“I don't procrastinate! Putting it off till tomorrow’ is a decision. You know I don't do decisions!” David Townsend
This eBook is all about procrastination, motivation, and making life better. This is IT! (At last!)
I am a great procrastinator. I have been all my life. I would have put off being born, but I wasn’t paying enough attention – I have Attention Deficit Disorder. So it just happened. But I started putting things off as soon as I could, which seems a bit contradictory, but you know what I mean.
Of course, I rarely achieved what I wanted to, and didn’t live a happy life. I spent a lot of time trying to work out ways of living that worked, but it didn’t get anywhere.
I set out to find ways of achieving what I wanted.
I read a psychologist’s webpage that said that procrastination was the choosing of a small immediate gratification over a larger delayed gratification. This isn’t very useful; it's like saying most chairs have four legs.
The dictionary says that procrastinate comes from Latin and means to put off till tomorrow.
Procrastination is not laziness. Most of us have been told that we are lazy, but this doesn't help much. My understanding is that laziness is irresponsibility. Lazy people don't do things because they don't care, can't be bothered.
Laziness is an avoidance of responsibility as a lifestyle. When we talk about procrastination we are actually talking about someone who intends to do something but finds that they can't quite do it.
Our problem, us procrastinators, is that we care, we are worried about it, but we put things off.
We want to know how to get things done.
WHY WE PROCRASTINATE
There are probably lots of reasons why people procrastinate, but most fall into four groups.
1. NOT IN THE “TO-DO” LIST.
2. ATTENTION DEFICIT.
3. ANXIETY OR FEAR
4. STABILITY SEEKING (COMFORT ZONE).
It is worthwhile looking at the different reasons for procrastinating before we look at a key way to manage it.
NOT ON MY “TO DO” LIST
Let's start with THE REALLY BIG ONE: it's not in my “to do list”.
The fact is we all have a way of working out what we are going to do during the coming day. It might be a series of pictures in our mind, it might be a written list. It may be just a feeling that we are moving from one job to another. The pictures don’t have to be particularly distinct.
Our mind has sequence, a way of knowing what to do next. You might never have been aware of this, but you've got it.
Some of our life might be so routine we don't need to think about it or plan. Working weekdays, say, stay much the same. But there are times and days which you need to plan.
You can stop and think about it now. How do you know you're going to do one thing after the other for the rest of the day and tomorrow? It’s more than just ‘knowing’; you have a way of knowing using your senses.
Whatever it is, it is in some place in your mind.
One of the biggest reasons why people procrastinate is that the picture/feeling/voice about the thing that they are procrastinating is not in the same place as the “to-do list”, it is somewhere else in their mind. It's floating. It is not connected.
You know what happens. We get an idea, a picture and awareness of something that needs doing, we noticed that, and it's just in our consciousness, sometimes very briefly. It is almost phantom procrastination; just a flicker of awareness that we should do something, and then it's gone.
At other times we walk past something, really take notice of it, and say to ourselves, “I must do that.” And then it's gone from our consciousness. We didn’t invest enough energy and emotion into it to bring it into our real world!
If you can be aware of that thing you really ought to do, though, you’ll notice that is in a different part of your mind, a different part of your awareness than the things you are really going to do.
Step one is to take it and put it in the right place in your to-do list, with a time and date. Or you might do it straight away!
Here is an easy system for sorting procrastination.
FOUR FINGER RULE.
First finger: do it now! That’s right! NOW!
Second finger: Put it in the “to-do list”, diary or scheduler, whatever it is so you've got it, with a time and date.
Third Finger: Project List. It's too big to do now. It goes in the Project List. This is a list of things like buying your new car, or building a new house. Some detail of this will go into the “to do list” because every week you have to save money, or if you are writing a book then you have to do some each day, week, etc.
Fourth finger: the little finger is, Never do it again in your life! Some things that we have hanging around just need killing.
That leaves three fingers;
 Do It Now,
 Schedule it in the diary,
 put it in the Project List.
If you are really going to do it, it will be one of these.
Sometimes we have to make a realistic assessment to check that it's something we're actually going to do and not just something hanging around our neck from the past or some sort of imagining of what we might do one day.
By the way, if you put something in your schedule and the time comes, but you don’t do it, stop and ask yourself, “WHY?”
