Monday, January 12, 2009

Resolutions and Procrastination

This is the time of year when most people in the US make New Year's resolution, making promises to ourselves that will improve our lives, promises like losing weight, eating right, earning more money, spending more time with our families, and accomplishing our creative goals. And usually we all start off full of energy and commitment and then by February fall off the resolution wagon. By March, we're beating ourselves up for not sticking to our resolutions and then by Summer we hate ourselves for not being able to comfortably wear a bathing suit.

I decided to skip resolutions this year and instead have only promised to be kind to myself. That's all. Just be kinder.

Which means I am not allowed to berate myself for not keeping up this blog as diligently as I should. Or for the fact the Business Book is still way behind schedule and it looks like it will be mid-February before we can launch it. Nor am I allowed to feel guilty that I STILL haven't gotten back to my Punk Rock contributors with their notes. Nope, not allowed to beat myself up for procrastination.

We've been taught that procrastination is a bad thing, but I'm starting to doubt that assumption. Of course, anything is bad if it stops you from achieving your dreams. Procrastination in the extreme is just as harmful as being in a bad relationship. But some procrastination is healthy. Not everything has to be done RIGHT NOW. In fact, trying to get everything done immediately, on time, and perfectly creates more stress than any task should. I think if we look at the tasks we keep putting off we can discover where our resistances are hidden.

Resistance: an opposing or retarding force (from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary). That's really what procrastination is. We procrastinate because we either don't really want something, don't feel we deserve it, or can't figure out how to get it.

I get overwhelmed very quickly because I take on too many tasks all at once and then I suddenly run out of steam. Instead of writing my blog, I start wandering around Facebook. I chat with friends about whether or not I should let my bangs grow out or not, and then get mad at myself when I run out of time to edit a Punk essay. When I start to procrastinate, I know I'm doing too much. My brain needs the break from constant activity, so I take a walk in the sun or play the Sims.

Rather than allowing those moments of procrastination induced inactivity to take over my life, I've started setting a time limit. If I'm that stressed out or brain-dead, I can have a cup of tea and watch an old movie. But as soon as the movie is over, I have to get back to work on a specific task. I make a list of all the things I need to accomplish, then organize them by Urgency (see earlier post on organizing). I start with the most urgent task, then take breaks when needed by doing one of the more physical tasks, like sweeping the floor or pulling weeds. After a while, I return to the urgent task, refreshed and ready to finish.

Procrastination is not the enemy, your resistances are. So please don't beat yourself up for not exercising or finishing your novel. Be kind to yourself. Tell yourself you DO deserve to be a writer, you DO deserve to eat well. If you're zoning out on MySpace all day, ask yourself "Why?" Are you lonely, tired, bored, or stressed? If you feel like you really need to surf MySpace, then set a timer. Give yourself one hour to surf the net, and then force yourself to do something else. Denying yourself a MySpace account completely is just setting yourself up for guilt and failure; eventually you'll fall off the wagon and spend three days checking out new bands.

And you can always bribe yourself. Chocolate works for me. If I write for two hours I can eat a piece of chocolate. Small bribes that provide immediate gratification can do wonders in motivating you away from Zappos. Remember how much a piece of candy can compel a child to clean their room?


Amy Wachspress said...

The problem with the chocolate is that if you are as prolific as I am it makes you fat like me!

CC said...

yes, chocolate definitely helps. ;)