Sunday, August 12, 2012


I used to be someone who procrastinated. When I did finally get around to starting a project, I would have a hard time staying with it or seeing it through to completion. Nowadays, I'm pretty much the opposite of who I was. When I decide to do something, I do it. If a project is more difficult or takes longer than expected, no problem; I stay with it until it's done. I even pick up projects that Iris has started and see them through to completion.

I often talk with friends who are struggling with the same challenges of procrastination and follow-through that I struggled with. Sometimes (okay, maybe lots of times) I suggest ways they might overcome their challenges. My suggestions are often dismissed as being not-applicable because I'm a different kind of person than they are and I wouldn't understand how challenging it is for them. But I do.

I still encounter the challenges that lead to procrastination and quitting, I've just learned to deal with them so quickly that they seem not to exist. If you ever find yourself overwhelmed by all you have to do or feeling that you simply don't have it in you to do what you planned for today, then maybe these will help you.

1. Start
The most important thing is to stop thinking and start doing, specially if you're working on a long term project or program. Whether you're writing a thesis or building aerobic capacity, the key is to stop thinking about it, stop waiting for the right moment, stop waiting to feel like doing it, stop hoping for the right conditions and start. Start to write. Start to run. Start to clean. Start to practice.

Don't give a second thought to questions about readiness or situation or timing. Once you do, you'll be on the track to nowhere. At the first thought of not doing it, don't think about doing it; start doing it.

2. Continue
Starting doesn't immediately dismiss the thoughts and questions that would keep you from starting. You get on the treadmill to run and you feel little aches and pains. You sit down to write and nothing comes to mind. You pick up your guitar to practice and you're all thumbs. You climb on the exercise bike and the cold air makes you shiver.

The aches and pains, the creativity void, the clumsy fingers, the shivers all tell you to stop. Don't give them any consideration. Don't try to work out what's going on or why they're there. Just continue, perhaps a little more slowly, perhaps paying a little more attention to form, but nonetheless, continuing.

3. Take Delight
As you continue to run the aches fade away. As you continue to write your creativity fires up. As you continue to practice your coordination returns. As you continue to bike, your body warms. You start to feel good. You take a look around. You see how much you have to do and how little you've done, how far you have to go and how little you've come. You start to get overwhelmed.

Don't try to work it through. Don't try to calculate how long it will take or whether or not you're going to make it in time. Focus on what you're doing in the moment and take delight in it. Feel your muscles warm and become more pliable. Praise yourself for the beauty of the line you just wrote. Watch your fingers move across the fingerboard of the guitar. Enjoy what you're doing.

That's All
That's really all it takes. The process is necessarily simple and for the most part, thought-free. You don't need to work things through. You don't need to understand why you procrastinate. In fact, it's necessary not to work things through or figure out why. Just start, continue and take delight.

Happy Sunday,

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