The Idea: Perhaps the reason the world is in such terrible shape is that those who have the ideas and answers on how to change it are paralyzed by a self-inflicted and very human condition that is hugely difficult to recognize, let alone cure. Perhaps this condition, and not the stresses of everyday modern life, underlie much of the psychological illness and endemic unhappiness of those that have so much, and so much to offer, but who are doing pathetically little with their enormous talents and skills. And they know they should and could do more, but this condition prevents them.
I am slowly dying of a strange and insidious disease. I learned about it last night as a result of two serendipitous messages I received from two wonderful readers. You should not feel sorry for me, or console me, or reassure me. I have all the medicine needed to cure the disease quickly and completely. I am not taking it. So it might be more accurate to say I am slowly killing myself. I suspect my company of victims and sufferers of this disease is legion.
This disease goes by a number of names. My favourite, the one that sounds most harmless, is procrastination. I wrote about this disease once before in my article on Courage — and another name for the disease is cowardice, defeatism, “low self-esteem”,or just plain debilitating fear. Fear of failure, certainly, but also to some extent fear of success, fear of knowing how much of your life you have squandered. It also masquerades as depression. Or is depression perhaps the root cause of the disease, or the result of the disease? For what can be more depressing, more ego- and soul-destroying, than knowing you know what you need to do but not being able to do it, not having what it takes. Covey calls this disease the urgent/important paradox: That we choose, consistently, even inevitably, to do urgent unimportant things before non-urgent important things, often to the point that the important things never get done. Whatever name you choose to use for the disease is a fair one. It lives up to all these names, in spades.
Let me tell you what I did yesterday, and about the two messages I received last evening. This story will convey the horrors of this disease much more effectively than a clinical diagnosis. You might even discover that you have some of the symptoms yourself. If you do I don’t feel sorry for you, but I don’t blame you for your inaction either. I know better.
The night before last, Tuesday night, I worked very late (3 am) completing two urgent work-related tasks and also clearing up some of my backlog of long e-mails worthy of a considered response. I went through my Getting Things Done list, as I do at the end of each day, and checked off what I had done and rescheduled four non-urgent but important activities that I had not got around to, to later in the week. I ‘rewarded myself’ for my long day by sleeping in (until 10 am). I got up and did a bunch of errands around the house (my wife works in an office half an hour away, so I try to do at least a bit of the ‘house’ work; I have lots of poor excuses for not doing more). At 11 am I had a work-related conference call. When it ended I made myself a quick lunch, fed Chelsea the dog, and at 12:15 pm sat down and wrote yesterday’s blog entry. With the background reading, a check of some of my favourite blogs as I was doing so, you know, the whole blogging process, it took me until 5 pm to complete, proofread and post the article. Not unusual. Then I walked Chelsea, stopped to chat with some of the neighbours. At 6 pm I reviewed the day’s e-mails, news digests and the digests of the discussion forums I belong to, waiting for my wife to get home. I got totally entranced by the new, free satellite photo functionality of Google Maps, and started zooming in on the aerial photos of family and friends’ houses, and e-mailing the photos to them (Warning: highly addictive: please finish reading this article before you click that link). At 8 pm we had dinner, watched a bit of TV and then I returned to my e-mail backlog. Two of the e-mails took most of my attention:
The first, from innovation consultant Carolyn Allen, asked some pointed questions about my proposal to set up a Solution Centre/Think Tank that would engage some of the brightest minds on the planet from diverse backgrounds to grapple with business problems, for a fee, during the week, and larger social and environmental problems, on a volunteer basis, on weekends. This is one of the four Second Career options that I have been pursuing, the others being (1) a full time writing career, including co-writing an entire section in the Sunday paper, co-editing a magazine on personal work effectiveness, and writing a book per year; (2) providing organizations with the training, tools and process they need to become much more innovative, and to redefine, differentiate and even reinvent themselves in their industries; and (3) establishing and co-operating an ‘educational’ organization (in quotes because it would be most unlike established educational institutions) that would meet the acute need for entrepreneurial skills. Carolyn, much like my best friends Rob, Cyndy and Jon have done, prodded me to select some first steps, something that could be done to get the Solution Centre/Think Tank off the ground. I responded (as I have to similar advice from Rob, Cyndy and Jon) with a whole series of excuses for inaction — reasons why the various approaches she suggested either wouldn’t work, or weren’t what I really wanted to do. They’re very clever excuses, but they’re excuses nonetheless. She wrote back to me this morning with an understandably impatient “I just have one response: ready, fire, aim. You’re definitely ready. It’s time to find ONE thing you can implement. Then based on results, aim better. It’s time to take action. Get off the pot.” She needn’t have told me that — I knew it even as I was writing up my clever excuses.
