always tomorrow. LOL As far as writing goes, I rarely put things off in that department. Maybe because I have more time now that I'm saying to heck with everything else????LOL
    Cheryl

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My answer to your post got eaten. Version two showed up on Terry Odell's comment. I'm not even procrastinating and things are going awry. Must be a fairy playing tricks on my comment form.

      Good points. Kids and marriage and growing up - all encompassing. Now is time to kick back and find self-satisfaction. I want you to write more books!!! I love your stuff. Please don't procrastinate on that.

      Delete
    2. Aw, Maggie, I couldn't ever NOT do that! I've got one right now I'm about 1/3 of the way through and am just itching to get back to it. Thanks for your very kind words. I hate it when I've written a reply and it gets eaten somehow. At least you tried! LOL
      C

      Delete
    3. I'm hoping the spammers are ready to leave me alone. I'm taking the Catcha codes off again. Keeping my fingers crossed folks.

      Delete
  6. I have no trouble procrastinating when it comes to cleaning, especially windows and mirrors. But eventually, I do get to it. But somehow, other things always seem more important!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amen to that, sister. Everything seems more important than stuff we don't want to do! Thanks for your friendship.

      Delete
  7. Interestingly I feel the opposite to Cheryl. Now I'm older I find that I have [like every other parent] spent an inordinate amount of time with children, family and dependent relatives which have squeezed 'free' time to something the size of a sugar lump. As a result I grab every minute I can to do what I love doing [writing] squished in between everything else. Maybe we should use reverse psychology--you may only write for thirty minutes a day--use it or lose it. Best of luck.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Maddy,

      Your little fish icon is so cute! I like your go for the gusto philosphy. And keeping a tight focus is a great way to stay motivated.

      I'm so glad you stopped in, Maddy. Please come again.

      Delete
  8. Did you mention laziness? Did you mention boredom. Trust me, there are many more reason to procrastinate.
    One point you made really resonated with me--putting off starting a new writing project for fear it won't be as good as some previous ones I did, or it won't be as good as I envision.
    Good thoughts--we all do it--the question is why?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I checked over 20 reference sources for this procrastination post, procrastinating, of course. As best I can figure out, there are multiple reasons for delaying action. The fix seems to be understanding why for each instance and then focusing solely on one thing at a time.

      You know I think some of this comes from us being told we have to multi-task on everything. You get spread real thin and nothing feels like it is finishing, and it is demoralizing.

      For me, the answer is to tighten my focus, to remind myself of the goals I set, and to make a leap of faith to get started.

      I hope you're able to analyze what is holding you back during procrastination so that you can move forward!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Delete
  9. My usual reasons for procrastinating are either because I hate the task (housecleaning) or whatever I have to do is overwhelming. Just as it's important to break goals into small, measurable steps, breaking tasks down can help, as you mentioned. I don't have to clean my desk today, but I do have to deal with three pieces of paper. I don't have to clean my house, but I can clean the stovetop.
    I don't have to write a book, but I can write a page.

    Terry
    Terry's Place

    ReplyDelete
  10. I just typed an epic answer and managed to delete it. Even blogger is smarter than I am. I'm going to get a complex about smart cars, smart phones, and smart everything but me. Grrr.

    You made some excellent points. I often say to heck with everything else and do writing or marketing stuff online. This is supposed to be our Golden Years, right? I want to be Golden. Or at least shiny!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm a procrastination pro. It's almost always an "I don't wanna" issue with me. Not fear. Not lack of know-how. I love to figure out how to do things I want to do. I love starting new books. I even love editing most of the time. It's the mundane stuff like filing I can put off forever, or close to forever. Stuff that bores me is always on the farthest back burner.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey LK,

      Sounds like you really know yourself. Isn't it cool to know that you can be a procrastinator and still get stuff done? I'm looking at a pile of filing right now. Hmm. It may be growing.

      Thanks for stopping in! Always a pleasure to have you visit.

