when procrastination rears its ugly head

I know what I need to do, so why am I not doing it?  This thought has been floating in and out of my head for a few weeks now.  It’s procrastination! I’m flailing around in lockdown and it feels like spinning in circles with no clarity on where to stop and point. Or worse, why would I stop to point at anything.  So I’ve been chipping away at things.  A bit of this, tidy up that, spot a problem and add it to the ‘do it’ list. Which is quickly becoming impossibly long.  And all the while the one task, the one I really want to do is to write a new blog. 

But inspiration won’t strike.

I keep moving to the next day. The downside to the drag and drop calendar function.

I’ve even been handwriting it in my journal each day to try and overcome the drag and drop.

But I just can’t seem to actually do it.

What to do?

First steps

So today, I figured out what I needed to do. Simple, just write it!  So taking matters into my hands in an attempt to kick procrastinations butt, I figured out my first step.  Then promptly started to clean out the fridge.  And then I thought,  I’ll get started right after I bake some cookies… 

Ahhhh, procrastination…

It happens to all of us.  And it doesn’t matter how good you are at planning, calendar blocking, task management or organisation.  Sometimes knowing what you need to do and being able to do it are two very different challenges.

So, back to my challenge. I’d been wanting to write a blog but I just could not think of what to write about.  What would people want to read about at the moment? Half the country is in lockdown and most of us are realising that this is going to go on for some time to come.  How naive we all were to think a global pandemic would come and go quickly.

Here come the questions… and this is where procrastination wins. I don’t know what to write about. Does anyone want to read anything at the moment? I don’t want to bother folks if what I write isn’t really useful to them.  Am I just adding to an already overloaded blog market?  Blah blah blah

And this is classic self-doubt wrapped up in a bundle of perfectionism infused with overthinking. Also known as procrastinating.

Procrastination v Perfectionism 

Did you know perfectionism is a form of procrastination? Yep!

Whenever you stop yourself from doing something under the guise of ‘It’s not as good as it could/should be yet so I couldn’t possibly put it out into the world.’ That’s perfectionism, but it’s worse than that.  Perfectionism can make you do something over and over until you get it just right – perfect.  But when perfectionism becomes a stopping force, it’s actually merged into procrastination, and that’s what is actually stopping you. 

Which came first, perfectionism or procrastination?  I do not know.

Something just happened

Now, what you don’t know is that, in between this paragraph and the last one, imperceivable to the eye, the doorbell rang.  So, I answered it, the groceries have arrived. I unpacked them, made a coffee, marvelled at how clean my fridge was and even pondered the upside to procrastination. My fridge has never looked so good.  

Then I sat back down to type, reached for the remote and put my current favourite cooking show on. Michaela’s Tuscan Kitchen.  Ah, dare to dream about the Tuscan sun and dining on the produce…mmm… yes it’s distracting me from typing right now. And it’s reminding me that I’ve been trying to learn to speak Italian for many years now and barely have a few words down.   But this show wonderfully combines my wistful travel longing with a love of Italian food.  Probably my true motivation for learning to speak Italian.

I digress, you see, it’s so easy to lose focus on the thing you should be doing.  Even when it’s the thing you most want to be doing.

Why do we do it?

Well, Steven Pressfield describes it as the ‘resistance’.  The more important a job or task is, the more the resistance will kick in and keep you from it. He’s adamant that any creative endeavour, in fact, any endeavour will cause you to encounter resistance.  And it’s your job to recognise it for what it is and get on with doing it.

‘The secret to getting ahead is getting started.’ Mark Twain

So, what can you do to overcome procrastination or the dreaded resistance?

Clearly, I am not foolproof, but these are some strategies I employ that help to keep me on track.

  1. Setting up priorities based on my goals.
  2. When I set a goal I write up a plan on how to achieve it.  The plan includes the 5 steps that need to be achieved to reach the goal.  Then each step gets broken down into tasks.  I’ve written more about how to do this here in How to avoid distractions 
  3. I schedule the tasks into my calendar usually with calendar blocking, see How to avoid distractions towards the end for the example.
  4. Then when I move a task in my calendar I give it a number.  For example the first time I put ‘write new blog’ and schedule it.  Then if I don’t do it for whatever reason, I move it but I put ‘write new blog (2)’. If it gets moved again it gets a (3). And my rule is that I have to do it on the 3rd time or I have to figure out why I didn’t do it. Perhaps it’s just not that important and maybe should be removed altogether. Or in the case of this blog, I just kept moving it.  Broke my rule and ended up feeling guilty and frustrated.

    When this happens.  It’s hard. You can either remove the task, give up, keep moving it and be guilt and frustrated letting it nag you in the back of your mind every day. Or, finally, you’re left with one option.

    Step 5 – Just do it. 

  5. Just do it.  Get started. (see Mark Twain quote above) What is one small simple step you can take to get it underway?  For me, I just had to take out my laptop, open a new page and then type something. Anything. This time I typed procrastination.  And here we are 1000 words later (and more than few interruptions) 

So now I’ve written it, the next challenge is to upload it to my site.  I’ll give myself a deadline to do it this weekend.  It’s Saturday 24th of July, late afternoon.  There, now I’m accountable.  But, right now, the cooking show is calling me, as is a desire to bake more choc chip cookies and do some Italian cooking.  

Damn Michaela’s amazing cooking, now I really want pasta…

What are you procrastinating about and how do you kick it to the curb?  I’d love to know so please jump in and comment below.

Here’s to next time being easier…

P.S It’s Monday evening and I’ve taken the blog copy from my word doc and put it into my website and hit publish. Voila! Only 24hours late.  But the public commitment to post, even though I was the only one who knew about it, made me get on with it.  Lesson learned.