The second was a link from Avi Solomon, pointing me to a new book called The War of Art by fiction writer Steven Pressfield, about procrastination. Pressfield calls it Resistance, the insidious disease or character ‘flaw’, that causes us to hold ourselves back, to not “get off the pot”. He writes:
Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever resolved on a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever felt a call to embark upon a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace or to preserve the environment? Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.
Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. From age twenty-four to thirty-two, Resistance kicked my ass from East Coast to West and back again thirteen times and I never even knew it existed. I looked everywhere for the enemy and failed to see it right in front of my face.
Do we have to stare death in the face to make us stand up and confront Resistance? Does Resistance have to cripple and disfigure our lives before we awake to its existence? How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip and compulsive cell-phone use, simply because we don’t do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is telling us to? Resistance defeats us. If tomorrow morning by some stroke of magic every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his or her dreams, overnight every shrink in the directory would be out of business. Prisons would stand empty. The alcohol and tobacco industries would collapse, along with the junk food, cosmetic surgery, and infotainment businesses, not to mention pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and the medical profession from top to bottom. Domestic abuse would become extinct, as would addiction, obesity, migraine headaches, road rage and dandruff.
Look in your own heart. Unless I’m crazy, right now a still small voice is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you. And unless I’m crazy, you’re no closer to taking action on it than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you.
I listened to a 30-minute interview with Pressfield. (If you listen to this recording, ignore the new-age preachiness of the interviewer and fast-forward through the 3-minute commercial blocks). He describes it more as an addiction than a disease. And like breaking a deadly and life-sapping addiction, procrastination/ resistance manifests itself in the clever excuses we make for ourselves, and in our craving for more, for the ‘high’ we get from doing things just when we have to, just in time, and only doing things when we have to. And also like addiction, it takes, he says, enormous inner strength and will to break it. One step at a time, knowing for the rest of your life you will be vulnerable to relapses, and will have to start the agonizing process to kick the habit all over again. No excuses, no sympathy, no yielding to the temptation even once — the fight of your life, for the rest of your life.
I looked back at my list of Getting Things Done “to do’s”. The important ones, most of which relate to my four Second Career options, have been sliding consistently down the priority list for weeks, months, since I started keeping the list in December. The Getting Things Done list has been perfect for getting urgent things done. They no longer get done last-minute, and I have not missed a deadline or found myself in a panic since I started the list. Furthermore, I have broken up the important jobs — those that I hope to be remembered for when I’m gone, and which I hope to devote most of the rest of my life to doing — into manageable, short steps, so the ‘next action’ on each of these is not imposing. I’ve winnowed the Second Career options down from an unmanageable fourteen to the four described above, and I have a concrete action plan for doing each of the four. But still, the urgent tasks creep up and steal each day away, and with it my resolve to move the important projects forward. Just one more hit, the addict says, tomorrow I’ll quit, I promise. The monthly cheque-writing and banking has to be done or I’ll have to pay late fees and interest charges. My blog Table of Contents, which many people rely on, is now more than a month out of date. My blogroll urgently needs updating for some blogs that have now become essential reading for me, and several of the blogroll links have changed and need updating as well. There are a whole bunch of things that need to be done around the house that I’ve been putting off. There are at least a dozen things that are urgent but not important that I haven’t even had the heart to put on the Getting Things Done list because I don’t want the important things to slip any further. My blog itself is, perhaps, the ultimate excuse — it’s important (almost as important as my Second Career), and it’s urgent. It’s also good writing practice, a good way to “think out loud” and clarify and organize my own thoughts and ideas. My wife describes my blogging as an addiction. Perhaps for me it is. Or perhaps it’s the procrastinator’s methadone — much less harmful than the ‘real’ drug, but still addictive and debilitating, preventing you from getting on with your ‘real’ life.