      Delete
  12. If you don't start, you haven't failed, or so some people feel deep inside. I think if you don't start, you've already failed because you didn't try. One thing I continually put off is filing in my office. Argh! I want it done exactly as I want it, which means no one else can do it for me. So, it doesn't get done for months at a time. Result - a mess, but it's my mess. I know where stuff is. I'm trying to finish a big family project, though, because if I die suddenly, no one else could make heads or tales out of my progress. This is a book my brother and I have been working on for our father's family, something my dad asked me to do. We're almost ready to publish and I have hundreds of photos and many anecdotes to go with the dry stuff. So, I'd better quit you-know-whating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Caroline,

      Looks like its nearly unamimous. We all hate filing in our office. I hear you about some people being reluctant to take on something new out of fear of failure. I'm that way with a new restaurant or a new entree offering on the menu. I like what I like. Change is hard for me, and its a struggle to try new foods or places.

      One time I heard of a famous author who said she had enough friends. That she didn't have time for one more friend. I thought that was odd, twenty years ago, but now I'm seeing the wisdom of her words. Friendships need to be nourished. They need out attention. If you're spread thin, you in a sense, abandon your friends. I don't like to procrastinate with my very best friends. As far as I'm concerned they have a golden ticket and an all-access pass.

      Here's wishing you great luck with your big family project. Thanks for the visit.

      Delete
  13. It's looking that way where Nano is concerned.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa,

      Are you doing Nano this month? I've never done that crash course of writing in November. I'm more the slow and steady kind of writer, but I admire folks that can sit down and write a book in a month. Wishing you the very best effort and no procrastination!

      Delete
  14. Maggie, I HATE house work and tend to put it off as long as I can. I pretty much cured that by making myself do certain tasks at certain times. No excuses. I found I could get it done and feel beter about working on my stories afterwards.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ilona,

      You sound like you have a good system worked out. I find I can keep up better with the housework by doing it piecemeal too. Of course, it is rarely all done at once, but it isn't filthy either. Now my yardwork, that's another story!

      So glad you could join in the discussion. Come again!

      Delete
  15. I'm the Queen of Prograstination. For years and years I make loooooong lists of things needing done for the week and mark them off when they're finished. Unfortunately, I never get anywhere near done before the week is up.

    As for writing, I think one of the things that keeps me from doing it is going online to read messages or posting on someone's blog. :-) When instead I should sit down with pen and paper (which is how I start everything) and write. Or should I sweep up the dog hair in the living room? Some of the house plants need watered, too. Whoops! I just remembered, the litter boxes in the basement for my two cats need cleaned. I suppose since the sun is out today, I really should work on raking the rest of my leaves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Queen Gloria!

      I'm a listmaker too, though I've gotten away from my writing to-do list. I realized if I didn't do my writing first thing, it wouldn't get done. Nowadays, I focus on my word count goal and anything else is gravy.

      However, when I hit a stumbling place in my story, darned if I don't think about all that other stuff too. The key is to stay focused and not take the easy way out (Distraction). For me its all about priorities. As long as I'm clear on that, I know what I need to do.

      Thanks for the visit. It's always good to have you here.

      Delete
  16. Enjoyed your post. I am the world's most efficient procrastinator. I've even been known to do the IRONING instead of getting on with writing. Your tips for overcoming it are good. Trouble is, I already know them all. I just close my mind and think - tomorrow, the next day, the weekend, next week. Or even, disastrously, next year! Thanks for making me feel bad. gx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Gilli,

      You must be desperate to do the ironing! Ha! You made me laugh, because I've been known to take a toothbrush to the shower grout to avoid writing a synopsis.

      I'm still an expert at procrastinating, even when I know I'm doing it and don't want to be. That's when I try to reorient myself. What do I want to accomplish? With that goal firmly in mind, I can power through the distracting thoughts and behaviors - most of the time.

      Delete
  17. We have a game at our house and each of us has our super hero names, my oldest son is Mr. Procrastinator!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi PL,

      I'm thrilled to hear of your son's name - Mr. Procrastinator. I wonder, does that make him more inclined to do stuff or less? And then I'm thinking, what's your superhero name? I'm guessing, perhaps, Super (Marketing) Woman???

      Delete
  18. I put off grading school papers. Nothing disheartens this writer more than reading 7th grade essays. Blergh.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting Mudpies.