I really should have finished this column three days ago. I would have done it, too, but since I am writing about procrastination — a subject I know nothing about — I wanted to experience the anxiety, fear and self-loathing that apparently plague procrastinators.
Funnily enough, I was neither anxious nor fearful nor full of loathing — no more than usual, anyway. In fact, putting aside an important project to frolic among the flowers that bloom in the springtime was quite delightful. I tell you, the ant may get a lot accomplished, but it’s a lot more fun being the grasshopper.
I was inspired to procrastinate by a Jude Bijou article in Brazencareerist.com. Ms. Bijou, with a resume that includes psychotherapist, professional essayist, workshop leader and award-winning author, is clearly no procrastinator, and she is generous of nature, which I’m sure was the reason she wrote “7 Ways to Stop Procrastinating at Work and Get More Done.”
Technique No. 1 is “name the challenge and the goal.” According to author Bijou, “writing down the specific task you’ve been putting off helps you get focused.” This is true. Tomorrow, when you come into work, and before you find yourself frozen in inactivity, write down, “I am going to turn on my computer before lunch, instead of sitting here all morning pretending to work.”
(What will keep you from procrastinating over writing this note, I’m not exactly sure. You’ll probably have to write yourself a note to write yourself a note, and then write yourself another note to write the note that will remind you to write the note. But don’t get discouraged. With all that scribbling, it will definitely look like you’re working.)
“Pinpoint your emotions” is Technique No. 2. Beyond all your excuses for not starting your work are three basic emotions: fear, anger and sadness. If you want to jump over these roadblocks, you’ll have to release “pent-up emotions and energy.”
This brings us to Technique No. 3, in which Ms. Bijou suggests that if you’re sad, you “go watch a sentimental movie and cry.” This is an excellent strategy, but just in case your manager proves unenthusiastic about your decision to spend the morning watching weepy melodramas on Netflix, don’t give up. You can achieve the same level of misery by simply looking at your paycheck.
“Counter defeating chatter with truths” is Technique No. 4. Your goal here is to “find a positive statement that is simple and true,” and then “say these truths over and over until they are louder than your negative internal chatter.”
Of course, you have to be careful of the level of truth that you employ. “I am an extremely capable, productive and intelligent human being,” is one truth statement that you might try, but if your boss doesn’t believe it, how can you? I suggest you start out with a truth statement that will realistically embrace your best qualities, like “I can crush a beer can with one hand,” or “I have a Level 85 dwarven paladin in the Borean Tundra of Worlds of Warcraft.”
Wow! That last one would even impress me.
Whatever the task, Technique No. 5 is to “break it into small, doable steps.” This will work, but you must “write it down, schedule it and commit to it.”
My advice is to start your list of tasks as early in the process as possible. Say, the task you are avoiding is a presentation for the 2 p.m. staff meeting on Thursday. You should make your first step, “I will wake up on Thursday morning and get out of bed.” Follow that step with “I will do two sit ups, and stretch my thumbs,” and “Immediately after my work-out, I will take a nap.”
Keep up this detailed analysis of the day, and you’ll be so busy writing down steps, you’ll completely miss the 2 p.m. meeting. But that’s OK. There will be another meeting next Thursday, and you can start fighting your urge to procrastinate right now with a bold first step, “I will leave early and never come back to work again.”
There you have it — procrastination problem solved!
Techniques No. 6 and No. 7 provide guidance on how to “anticipate roadblocks” and “battle resistance.” The key here is to “remind yourself that you can do this, and you’ll feel better once it’s handled.” If you don’t believe yourself, remember that simply by reading this column, and learning the seven techniques you’ll never use, you’ve taken a great first step towards your ultimate goal — unemployment.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, Calif. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.