Reversing the Crippling Power of Procrastination

June 5, 2012 — 7 Comments

 

I am a chronic procrastinator.

Throughout my years in various settings, I’ve come up with a myriad of excuses in order to maintain my self-esteem:

I thrive under pressure.

I have a ton of stuff going on.

My work doesn’t motivate me.

I don’t want to fail so I need to wait until I am ready.

I love to live in the moment and enjoy my current situation.

I will start tomorrow.

 

The simple fact remains. I put work off as long as I can.

Strangely, my recent increase in blog posts is another example of procrastination. Let me explain.

Since 2005, I have been working on a science fiction novel. During the last seven years I’ve experienced varying levels of productivity as I’ve inched closer to completing my goal. I saw a momentous spike in my productivity last November right before Lylah was born. In one month I wrote about 43,000 words.

Unfortunately, I’ve only written 6,000 words since then. Granted, I’ve had a lot going on in these last six months. However, I have managed to do a good deal of writing. Just not for my novel. I’ve written roughly 10,000 words in blog posts alone.

In regards to my novel, I’ve gotten in a funk. I’ve gotten out of rhythm, and the thought of starting up simply feels daunting. Writing a one-page blog post feels a lot more manageable than “picking up my novel” again.

Now, I’ve truly enjoyed writing for my blog more frequently, and I want to be intentional about writing for it as well. But I can easily use consistent blog posting as an excuse to avoid my novel.

Isn’t it frustrating how we can so easily, yet covertly sabotage ourselves like this? Rationalization can obliterate Godly passions and dreams. Excuses help us to be content with unfinished business. Yet, when we are perfectly honest, we aren’t truly content. In the back of our mind we still think about what we have intended to do for weeks. It slowly eats away at us, at our sense of self-worth.

Consider how many marriages erode because of incomplete honey-do lists. Each day the spouse feels a little less adequate because they didn’t do that one thing that has nagged them. And, even though it might only take 30 minutes, it doesn’t get done. It becomes a larger burden with each passing day.

It might not be in your marriage, but it might be at your workplace. There might be a difficult conversation with a coworker that you’ve been avoiding. A rift slowly develops between the two of you as you put off that talk another day.

Getting back to my novel, I get even more frustrated when I realize that I would have another 100,000 words – I might be close to finishing it – if I had just written an hour a day since January. It sounds so simple when described like that. But even still, I don’t open the file and keep writing. Another excuse stymies me.

I am reminded of the Q&A section of a great book I read a while ago called Switch. One of the pieces of advice the authors give concerning this idea of creating positive change is this:

Shrink the change.

Break it down so that it seems more manageable.  In the Q&A, Chip and Dan Heath talk about shrinking the change so much so that I can do something today. Make some positive step toward your goal today.

Maybe the thought of resurrecting my novel feels overwhelming at 11pm tonight. That’s ok. But I can open my document and write a paragraph. Even if I did nothing more than write a paragraph every day, that’s infinitely more than writing nothing a day.

When we shrink the change so much that we can do something today, we are surprised. We often get the momentum we need to keep going and accomplish much more than we anticipated.

So I’m going to finish up this post and write something on my novel. I already have the file open. What I write will probably be junk, but it will be something. And that’s better than nothing.

What’s been nagging at you? What have you been neglecting? How can you shrink the change so you can do something today? Let me know how it goes. I’ll keep you posted about my novel.

 

Austin

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I'm a pastor, writer, speaker, husband, father, and follower of Christ, to name a few titles. You can find my contact information in my About page.
  • Kelsi Schilling

    I am a great procrastinator! I can completely relate to the post.  I feel so very good when I get something done off of my list right away but I just can’t seem to keep up with it tho. Thanks!

    • Yeah! It feels so good to cross something off that list! The idea of shrinking the change has been a great help for me. It’s almost like tricking ourselves into action. Sometimes if we can just take the first step toward getting something done, that’s all we need. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • scrhill

    Reading through the Bible can seem overwhelming, but even 15 minutes a day can help a lot.

    •  Yep! 15 minutes a day and you read the Bible in 12-18 month!

  • Karen

    Good blog post Austin. My favorite saying is…I’m taking care of my procrastination issues. Just you wait and see!

    •  That’s a great one. I haven’t heard it before, but I will have to remember it.

  • I like how you point out that your blogging, which appears productive, is anything but. The resistance will try to convince you to do something easier to quiet that part of your soul that screams for more.