So the important things to do are staring me in the face — I know they’re the most important things, the only things that, at the moment of my death, I will regret not having done if I haven’t done them. For each of the important projects on the list I have done the easy part — the business plan, the design, the big-picture thinking, the breaking them down into manageable tasks. I know precisely what the Next Action is for each. But these Next Actions are not getting done. Even when they do get done, any sign of adversity causes me to retreat — the sponsor or agent or publisher I was looking for didn’t return my call or e-mail, or expressed reservations about my proposal. Whew! Good thing I have four Second Career options — now the one with the minor roadblock can be relegated to #4 and I can go back to the distraction of the urgent, easy tasks before I need to screw up my courage and start another important Next Action. With the number of urgent tasks on the list that could be weeks away. But I got seven urgent tasks done today, so I’m going to reward myself tomorrow by not doing anything urgent — I’m going to take a day off (except for the blog) and dig into my huge reading backlog. Another methadone?
What does it take to cure oneself of this disease, this addiction? I crisis would do it — learning you only have six months to live, for example, would propel you to drop all the ‘urgent’ tasks and do only, relentlessly, the important ones. But that’s not really a cure either: Such a crisis merely makes all the things you need to do urgent, so it is then simply logical that you’d do the urgent important things and forget about the urgent unimportant ones. Same thing if the crisis is social or financial rather than medical — if your spouse walks out on you (no doubt fed up with your procrastination), or you get fired, or you lose your life savings or your house and you’re uninsured. That either throws new urgent tasks at you, or (if you decide this crisis was as much a blessing as a curse) could even remove some of the urgent tasks that preoccupied you — but there is no guarantee that this will in any way increase the likelihood of you doing what’s important (it’s more likely to do the opposite).
A colleague of mine is reading a book that describes how to ‘push past’ the urgent and make time, and room, for the important. I’m going to read it (and I’ll report back here) but somehow I don’t think that’s the cure. You can’t think your way out of an addiction, you have to fight your way out. It’s an emotional process, not an intellectual one. The tendency to procrastinate is natural, human nature. Our psychological addiction to it is almost certainly reinforced, as with all addictions, by a physical, chemical addiction, that euphoria we get from crossing urgent things off the “to do” list. We do not yet understand the chemistry behind addiction, but it must be exploiting something that, for millions of years, was a positive reinforcement — allowed our species to survive and thrive better. It might help if we find out what this chemistry is and how it has been perverted into our modern addictions, including our addiction to procrastination, to the urgent over the important, to Resistance.
There is also a discipline called Cognitive Therapy that ‘teaches’ you how to alter your thinking so that your decisions on what to ‘do next’ are not biased in favour of the urgent over the important. Colour me dubious. Anything is possible, of course, including being able to ‘think yourself well’, but the addiction metaphor, and the resultant treatment, make more sense to me.
In the meantime those of us afflicted need to acknowledge the disease, the addiction, for what it is, and start to work on healing ourselves. They say acknowledging the addiction is half the battle, though I doubt that. For other addictions, the ‘buddy system’ seems to work, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that the buddy system is one of the most effective methods of getting exercise and diet procrastinators back ‘on the wagon’. I’m going to start by committing to complete one of the Next Actions on my important not-urgent list every day, and I’ll report to my “get off the pot” friends and colleagues on my progress. I might even bore you with my progress here on the blog.
I’m still sitting here. But somehow I feel as if something has changed. I’m still unhappy with myself, but I’m beginning to understand why. Less shame and more impatience. It’s a start.
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Hope — On the Balance of Probabilities
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How Do We Teach the Critical Skills
Collapse Not Apocalypse
'Making Sense of the World' Reading List
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Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
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A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
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The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Requiem for a Species
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
If We Had a Better Story...
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Hard Part is Finding People Who Care
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
A Short History of Progress
The Boiling Frog
Our Culture / Ourselves:
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What It Means to be Human
A Culture Built on Wrong Models
Our Unique Capacity for Hatred
Not Meant to Govern Each Other
The Humanist Trap
Amazing What People Get Used To
My Reluctant Misanthropy
The Dawn of Everything
Why Misinformation Doesn't Work
The Lab-Leak Hypothesis
The Right to Die
CoVid-19: Go for Zero
The Process of Self-Organization
The Tragic Spread of Misinformation
A Better Way to Work
The Needs of the Moment
Ask Yourself This
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
May I Ask a Question?
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
Learning From Nature
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
Making Sense of Scents
An Age of Wonder
The Truth About Ukraine
The Supply Chain Problem
The Promise of Dialogue
Too Dumb to Take Care of Ourselves
Republicans Slide Into Fascism
All the Things I Was Wrong About
Several Short Sentences About Sharks
How Change Happens
What's the Best Possible Outcome?
