When you procrastinate by reading how to stop procrastination
I am the queen of procrastination. As a recovering perfectionist, I am notorious for coming up with the most creative reasons to justify delaying the inevitable:
"If it's not going to be my best work, why bother doing it?"
"I need the perfect time and space to do this and it's not right now. It's not urgent urgent, you know?"
Then I'll go do something that seems "more important", like "researching" a topic. And because I follow quite a few motivational/self-help gurus like Mel Robbins, Mark Manson, Gary Vee, Tony Robbins, and Tom and Lisa Bilyeu, my procrastination often becomes researching how to stop procrastinating.
It's like I'm sitting on the couch with my head down looking at my phone, reading articles and social media posts about how to achieve my goals when I should be spending my time working on those said goals.
Taking a break from procrastination
Then when I've "researched" enough, I'll tell myself I need a break and I'll dive knee-deep into memes and mind fluff. For instance, pictures of cute bunnies, dogs and cats, ASMR videos, cooking clips, posts about celebrities who have broken up, ridiculously addictive Buzzfeed lists and quizzes, home organizing tips I'll never use, before and after pics of people who did the keto diet…oh it goes on and on.
Before I know it, an hour has gone by; I have written zero words and all I found out is that can relate to Moira Rose from Schitt's Creek a little more than I wanted.
I'm not scared of the consequences
However, over time, I've discovered something about myself when I procrastinate. I delay things because I'm not scared of the consequences. The immediate gratification of looking at one more cat meme seems like a higher priority than typing up this article. I have rose-coloured glasses that make me feel invincible to the looming chaos.
Then when I run out of time, I get stressed out and regret putting it off. I'll tell myself that I'll work on it earlier next time to avoid all that grief. But then I forget the pain of panicking like a lactose-intolerant kid who keeps eating ice cream despite having spent the day before on the toilet; the procrastination cycle starts all over again.
I realized I need a sense of fear with meaningful and scary consequences that will light a fire under my ass to get me started. It's kinda like that show Beyond Scared Straight* but instead of having inmates (or in my case, unsuccessful writers who failed miserably because they kept procrastinating) scare me, I'm using my deepest fears to motivate me to work on my goals. Because the best person to hold you accountable is yourself.
So without procrastinating any further, here's how I use my fears to stop procrastinating.
*FYI: that show didn't work so please don't try that with your kids.
1. Fear of wasting time
As a working mom of 2 young kids, I am constantly being asked to do something. I don't have a lot of time to waste. Time is of the essence; if you ask any parent, the moment they have some time to themselves, they'll become overly ambitious, trying to fit in what takes a week to do into those couple of hours.
"I could totally go for a walk, have lunch at my favourite French bistro, finish my book, cook dinner and put away the laundry right?"
Because before they know it, it's time to pick the kids up, or the baby has woken up from his nap or the show is done and they're bored.
Therefore, I have a small window of opportunity where I can write. When that time comes, I'm not twiddling my thumbs trying to figure out what I'd like to do with my spare time; instead, I'm furiously tapping my fingers on the keyboard like I'm playing a Rachmaninov concerto with the metronome set to presto.
2. Fear of missing out
But not like missing out on what everyone else is doing and wanting to be part of the fun. More like missing out on life's precious moments and being able to practice mindfulness.
So I tell myself that if I do the work now, my mind will be free of worrying about whatever it is I need to do. I can fully enjoy those moments with my kids. I can be present with my family, appreciating what they're doing, milking in the conversations and actively listening to the random things they say.
I can take my time to enjoy meals, go for walks, play board games, and read stories without feeling guilty for having procrastinated and ruminating about how much time I wasted looking at dog memes.
Bottom line: Work hard now so I can play hard later.
3. Fear of forgetting and making the same mistakes
When I was younger and before I had kids, I could remember everything, from ideas, errands, and what happened on Survivor to the exact meal I ordered for brunch last weekend with my girlfriends. I prided myself on having a robust memory with the ability to recall lines from movies at the spur of the moment, every word down to a T.
As I've gotten older, with more responsibilities and having to remember things for 2 little people, my brain is constantly working in overdrive. It's gotten to the point where if I don't write it down, I won't remember it. I literally had to Google whether it's "down to a T" or "down to the T".
