Getting Things Done: What to do when you’re feeling Procrastinatastic

This day will soon be at an end and now it’s even sooner
And now it’s even sooner
And now it’s even sooner
This day will soon be at an end and now it’s even sooner
And now it’s sooner still

— They Might Be Giants, Older

Sometimes I know that I need to do something. I need to do it before it’s too late, before the day is over, soon, or right now. When it comes time to actually sit down and do it, I find myself doing anything other than the thing that I should be doing.

Procrastination is a funny animal. I’ll have this goal, and this general idea of a plan for how to achieve this goal before its deadline, but as the deadline fast approaches I waste time. I get distracted doing things that get me no closer to finishing what I need to get done.

Can you relate? You think “Okay, time to do work!” but then realize you’re hungry. You make some food, then figure you’ll sit and watch a TV show while you eat. Indiana Jones is on so you watch it for the hundredth time, commercials and all. It’s lunchtime now, so now it’s go time. But before you fire up your Word Processor let’s check email. Now Facebook. Oh cool your old college friend is talking to you, it would be a shame to ignore him. When you’re finally done fooling around it’s practically dinnertime and you’ve accomplished nothing at all today.

Time marches on whether we’re working hard, or wasting it completely. It is constantly pressing forward, and will leave you in the dust if you let it.

Time is marching on. And time is still marching on.

We live in the present, but the present is hard to grasp. We’re constantly “living” in our past and future, because we’re either remembering what once was or imagining what we hope will be. The price we pay for failing to live in “the now” is that we end up spinning our wheels for long periods of time, where nothing is getting done and none of our goals are being achieved.

Focus on the now. Realize that at this moment, you’re simultaneously the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be. Recognize that time is fleeting, and that putting off priorities until later distances us from the lives we intend to achieve.

I’ve been thinking about the passing of time lately for two reasons. First, it’s been nearly ten years since the attacks on 9/11. It boggles my mind that it’s already been that long. Second, I have something important that I need to accomplish before the end of this year. I’m applying for a creative writing program at a university, and I need to write 30-80 pages of a book-in-progress as part of the application.

I want to write a book, but I’m overwhelmed by the idea of it. I’ve started several stories, and I’ve written many chapters. Although I don’t always write things that I’ll end up using, I take pride in the fact that I’m still managing to produce new content regularly.

Still, I’m disappointed that I seem to be content with writing things other than chapters for my book. It’s as though I’ve discovered a new form of procrastination: Instead of working on my larger piece, I’m writing smaller, more manageable short stories. It’s good to be inspired, but ultimately I’m distracting myself from the task at hand.

I fill my head with excuses: “I’m strengthening my writing muscles,” — “At least I’m writing something,” — “I still have over four months to finish.”

If I keep telling myself these same excuses every day, eventually the deadline will be upon me and I’ll be royally screwed. I’ll have failed at my writing goal before I was even considered for the university’s program because I didn’t even fulfill the application process!

I’m convinced I can do this, and believe that I simply have to put in the hours in order to get it done. Why, then, is it so hard to spend all of the hours available focusing on the task at hand? Procrastination leads me away from the goal I’ve set out for myself, and if you allow it to enter your workspace for even one day, it gets easier to let it in every day afterwards.

The solution is motivation, but it’s difficult to get motivated when procrastination seems so fun by comparison. Methods for getting motivated include routine, inspiration, and even fear.

Routine: Getting up early. Eating a good breakfast. Going to the gym before taking a shower. Dedicating a set few hours of uninterrupted time to work with limited breaks. Being consistent. Witnessing your progress as you steadily narrow the gap between you and your goals.

Inspiration: Opening your mind to what’s around you. Keeping a notebook on you at all times to help capture the inspired thoughts wherever they may come to you. Combining ideas that don’t belong together. Running with ideas that make your heartbeat quicken and your mind race.

Fear: Envisioning yourself several years in the future, regretting any time that you wasted. Imagining missing your best chance for a great opportunity because you were unprepared. Feeling the sometimes invisible but always present threat of failure. Allowing these fears to fuel your drive for success.

I can’t help but think of the line from Fight Club: “This is your life, and its ending one minute at a time.” Despite my best efforts, the procrastinator in me will often ruin my plans for the day. If I let him do that for too many days in a row, my deadline will be here and I won’t be ready for it.

Right now, routine is my primary attack when it comes to getting things done. “Write something today,” has been my mantra, and it’s getting easier and easier to accomplish that. The big question is, will I continue to let myself invest so much time writing lesser pieces that don’t matter — or will I stop being procrastinatastic and accomplish something bigger?

Time is marching on, and time will tell.

If you've found this website helpful, please click the PayPal button. You will be helping me pursue my dream career as a writer. Thanks for your support!
No comments yet. Be the first.
Leave a Reply