The Perpetual Growth Machine
We Make Zero
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If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
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Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
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Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
Loren Eiseley, in Verse
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Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self, and Free Will:
No Free Will, No Freedom
The Other Side of 'No Me'
This Body Takes Me For a Walk
The Only One Who Really Knew Me
No Free Will — Fightin' Words
The Paradox of the Self
A Radical Non-Duality FAQ
What We Think We Know
Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark
Healing From Ourselves
The Entanglement Hypothesis
Nothing Needs to Happen
Nothing to Say About This
What I Wanted to Believe
A Continuous Reassemblage of Meaning
No Choice But to Misbehave
What's Apparently Happening
A Different Kind of Animal
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
How Our Bodies Sense the World
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
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Here’s my unsolicited two-cents (U.S. denomination, dontcha’ know, a bargain these days!):If memory serves, you tend towards the “analytical” personality type on the Myers-Briggs matrix. You are wonderful at sussing out details and thrive on order, have a burning need to make things more linear (hence all the charts, a feature of this trait) since linearity is most comfortable.Procrastination comes when the next thing isn’t clear or is very non-linear; it’s a way of avoiding the highly chaotic. It’s inherent in your nature when things become exponentially disordered and non-linear.Carolyn’s suggestion to find “one thing” is a way to make the chaotic more linear, a way to find the “D” that follows A-B-C when D is otherwise not visible. In other words, you see an entire elephant served up before you — and Carolyn reminds you not to try to eat the whole thing at once, merely take one bite. Bon appetit!But you probably fall on the personality map between “analytical” and “driver”; the “driver” component in you is very goal-oriented and focused, susceptible to acting on the urgent and immediate. Drivers need to learn that the target isn’t always tightly defined into a small bull’s-eye, that sometimes the target is broader and looser. The non-urgent can be just as important and just as much of a goal as the hot stuff in the bull’s-eye; this may take frequent reminders. (Umm, yeah, I can relate to this one…)Hang in there, Dave. I can see you stretching personally in this post — and this falls into goal territory in the bigger scheme of things, isn’t it? ;-) Best, as always ~
Dave,In the Gurdjieff ideas, ‘Resistance’ is one of the 3 major forces in the universe and is accorded the respectful title ‘Holy Denying’.You might find the following interesting in overcoming this force(look past the terminology to the essence!):http://www.endlesssearch.co.uk/exercises_holy_equation.htmYours,Avi
Thank you both very much — this helps greatly. Dear Rayne, for someone I’ve never met you certainly have me pegged. I’m ‘driver’ all the way (moving away from analytical). We seem alike in many ways, and yet so different in others!Avi: I find Gurdjieff fascinating but infuriatingly, sometimes deliberately, obscure. It’s telling that his followers need to ‘translate’ his teachings into comprehensible English. I’m not sure he’s using the word Resistance in the same sense that Pressfield is (though Pressfield seems to be using it ambiguously, intentionally). It’s strange that English doesn’t really have a word for ‘holding oneself back’ in the sense of overcautiousness or unwarranted hesitancy — procrastination (which literally means ‘putting forward to tomorrow’) is as close as we get. There is a school of thought that says modern man is dopamine-addicted, and I’d love to find out if completing ‘urgent’ tasks triggers dopamine production. I’m also intrigued to learn that some of the fans of David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’ (GTD) absolutely loathe Pressfield, and that Allen himself highly recommends ‘War of Art’. I’ve changed the last column in my GTD list from “priority” to “important/urgent” and have rescheduled all the tasks so that at least one ‘important’ next action is scheduled every day. I was surprised to discover that some of the things that I had thought were urgent really aren’t, and that quite a few of the things on the list are neither urgent or important (I’ve taken most of them off the list completely). Just as a clarification, Pressfield wrote the book for writers and artists (hence the title) and has been astonished at the unexpected and positive reaction to the book from those in other disciplines.
I dip into your blog occasionally and appreciate your careful thinking about so many things. I don’t come regularly though because I know I can be sucked into too much screentime reading blogs, articles, etc. Sometimes I think that thinking itself can become a time-sink and an anchor to the status quo (much as we like to think that we’re figuring out how to change things) and an excuse to stay inside our heads. Sometimes it’s time to just go out in the garden!
Thanks to all. Now I must go.
