Procrastination Revisited

A couple of weeks ago I started reading Never Procrastinate Again, and promised to report on what I thought of the material, and how well it worked for me.

Reasons For Procrastination

This is an audio course with written transcript and worksheets, by Dave Navarro from the Rock Your Day blog. I listened to a few minutes of the audio files, but those just don't suit my learning style, so I used the written transcript instead. There are also video files (about 100 MB) that you can download separately, but I didn't bother with those.

The key to this course is identifying why you're procrastinating, by reviewing ten possible reasons in a worksheet. The ten procrastination causes fall into three basic categories:

  1. I don't like to do it.
  2. I don't know how to do it.
  3. I'm afraid to do it.

Beside each of the ten reasons there's a suggested method for overcoming your resistance, and there's space to write little pep talks to yourself. On another worksheet you can schedule time to practice these pep talks.

My Checklist

I haven't bought into the self pep talk approach, but the list of procrastination reasons was thought provoking. So, I wrote a list of work-related things I have to do, and things I want to do, both long and short term. A few of those things made my stomach knot when I thought about them, so I ran a couple of those through the reasons checklist.

The first example was invoicing. Why do I avoid that task, even though I like getting paid for the work that I do? The reason seemed to be a mixture of dislike and fear. It's a bit tedious, even though I have a database with all the information, and the reports and queries help make it easier. The fear is that I'll make an error in an invoice or that someone will question an item or two.

My Solution

I decided to work on the October invoices and create a set of instructions as I worked. Next month I won't have to remember all the details, I'll just follow the written steps. I'll also look for ways to make things easier for myself.

I built a few error checking steps into the instructions, so that alleviates some of my fear. I also realized that my time sheet data entry needs a bit of improvement, so I can clearly describe the work that's being invoiced for on-going projects. That should reduce any questions about the invoices.

Break Down the List

The other thing I realized is that several of the things on my to do list need to be broken into smaller pieces. That will make those items less scary, and make it easier to know how to do them.

I keep my list visible on the computer desktop all the time, so that helps me stay focused. Instead of wandering off to explore something new, the minute I think of it, I add it to the list to work on later. When I'm between billable work sessions, I can pick something non-billable from the list to work on. So far, it's going pretty well.

The Verdict

The Never Procrastinate Again course helped me get started on a few things, even though I didn't follow all of the author's suggestions. Maybe the self talk and role playing works for some people, but I'll pass on those. However, the checklist is great for identifying problems, and for realizing that some tasks are too big to tackle in one piece. Next time a task makes my stomach knot, I'll run it through the checklist.

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6 Responses

  1. TSheets says:

    Procrastination has to be one of the biggest hurdles we all have to overcome on a daily basis to achieve productivity. Have you thought about using a time tracking app to tracking what and how much time you’ve spent working on any particular project? Have a look at our free version – we’d love to hear your thoughts on it, and see if time tracking actually helped you improve productivity and squash the procrastination.

  2. Alex J says:

    I was going to procrastinate today, but I’ve decided to put it off until later :-)

  3. Jon Peltier says:

    I’m not big on audio or video either. I don’t have the patience to sit through even a 60 second how-to video. The PDF materials are useful, though. What’s best is being able to take the best from a few programs and implement a system that you can live with.

    Procrastination isn’t about being lazy. When I procrastinate, I am avoiding one task, but usually working fervently on another that’s more interesting. Procrastination is your brain’s way of saying “Yuck, I hate doing that!” When you figure out why (boredom, anxiety, whatever), you can figure out how to overcome your resistance.

  4. Dave Navarro says:

    @Debra –

    Thanks for going through the program and reporting on it. I appreciate the time you took to lay out your impressions of the program.

    I’m a PDF person as well (I speedread, so that’s part of it) – but I know not everyone is, so having PDF / MP3 / Video gives people with other learning styles an option.

    If there’s anything I can help you on, feel free to shoot me an email.

    @Jon –

    Since everyone has different things that drive and motivate them, our best strategy often ends up creating our own solution out of the pieces of other people’s solution. I’ve yet to buy a system I use “to the letter,” but there’s always something you can pull out of whatever program you’re studying.

    Same goes for you, too – If there’s anything I can help you on, feel free to shoot me an email.

  5. Toad says:

    Thanks for posting this, Deb. I like your solution of making notes on that monthly invoicing task. I, too, have monthly accounting chores that I put off, and I’ve thought before that I should start writing down the steps so that I can just follow them each month. As an added benefit, it would allow my partners or office manager to do the job in case I get sick or something.

    The trouble is that I keep putting off the note taking too. Double procrastination! Well, I’m vowing to follow your good example and do it this month.

  6. Alex, glad I could help. ;-)

    Jon, thanks. You’re right, we’re not lazy, but sometimes spend too much time doing low priority stuff, while avoiding more important things.

    Dave, your course got me started, and thanks for the offer to help.

    Toad, thanks for asking me to follow up on the initial post. That helped motivate me to finish the course and assess it. And make those notes soon! I visited an office where no one knows how to do the invoicing, except the two people who are on extended sick leave.

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