Use the “Dealing With Anxiety” section in Chapter Three as a way of taking control, and read the rest of this eBook.
Be honest, and then use the REWARD PROCESS later in this book.
THE FOUR BOXES
What goes on in your head? There is the conscious part of you and the other, non-conscious part we refer to as the sub-conscious or unconscious (which in in this context means non-conscious, not traumatically out cold).
The four boxes are about your conscious mind. Your sub-conscious mind works differently. We can make changes in our sub-conscious mind without the actions described below, most commonly through structured meditation and hypnosis. There is an mp3 you can obtain supporting this. Details are at the end.
When we think of what we need to do, we have pictures in our mind, and they don't have to be distinct pictures, just awarenesses are fine. Sometimes we have lists or words in our head.
But words are just words. Think about this.
We have four “boxes” in our head.
The first is a fantasy box. I don't know what you have in yours. For adults Father Christmas, fairies and elves from childhood are prominent.
The second box is almost fantasy: a rich uncle we've never heard of dies and leaves us $10 million. We win the lottery. Dream on ….
The third box is the thought box and the only thing in the thought box is thoughts, and your brain knows that and doesn’t do anything about them. They are just thoughts.
It's true that it contains stuff you really are going to do tomorrow and projects that you have thought about. It also contains a wish to machine gun that *#@#!*# next door who starts their motor mower early in the morning or if that particular person just .. (Fill in your own details) or whatever. We don't do some things in the thought box! Just as well!
The fourth box is the action box. What life is really about is giving some thought with a real level of priority the necessary level of emotion and energy, and shifting them into the action box. So we do it!.
If they're just thoughts they are meaningless as far as life achievements are concerned. It's just our fantasy, our romance until we put it into action. This is really important: for many things:
ACTIONS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THOUGHTS
Of course we do the preliminary thinking, assessing, planning. But don’t get stuck there.
I have been really skilful at being stuck. I probably hold a world record in it. Fortunately I found ways of getting unstuck, of taking action, and getting things completed. Sort of. Well, not completely! Regretfully I haven’t yet achieved perfection. Well, not actually regretfully because now I know that imperfection is part of life. I have a philosophy that includes imperfection.
Joe Vitale is a successful writer and businessman whose motto is, “Don’t do it right. Just do it!” (And while hundreds of schoolteachers fainted or were carried off screaming, Joe published dozens of books and makes a lot of money. I hope you are not procrastinating because a schoolteacher you once had might have criticised you if they knew what you might do now, or maybe it was a parent, or that much admired kid in Year 10 who is now in rehab.)
It is more important to act than it is to think. Particularly if you are procrastinating by thinking about what needs to be done and thinking again what needs to be done and thinking again what needs to be done in the future and not doing it. Act and get a life!
If you can’t actually do the thing now, at least act by writing it down or whatever you do to put it in your schedule in your planning system: diary/ planner / to-do list / whatever!
And if you habitually put things in the planner and don't do them, then you are not putting them into your planning place at all, but leaving them in your Thought Box – maybe your Dream Box (Play Pit).
The planning place is where you put what you actually do. Some people have problems about forming an effective way of planning, and we'll come to that later on.
A useful background for all this is to have a purpose, a framework for better living. A major problem for some people is that they try to live their life by the way they feel. That is, they scan their feelings, their thoughts and awareness in their body, their sensations, and say to themselves, “So this is how I am. This is who I am. This tells me reality”.
This is a really bad way to handle yourself, because it is almost always wrong. ! It’s history, it’s mood, it's the weather, it’s what you ate last night, and whether that certain person smiled at you. The most important thing you can do is
Decide in your mind what you want, and do it regardless of the way you feel.
That's right! Deciding in your head what you want and doing it regardless of the way you feel is the achievement key! You do what you feel is right, not necessarily what you “should” or “ought” to do. “Shoulds” and “oughts” are often things we got from our parents and other adults or older siblings in our childhood – their wants, not yours.
You do what you know is right for you, without being restricted by limiting feelings from the past.
Does this mean that we don’t have feelings? Of course not, but the feelings we have are not limiting but rewarding; feelings of achievement, of pride, of satisfaction, of joy. After you have those, you have reached happiness.
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© David Townsend 2014