As part of my writing goals, I started documenting my journey, sharing lessons learned, what worked, what didn't, what I should have done instead and why. The benefits of this are twofold:
- It helps inform and inspire fellow writers and bloggers in this community on their journeys.
- It helps me keep track of my progress.
However, if I don't write down what I've learned, I am almost certain I will forget and I won't be able to share it with my readers. In addition, I'm scared I might make the same mistakes. And making the same mistake twice means I'm moving backward, not forward.
That's not a risk I'm willing to take when it comes down to watching another cooking video or writing this article.
4. Fear of missing a deadline
Ever watch the last 5 seconds on the microwave while waiting for your burrito to heat up late at night? And you know the feeling you get when you press the stop button before it can make that annoying beeping sound that'll wake everyone in the house?
It's like you just saved the world by defusing a nuclear bomb in the nick of time. Man, it feels good.
I hate missing deadlines as much as I hate hearing that microwave beep. I like knowing when I need to complete something and then checking that box when it gets done. Therefore, I create deadlines that put pressure on me to do the work instead of procrastinating.
Since I'm scared to miss a deadline, why not double down on that fear and create mini-deadlines before one big deadline?
Because then I'm focusing on something tangible every day (and at times, every hour) instead of the big lofty dream that doesn't have scary consequences if I didn't work on it now. If those deadlines are arbitrary and non-specific, I tend to fall off the wagon and into procrastiNation.
For instance, it's much easier to ignore a deadline like "Write 20 articles by the end of the month" than multiple deadlines that depend on the completion of the previous deadline:
- Come up with 20 topics to write about in the next 2 hours
- Conduct research on 5 of those topics by the end of the day
- Write the headlines and the overall skeleton for each of those 5 topics by Tuesday at 6:00 pm
- Flesh out all 5 articles by Wednesday at 4:30 pm
- Edit 5 articles by Friday at 3:00 pm
- Do a final review of the articles and hit publish by Monday at 10:00 am
- Repeat with the next 5 topics generated from last week
5. Fear of doing something I absolutely hate
My ultimate dream is to leave my 9–5 and make the same salary writing at home in my sweats. No office small talk. No in-person meetings that should have been a phone call. No phone calls that should have been an email. No reply-all emails. No working groups, committees, councils, or boards. No politics to navigate. No heels, dress shirts, or make-up. No more washing and re-washing lunch Tupperware.
The longer I put off my writing goals, the longer I have to keep doing things I dread. Thinking about spending my day doing something I hate relative to the act of writing makes me shudder towards my laptop.
I know pursuing a writing career doesn't mean I can sit back and work whenever I feel like it, especially if I want to make a living. It takes guts, a ton of effort, a strong work ethic, persistence and consistency to be successful. I'm willing to commit my time because I don't see myself doing anything else.
So when I start to procrastinate, I ask myself,
"What would you rather be doing?"
And my answer is nothing else. So why am I procrastinating on something that I enjoy?
I don't know so I better get typing.
6. Fear of relapse as a recovering perfectionist
Growing up, I was one of those stereotypical, overachieving Asian kids who wanted to do everything perfectly; as a result, I've had 3 anxiety attacks in my life. The first one happened in Grade 10 when I couldn't complete the first question on a math pop quiz.
When all the other students handed in their work, I still couldn't start. As her top student, my teacher let me keep working on the question while the class resumed. I sat there holding onto my pencil for dear life. I didn't write anything down. I didn't know what to write because anything that came into my head felt like it wasn't the right answer.
By the end of class, I couldn't figure it out and my teacher had to rip the blank quiz from my hands. I will never forget that moment when the fear of failure took over my body physically, mentally and emotionally. I couldn't breathe, gasping for air while my heart raced faster and faster.
I don't ever want to feel that way again. So when I get into a state where I don't want to start because I don't think it will be my best work, I take a deep breath and tell myself,
"Get a grip on yourself, Katharine! There is no such thing as perfection. Good enough is better than nothing at all. So start!"
So Readers/Writers, what are some of your tips to beat procrastination?
This was originally published on March 23, 2021.
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About the Creator
Sum (心, ♡) on Sleeve | Author. Speaker. Wife. Mom of 2 | Embrace Culture. Love Yourself. Improve Relationships | Empowering you to talk about your feelings despite growing up in a culture that hid them | sumonsleeve.com/books