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Posts Tagged ‘procrastination’

I spend a lot of time online for non-writing-related work, and on the way to serious business I run across a lot of interesting things. It’s Monday, so here’s a calming fascinating visualization of The Internet and its growth from 1997 to 2021. (Actually, you know what? This isn’t calming at all. I updated the wording but now I’m worried this is going to give small children nightmares. Or maybe me. Still interesting though.)

For more on this, visit THE INTERNET — Opte

Look closely enough and you might see sledding pandas and cat videos and recipes and sales and news and art and perhaps even yours truly.

* * * 

Parts of the internet are pure entertainment and too many are just awful but others include useful lessons on How to Do Better.

You may remember my motto, A Posse Ad Esse.* I don’t always achieve this goal, but I spend a non-zero amount of time trying to Do Better. Find ways to be more productive, to end the day feeling like I crossed off, if not everything, then the most important things on my list. 

That’s been a challenge the past year or, hmm, so. That’s partly why I’m going back to writer’s guides like Swain. It’s also why when I run across articles about grit or new research on how to accomplish more, I take a minute and peruse.

Lately, I’ve found this recent research in Applied Psychology: An International Review helpful. (Ok, fine, I found this article and its summary of those results helpful. I don’t have access to that journal and honestly, reading every interesting scientific study would cut into my cat video time**;)

What did they find? That when working to accomplish something, it’s useful to ask yourself a few specific questions:

  • What’s my goal?
  • How would a person who is good at this achieve the goal?
  • How will I feel if I don’t do this?
  • What is the first (or next) thing I need to do?

It helps to take a brief break, a couple of times a day, to step back and revisit what you’re trying to do and what needs to happen next. And as “with advertising, repeated exposure was key.” So asking these questions a couple of times a day can help prompt a quick moment of self-reflection that (here’s the useful bit) actually leads to action. I have my Calendar app set to pop up these questions first thing in the morning. So far it’s been helpful.

Let’s try it:

  • What’s my goal? Write this post. 
  • How would a person who is good at this achieve the goal? Probably stop procrastinating and start writing, so that’s what I’ll do.
  • How will I feel if I don’t do this? Lame.
  • What do I need to do next? Open a file and start writing.

And look, here we are! Now I get to cross this off my list and go have lunch. Have fun getting things done today!

* * *

“A majority of life’s errors are caused by forgetting what one is really trying to do.”

— Charlie Munger

* * *

* My Latin is 110% terrible so this may not be exactly right, but it gets the point across.

** I don’t actually watch cat videos much, but it’s nice to know that I could.

* * *

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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I used to be a terrible procrastinator. Now I’d say I’m about average. Work deadlines? No problem. The birthday card I need to send out? Yeah, that’s definitely going to be late (sorry!). And don’t get me started on my writing for the past year. It was much easier to put it off to doomscroll pandemic and political news. Not better, by any means, but easier.

I had to put that to a stop. But what to do instead? How to stop putting things off and get more done?

The good news is that useful research has been done on how to get past procrastination. Here’s an article with a handy rundown:
‘Why Do I Spend Weeks Avoiding Tasks That Will Take Me 10 Minutes to Do?’

This is an excellent question.

There’s something about the task itself—and the way you feel about it—tripping you up.

As I’ve mentioned, I like the “procrastinate productively” strategy. It can still be hard to get everything done, especially when “everything” includes projects with no external accountability (like writing, if you aren’t a pro). But I find there’s always something little I can do, at the very least. Also? Be kind.

Don’t expect you’re going to get rid of the tendency to procrastinate in the 10 minutes it took to read these tips, and try not to be so hard on yourself. 

For writers who find themselves stuck, I like this book:

On Writer’s Block by Victoria Nelson

“As a rule, young children don’t complain of wanting to fingerpaint but finding themselves mysteriously unable to do so.” 

She’s got a point. So have fun and get things done:)

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The Society for the Constructive Pursuit of Creativity, or SCPC. Yeah, I just made that up. As of five minutes ago it’s my new thing, and it is time to formulate some founding tenets. Like so:

— Be awesome. Duh. And ignore people who tell you that what you are working on is anything but. If you love it, that’s good enough.

— Be constructive. We’re on the planet to laugh and love and all that touchy-feely stuff but we are also here to make things. Elephants think, dolphins talk, even crows use tools. What humans do better than any other species yet met is build. (And don’t give me any guff about acres of mold growing underground or gigantic ant hills; that’s all well and good but when an ant designs the next great handheld device then we can talk.)

— Be productive. That doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk about it, just do your work without worrying too much about the next guy over.

— Be more productive than you were yesterday, or than you thought you could be when you woke up this morning dying for caffeine.

— Try not to overthink. That path leads to insecurity and insecurity leads to procrastination.

— If you must procrastinate, try to make it as constructive as possible. Just because you can’t do what you are supposed to do doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at all. Figure out what your mind will let you work on and do that. When you finish the new thing, add it to your To Do list so you can have the satisfaction of crossing it out at the end of the day. Design a new organization. See? Fun!

— If you happen to be less awesome or productive than you would like, do not under any circumstances beat yourself up about it. That’s like shouting at a cat, momentarily satisfying but with no long-term benefits whatsoever. Encouragement, goal setting, and bribery are much more effective. I prefer cookies or a chilled glass of Bailey’s, myself.

— Treat projects like practice. It worked for Ender. I take notes on the backs of used envelopes and write in pencil to convince myself that whatever I’m doing, it isn’t serious enough to stress over. Hey, whatever it takes.

— Along those same lines, do not be afraid to hack your mind! It’s a great way to increase productivity, to keep yourself from falling victim to those paralyzingly bad habits you developed in grade school, and if nothing else it gives you an excuse to watch good TED videos.

— Finally, fun is our watchword. Remember, if it isn’t fun and it won’t ever be fun and you won’t feel good about it after, you’re doing it wrong.

Motto: A Posse Ad Esse ~ From Possibility to Actuality

Right, that’s done. Now, what was I working on?

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