Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ten Tips for Overcoming Procrastination

See these pictures of ice cream and chocolate? They look pretty good, don't they? Well, if you keep reading, I'm going to tell you to eat one of them. Just not quite yet.

I am going to give you some very useful information, TEN TIPS to help you get your work done. But first...a few words about procrastination. It is the reaction to feeling claustrophobic. When you feel hemmed in by obligation and stonewalled by an assignment that's difficult, you--I mean I--avoid it. By doing things that seem legitimate, like laundry, or phone calls to make appointments, like taking the car in for its servicing, or getting a birthday gift you have to give on Sunday.

When I'm out in my car, away from my computer and the book I'm completing, I feel liberated from the pressure. When I'm on the phone, or at the gym, the assignment goes away. When I'm in the laundry room...I feel guilty. I should have finished writing at least another ten pages before I did the laundry. I didn't even have a full load of whites.

So, as a form of personal therapy, and to benefit anyone who is reading this blog while procrastinating, here are my ten invaluable "tips" for overcoming procrastination. (This is the pot calling the kettle black, to misuse a cliche. These are things I do not do, even as I tell myself to do them.)

1. Do not check your email until you achieve some attainable milestone. E.g. no checking email till you write five more pages.

2. Do not check your blog or write on your blog or check to see if you got any more comments on your last blog. Or even re-read your old blogs, just because you can. Until you write five more pages.

3. Use the same dishes, rinsed out. Do not wash dishes except at a prescribed time at night, after you've written your 10 pages for the day. Or thirty pages, whatever your goal.

4. Turn off the phone and check for messages after those nasty 10 pages are written.

5. Go to the gym on your regular schedule. Do not skip other basic daily commitments, like morning prayers. If you do either, you will feel guilty and you'll pile that on top of your already profound guilt about those incredibly mean and rotten ten pages.

6. Tell everyone you know about your deadline, so each person will be solicitous and not bother you or expect you to do your usual things. And your friends will keep asking, "how's your project coming?" and thereby be another nudge to get it done, since you don't want to have to answer them, "I procrastinated this week."

7. If you must cook for Sabbath entertaining or an event, do not get creative. Make your most trusted and simple recipes. Better yet, make it known that you have no time to cook, and you hope you'll be invited out. When invited out, do not offer to bring something, other than, oh, beer. Everybody loves specialty craft beers. Or chocolate. Some fancy chocolate.

8. Speaking of chocolate, keep some of your favorite at hand as you work. And nuts, crunchy nuts. Better yet, make that chocolate chips and toasted almonds, together. These are stress-reducing foods. You must have them there ON YOUR DESK so you have no excuse to get up and go to the refrigerator. Have a chocolate chip.
Corollary to number 8: Do not go to the freezer and get ice cream. Ice cream is your enemy. It is the number one comfort food--and the number one GUILT food. Like you need MORE guilt, right? Stick with the stress-reducers. Chocolate chips; take it from me.

9. Once you get into your work, don't stop. If you're on a roll, stay up till 3:30 am if you can--just keep going. You do not need sleep if you're on a roll working. When you finish the chapter, you'll sleep. Much better.

10. Live with mess. Consider your dust bunnies furry friends cheering you on. Your inside-out dirty clothes piled near your closet are an artistic new textile sculpture. If a bit smelly. If you are rich enough to have a cleaning lady, tell her to leave your workspace a mess. Your mess is proof you're working.

Well, those are a few anti-procrastination tips that came to mind as I am procrastinating. I think procrastination is an excellent motivator. Now, back to work!


  1. 1) Crap. So having Gmail open always = bad?
    2) Crap.
    3) AMEN! :D
    4) Hmm...
    5) Gym!?
    6) Hehe. Definitely.
    7) B-b-but what if you LIKE guests?!
    8) Honey-wheat pretzels.
    9) More seriously, absolutely.
    10) Hehe. Amen. Though honestly, sometimes when I was stuck I'd take a few hours and completely clean my apartment in college... and with my mind at ease I'd write much faster.

  2. You are super funny! Thank you for the tips! The one about leaving things a mess is easy, as is the eating chocolate one, but no ice cream???? And the others...well, I suppose everything will get done usually does...somehow. :)

    Good luck with your deadlines!

  3. Wow, I hope I can actually follow these! I have to add for my own list:

    Don't do more interesting work for another class that isn't due for a month when there is something due tomorrow.

    I, unfortunately, seem to be a master of procrastination.