If you haven’t yet read the Procrastination page, I recommend you do so before trying these solutions.
Note that procrastination often starts in childhood and is catalyzed by traumatic rejections: hence, this work can sometimes be emotionally difficult. If it is, please consult a therapist or other professional. – Hillary
Who’s Procrastinating? And Who Can Solve the Problem? (A Journey Into the Very Heart of Procrastination)
There are three internal personae, or agents, involved in every episode of procrastination:
The Fragile Creator. That’s the person trying to do the work. He’s fragile not because he’s weak (far from it!) but because the task is difficult and the context is hostile.
The Terrorized and Terrorizing Perfectionist. Also known as the “inner critic.” Learn more about him here. His aims are good, but his methods of getting you back on track–namely, bullying and manipulation–stink, and are likely to only worsen the problem.
After repeated bullying, a third person is invoked:
The Procrastinator. His aims are also good, but his solutions are inadequate. That’s because he was invoked in fear, and is thus regressed. (Regression, or a loss in capacity, is a common response to fear.) I picture him as a fifteen year old with a strong sense of fairness and decency. He’s outraged at the Perfectionist’s bullying of the Fragile Creator, and steps in to help. However, he can only come up with two ways to do so, both inadequate:
*Opposition. “Why should I be stuck indoors working when everyone else is out having a great time? Screw this–I’m going to go out and have fun.”
*Learned Helplessness. “I know I’ll never succeed, so why should I even bother trying?”
Those are, in fact, the two main forms of procrastination.
Who’s missing? The very person who can solve the problem: the wise and compassionate adult. That’s the persona and voice you need to grow within yourself to overcome procrastination and become joyfully productive. Solution #1, below, directly addresses this need; and Solutions #2 – #7 help your overall productivity by creating a context that will further support your empowerment and productivity.
To Solve Your Procrastination Problem, Remedy the Disempowering Forces in Your Work and Life
1) Overcome Perfectionism.
Reduce your perfectionism and the bully will go away, and then, after that, the procrastinator, who will no longer be needed. Click here for how to do this.
2) Resource Yourself Abundantly
The underproductive writers, for instance, is typically the one working on a flaky computer in a dusty basement with the mildew and cobwebs and last season’s wardrobe.
The prolific writer, in contrast, claims the best room she can, decorates it to her taste and needs, and invests in top-flight equipment. (While it’s true that some people don’t have a lot of money to invest, it’s also true that many who do choose to spend it anywhere but their work.)
The solution to not being able to writing or other work because of email and other Internet distractions is to either: (a) disconnect your main computer from the Internet while you work, or (b) work on a second computer that’s not hooked up to the Internet. For many years, I was the only person in the household without the WiFi password. Whenever I needed to use the Internet, I would bring my computer over to another room to plug in the cable. These are not draconian solutions, by the way: many or most prolific workers figure out ways to disconnect from the Internet for many hours a day while working.
Productive people never waste time trying to “build their willpower”: they just identify and solve barriers to their productivity.
3) Manage Your Time
Productive people live consciously and deliberately. They know their values, needs and priorities, and align their actions with them as much as possible.
They budget and schedule their time, and invest as much of their time as possible in high-value activities that: (a) are within their mission, (b) leverage their strengths, and (c) create impact or change in the real world.
They are comfortable saying no to tasks they can’t or don’t want to take on, and they also constantly delegate. They avoid time and energy-sucking dysfunction and drama, and also live frugally (a win for the environment, too!) because they understand that too many possessions, and too much debt, are a kind of slavery.
4) Use an Effective Work Process
Underproductive people tend to approach their projects linearly: they try to finish A before moving on to B, C, etc. This is a precarious way of working because if A, B or C happen to be difficult, you’ll get stuck. Productive people, in contrast, see their works as 2D or even 3D landscapes, and work on whichever part seems easiest or most appealing. (Among other advantages, this lets them gain insight into the piece so that even the hard parts get easier.)
When writing, they do lots and lots of quick and easy drafts, each a tiny improvement over the previous one, instead of limiting themselves to a few excruciatingly honed drafts.
5) Overcome Ambivalence
Next to perfectionism itself, ambivalence is the greatest barrier to productivity for many people. If, while you’re trying to write, get fit, or make any positive life change, a part of you is thinking that that endeavor is wrong, stupid, silly, futile, etc., that’s going to create a huge ambivalence that can stop all progress. The solution to ambivalence is to be absolutely clear on who you are, what you value, and why you value it–and also on what investments and sacrifices you’re willing to make to attain your goals.
Surrounding yourself with people who share your values and support your goals is also very important. It’s much harder to succeed if you’re surrounded by naysayers.
6) Avoid and Overcome Traumatic Rejections
Procrastination and blocks are usually catalyzed by traumatic rejections, so if you experience one, cope strenuously via journaling, discussions with friends and mentors, and (in some cases) speaking your truth.
Always seek to avoid traumatic rejection in the first place, however, by only dealing with fair and honest people in a context of equality. Avoid oppressors or exploiters no matter what benefit you think you’ll gain from them.
Recognize that rejection comes in many forms, including harshness, callousness, neglect, marginalization and deprecation. Anything less than 100% acceptance contains elements of rejection.
Contrary to popular belief, compliments often do not “cancel out” the pain of a rejection.
Finally, don’t believe anyone who says you need to get a thicker skin: the goal is to have a thin skin so that you can be sensitive and alive and responsive to the world around you–and to surround yourself with people who are the same.
7) Create an Empowered Career
Empowered careers are characterized by equality, nonviolence, collaboration and a sense you’re using your strengths and skills to good purpose.
They feel good, create positive impact/change, and surround you with other empowered beings.