Disciplines Engaged: Think, Write, Move, Laugh
Having raised three boys through adolescence, my experience with procrastination is not just my own, but it is an up-close examination of the extreme measures to which young men will resort when avoiding things they dread.
In my own case, I always have been willing to put in the all-nighters in the end to get things done. Indeed, I often have found that my creativity and ability to get stuff done is amplified at odd hours, propped up with caffeine.
But as the years have added up for me and sleep has become more of a requirement than a luxury, I have borrowed or stumbled upon several ways to offset – if not conquer – my perpetual battle with procrastination.
- 60-minute bursts of concentration. I turn off the phone, sometimes even shut the computer off, and just get (stuff) done. Sometimes I will do this for entire days – go 60 minutes, stop for a conversation or a walk, and get right back to it. It’s amazing all that I can get done on these days.
- Brain dumps. We do this as a group; it’s supposed to be on Fridays, but it doesn’t always happen that way. But we just take 15 minutes or so to talk about and write down everything we’re working on and what we have coming up, which then allows us to prioritize for the following week.
- Turning off the computer and the phone. This relates to number one, but I often find that removing all distractions and just putting pen to paper gives me a different approach, maybe even a different setting than my desk, to write, get things organized, or to think about things in a different way.
- Make lists. This can relate to single project or initiative or it can be generally about our business. But I just do a stream of consciousness of ideas, facts, statistics, or stories/anecdotes that I can think of over 10-15 minutes. Inevitably, this gets the brain moving, allows me to recall details, and creates momentum to get started in one or more areas.
- It’s something that is not always easy for me. There are times when it seems like it’s easier to just grab something and do it myself than it is to explain the concept to someone else so they can get started. So, my suggestion is to use numbers 1, 2, or 4 above to get you started down the path to being able to hand something off to a trusted colleague or contractor.
There’s a story about a composer that I once heard, but I can’t find the source, and it’s the best story I’ve ever heard about overcoming inertia and procrastination. When the composer – maybe it was Mozart or Beethoven – wished to compose a score, he would remove all his clothes and have his butler lock him in a room. The orders to the butler were that he was not to unlock the doors until (Mozart/Beethoven) slid a finished composition under the door.
In general, I consider nudity to be avoided in the workplace, so your challenge, if you’re a procrastinator or someone who needs the pressure of a real or artificial deadline to get things done, is to find an equivalent system that works for you.