Dave, this writing, I’m sure is going to hit home with a lot of people. A long time ago I realized how selfish depression can be, but still the tendency to be hard on oneself is difficult to stop. One thought which recently has made a big impression on me, is the simple fact that I, and perhaps many other (over achievers) have an ingrained tendency to focus on the things we do wrong or our failures… to the point that this becomes consuming. I think that the only way I’ll grow and change and evolve is to fix the things that are broken in me. For some reason, in the past few months, I learned that there’s another way to see the world – and that’s to stop focusing on the mistakes and weaknesses, and to simply appreciate the things that are strong and good – and to keep making them better. And to accept that this will happen in small, maybe minute, steps. Life sometimes gets so big – I’ve been taught to ‘dream big’ and to ‘reach for the top’ and to believe that I can ‘do anything.’ But realizing that my role models as a child were Mother Theresa and Gandhi is paralyzing me as an adult. I want too much, and feel defeated before I start. It’s very difficult to let go of a big dream, and accept a small one, and to stop blaming myself for the things I haven’t done, than to really appreciate what I have – and finally, to change my thinking that the way to achieve my goals is to think big, instead of accepting that perhaps I should think small, and that perhaps small can later add up to something big. Besides all of the wonderful advice you’ve received from your friends, maybe in addition to all of your lists, you can also spend 5 minutes each day looking at the wonderful things you have accomplished, and then asking yourself how you can do a little bit more of the same. Instead of thinking about the end that you haven’t reached, maybe just focus on the very next step that makes sense because of what you just accomplished yesterday and today. I haven’t really addressedthe claim to ‘addiction’ – but I’d rather not. Instead, I’d like to keep the positive thought that maybe it’s a simple matter of changing ones focus – as Covey would say, a paradigm shift.Wendy
As a fellow sufferer I can only suggest a few things to reduce the suffering: 1. Surround yourself with good people. Listen to them. 2. When confronting your list, order the items by number, with important items at the begining of the list. Do the list in numbered order, ticking them off as they go. At the end of the day, look back and congratulate yourself on whatever progress you’ve made on the important, even if you don’t feel it – as attitudes follow behaviour. Write and place a sign in full view that says, “I have the ability to make the RIGHT choice NOW. ALl I need to do is say YES.” Good luck my friend John
Visualize you & your content against the number of people that gain value from it. Too ‘busy’ to organize your links and content? Just ask. Again — blog collaboration.
In Vernor Vinge’s epic _A Fire Upon the Deep_, the galaxy is divided into ‘zones’. We on earth are in the ‘slow zone’. Further out lies ‘the beyond’. In the beyond, faster-than-light travel is possible, and artificial intelligence is much better. I think this idea, though composed for a sci fi plot, is actually true, metaphorically speaking. The Slow Zone is the prison we have made of this world. The externalities of what we do are tossed out behind us, and others are forced to wade thru the litter. Perhaps we should invite folks east of us to live with or near us, and support folks moving to the west.
I was searching for this quote, but I do not know where it is from: “Ye have locked yourselves up in cages of fear; and, behold, do ye now complain ye lack freedom.”
Dave-Reading this, I completely understand where you’re coming from (Of course, being 24, I can only guess at how many more clever excuses I’ll have dreamed up in the next 24 years). I’ve had luck using a prescription from an unlikely author: Robert Kiyosaki, creator of the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” get rich quick empire. Now, I’ve got to admit, the books are pretty well crap. He re-hashes all the old GRQ ideas about real estate and everything else (I just read them because… well, I don’t really know)Anyway, one of his foundational principles is that you pay yourself first. He’s refering to debt and equity: Add to your equity before you pay back debt, otherwise, you’re just working to make other people rich. But you could see it in terms of personal growth also. Short term to-do items are like debt: Paying bills, answering E-Mails, finishing work projects. Long term high personal growth jobs are like investing in yourself. Sure, you can get by on a debt-based existance, but it’s really risky. You might get to a huge opportunity, and not have enough equity to invest to make it happen. Or even worse, you might get to the end of your life, and find you have nothing to leave your heirs.Robert says, screw the debt. It’s there, it will be there. It will make you work to get it done. Your job is to build yourself in the face of the debt. Let the bill collectors send you notices. As long as you’re working on yourself, those will act as incentive to do even more careful, harder work, so you will have resources left over to spend on the debt when you’re finished.I’m sure I haven’t helped you as much as your writing has helped me, but I figured I’d give it a shot. And, if blogging is part of your addiction, I’m thankful for it.Cheers, Dominic
Hmm, I definitely understand that. I have that problem too – reading one of your earlier posts, I had the impression that you didn’t, and considered procrastination as something that happened to other people.Anyway, being 24 years old, I don’t want to end up saying things like that. So I’ll start working on important things. From tomorrow on :)(Maybe you should do like Real Live Preacher, and sacrifice your Blogging for a while ?)
