I don’t know about you, but I am a career procrastinator. I always have been. I can remember being in school (much longer ago than I care to admit) working on some project or paper into the wee hours of the morning cursing myself for waiting so long. Every time I swore I would never wait until so late again, yet when the next project arose I would inevitably find myself scrambling.
One of the problems was that I never had any real consequences other than stress and exhaustion. I somehow always managed to pull together something good enough to earn a grade I was okay with, so when I was faced with the choice of doing work ahead of time or doing…whatever…I chose the whatever.
I used to always laugh when teachers tried to “help” us avoid procrastination by dividing the work and giving each part a due date. College professors seemed particularly fond of this method. All this really did was cause me to come up with something passable until it was time for the “real” work to be due. One common part for teachers to separate out was the research. They would ask us to find x number of sources and turn those in. Half the time I didn’t even read the sources opting to just find titles that sounded appropriate. And I still did it the night before it was due.
When the deadlines began coming from a job rather than school I got a little better. Rather than waiting the night before something was due I would wait until the weekend before and at least start on it. Sometimes.
Now I don’t have a job that really requires any work outside of what I do while I’m there, which is nice. Instead, all of my deadlines are self-imposed for things that I choose to do – blogging, writing and editing a book – those kinds of things. Without any “real” deadline with the threat of actual consequences (other than my own disappointment) it has been extremely difficult to overcome the “I’ll get to it later” syndrome.
You’d think someone who spent 3 years implementing behavior modification techniques with children with autism would be able to apply those techniques to modify her own behavior. You would be wrong. Every time I come up with a system it will work for a while and then gradually fade away becoming useless. I’ve tried rewarding myself, punishing myself, withholding x until y is complete…none of it worked.
I have finally learned a system that seems to be working. I love organization and list making. I have come up with a schedule that allots time for my book and my blog. The rules for the schedule are that I overestimate how long something will take so that I am less likely to run out of time before my tasks are complete, I take into account other obligations so that my daily tasks are feasible, and I leave open time for fun stuff. So far so good.
The other thing I have done – and it has made a HUGE difference – is that when it is time to work on writing I leave the house. Whether I go out somewhere like Barnes and Noble or simply go to my husband’s “mancave” which is in the barn I get out of the house. This helps limit the things available to distract me tremendously. Leaving also helps signal my brain that it is time to work so that I am in the right frame of mind.
These are just a few tricks I have come up with that are proving to work for the time being. I am sure that I will have to add and modify as time goes on, but I think I am on the right track for a system that works.
What about you? Are you a procrastinator or someone who does things ahead of time? What tricks do you use to avoid procrastinating? Let me know in the comments!