Action & Procrastination
August 8, 2014 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Not sure how to say this, but I think that I am procrastinating on things even when I seem to be busy doing other things. I need to get to a point in my life where I am taking consistent action rather than thinking about doing things.

I'm good at doing things at first and then the newness of working on something wears off and I find myself bored which is something that I never used to feel when I would take on an activity even after a while. Does anyone have any suggestions or tips on how they have kept themselves in a zone where they are able to take consistent action in their lives? I can be very cerebral at times, but this doesn't help me in life. Any suggestions or anecdotal stories would be much appreciated.
posted by nidora to Education (6 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
How much structure do you have in your life? I have ADD and the behavioral techniques I have learned to manage the disorder sound like they might be helpful here.

Just a few, off the top of my head:
  • Environment control. Every time you find yourself doing something that feels like procrastinating, make a note of it. When you have a small list, work on finding a space, physical or mental, where you block off access to those things. Is the internet a problem? Block YouTube, Twitter, MeFi, etc. Find yourself doing the dishes instead of working? Go to a space where you can't see the other messes/chores that need doing.
  • Mindsweeps. This is a technique for ditching mental baggage. Spend 15 minutes writing down every thing that pops into your head that you think you should be doing. Then, spend another 15 minutes going through the list and putting each item into a "do now", "do later", "never do" pile. Pitch the "never do" pile and forget about it, hide the "do later" list somewhere you can find it in the future, and just focus on the "do now."
  • Lists, lists, lists! When you set out to do something you want to focus on, don't just jump right in. Take 15-20 minutes and write out a list of steps you will take in getting from start to finish in that project. Write down even small stuff, such as "Open my browser to the electric company bill pay page." Check things off as you go, and when you get distracted, go back to your list and you will see right away where you left off and what you were supposed to be doing.
  • Calendaring. Definitely keep track of your appointments, but also keep track of when you'd roughly like to have things done. For example, if you're going on vacation in 3 weeks, write up a week-by-week plan of things that should get accomplished before that happens. This is helpful because this week you can defer caring about, say, confirming the hotel booking, because that's on your list for next week. It's very important to keep the number of things you want to do manageable and well-scoped.
  • Space. This is simple but worth mentioning. If you're a high achiever, it may not occur to you that your brain needs space sometimes. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you finding enough time to relax? Are you caring for your health? If not, your brain will force you to take more space — sometimes in the form of procrastination. It's amazing how often the answer to getting more done is to take a day off.
Don't expect yourself to just naturally be awesome at "taking consistent action." For even the most effective people I know, it is a discipline and a practice that they take very seriously. (I mean, no one naturally goes to bed at 9pm so they can be up at 4am to practice piano for 3 hours before work. If that's important to you, you have to make it happen.) Be thoughtful, be present, write down how you feel and what works and doesn't work. Give yourself as much structure as you need to succeed.
posted by annekate at 3:53 PM on August 8, 2014 [12 favorites]

Are you truly interested in your projects? Can you identify where the urgency to do what you are doing is coming from? What is your goal or agenda?
posted by lakersfan1222 at 3:53 PM on August 8, 2014

I was going to say the same thing lakersfan1222 just said. It helps a lot to have a specific goal rather than just trying to do something for the heck of doing it, or because you think you should do it when you don't actually have a solid reason to.

There have been a lot of hobbies I've tried to take up and new skills I've tried to learn over the years. The only ones that really tend to stick are the ones that have some sort of outside force that makes me feel compelled to do it - whether out of obligation to another person or some commitment I made - or if they're things I truly need to do and will suffer if I don't do them. Otherwise, yes, it can be tough to just "make" myself do something if I don't have a good reason to.

Also, if you have some other sort of anxiety or stress weighing on you it can make this feel much worse than it needs to.
posted by wondermouse at 3:59 PM on August 8, 2014

I am interested in doing the projects that I create, but once they're on a to do list everything sort of looks like equal importance. Granted, I prioritize paying bills, and other things. I guess where I'm going is that sometimes I end up going in circles. For example, I'll read a book about something I would like to learn. The book brings up something that would help me in learning said task. I go and start on that book. Now I have two books to read. This can happen over and over to the point of never completing initial task. Is this just stupidity on my part?
posted by nidora at 4:02 PM on August 8, 2014

Maybe you're just picking the wrong tasks.
posted by wondermouse at 4:24 PM on August 8, 2014

Is control / perfectionism a "thing" for you?

I used to struggle (and still do to some extent) with getting things done with tasks I find difficult, uncomfortable, frustrating or where there's a mismatch between my ability and my expectation for myself.

While its sometimes tempting to get on your own case about things, I find it just tends to embed these problems, while writing lists is a good idea I find these just embed my anxieties rather than help me feel clearly about them so I try to be as gentle, but structured with myself as possible.

Installing hard deadlines for things, convincing myself to try a crappy / rough first drafting and then work up to a final result, reminding myself that while its good to challenge yourself "done is beautiful".

I also find my environment really helps, like keeping spaces clear and clean and organised, good tools, keeping everything relevant to a task at hand, as well as building in breaks and treats and rounding off good work with some sort of self-reward at the end of the task / day - even if it is just a candybar, fresh notebook, or bunch of flowers to tell myself what a good boy I am!
posted by Middlemarch at 10:14 PM on August 8, 2014

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