I’m the worst procrastinator I know. Resistance–that makes so much sense. I think the more responsible, intelligent or creative someone is, the bigger this problem becomes. The ideas or tasks we take on flow a thousand times faster than any physical capability of carrying them out, and the sheer numbers of things to do eventually overwhelm. That leads to a kind of depression, which I don’t think of the way one would think of clinical depression. It’s more like overload.So I believe I have to overcome resistance, but I also need to resist an overabundance of ideas and plans. I’m better off doing a few things well than a lot of things in a haphazard way. Prioritizing is difficult sometimes, though, and there are more distractions today than ever–easy distractions like TV and the Internet, fast food and cell phones. How often do we even just sit and let our minds sort, file and filter, and not feel guilty about that?I’m going to look for The War of Art. Thank you for the tip!
From my personal experience, identifying areas of resistance is any exceptionally liberating activity. One of the most valuable parts of a GTD-like system is that it will identify the major aspects of resistance in your life. That is where you need to dwell. As in live there. Focus on. Dis-identify. Objectify. The presence of resistence identifies the probability that you have not successfully dwelled on the idea, and have yet to truthfully discover what the next actions actual are. Another way to think about the same matter is to catch where you willingly pass on NAs items even if you have enough time to make that action. That resistance means that you are not yet done diagnosing what the next action is. So stop. Dwell. Diagnose the true next item, which almost always is different that the one you wrote. Usually, you’ll want to do that one. Right then, too.
Catalin, Emile: This of course is the ultimate implication of procrastination as addiction — that both reading and writing (instead of doing) are manifestations of the addiction and need to be curtailed. But not, hopefully, stopped altogether.Wendy: I’m trying to recall whose famous advice is ‘each day do something just a little bit better, or more generous’ than the day before. A daily incremental improvement could soon add up, perhaps to complete ‘remission’ from procrastinating.John: Good advice. ‘Talking yourself’ into success. As promised I have been checking off one ‘important’ next action each day recently, though I confess the number of ‘urgent’ items are hence piling up. We’ll see what happens.Jon: Thank you — this is a brilliant observation. I will definitely consider ‘delegating’ some of the housekeeping on this blog.Mike: Great quote — thanks.Dominic: Nice to hear from younger readers. I think “the wealthy barber” had similar advice. Part of the key to getting out from under the ‘urgent unimportant’ is learning the difficult job of saying no.Barbara: Absolutely — most procrastinators I know are very bright. It’s easy to say “focus, focus, focus” on the important, but you know what they say about being in the swamp full of alligators…Cole: I’ll certainly try that, though as I mentioned the NA’s for the important projects have all been properly identified, and they’re manageable size, but I’m still prone to procrastinate on them. GTD is wonderful, and certainly helps you catch yourself putting urgent over important, but that in itself doesn’t cure the disease.
I suffer from chronic procrastination, and created a web site and support group where we talk about what works for us. I have also put together a list of links (I am adding this page) if you want to come visit.
oops sorry about the double post and the fact that I did not include the url:http://www.procrastinationsupport.com
Mike, the quote seems to be by Omar Khayyam
I don’t mean to comment so late on this post, but I just stumbled across it in your archived category called: Being Human. You think so in-depth about this whole procrastination thing, along with everything else, and I totally respect you for even putting these ideas out there where they can be read. I benefit almost daily from your insights. You are one of two blogs I read on a regular basis (the other being Steve Pavlina). You definitely have the ability to eloquently describe human nature and how we created this disaster and the fact that it is mutually hopeless, to some extent, to save ourselves, but at least you have come to this realization. Who knows when the collapse will happen? But at least you are working through all these personal demons on your way to becoming a great activist. Keep the writing up.
Dave, You have some really good points.Problem: not many people will read them. Why? People are not interested in you. They are interested in themselves.New To-Do Item for you: Important but not Urgent. Learn how to dramatically increase the interest in your blog by addressing what people want to hear about their needs and wants, not yours.