Five Tips for Beating Procrastination
I know, I know, it’s a total writer’s cliche, but I procrastinated when I really should have been writing this SharePost. I played Lord of the Rings Online for half an hour, using the excuse that since my son and husband were watching tv, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate anyway. When the tv went off, I stared at the screen for thirty seconds, and then remembered that I really needed to put a load of laundry in. Granted, I really did need to do laundry, but for some reason that didn’t occur to me when I was playing LOTRO.
It’s amazing how when you’re procrastinating, all of a sudden the other things that you’ve been putting off get prioritized really high. “I can’t believe that I haven’t gotten around to mixing the coyote urine,” I said to myself virtuously a few minutes ago. (Yes, I said coyote urine. If you live somewhere that we do, where deer get really hungry in the summer due to lack of rain and you happen to have some tasty plants, you probably know what I mean. The only thing I’ve found that works is coyote urine. The deer think that a coyote’s marked the territory, so they leave it alone.)
But you have to spray a perimeter around the plants and make a kind of virtual fence with it to block any entrances to your yard and okay, what do you think it smells like? It’s horrible. Spraying it is no fun, and mixing it up is not a real joy either. So this is normally not one of the chores that seems really appealing. But if mixing up a fragrant batch of coyote pee sounds appealing, what about things like watching tv or even just staring into space? They’re like a 500lb magnet that you’re irresistibly drawn to before you even realize what you’re doing.
Most people tend to procrastinate, unless they’re those really perfect souls that the rest of us love to hate. When you moan about how you haven’t gotten anywhere with your project/school paper, etc., they’ll look at you in surprise and say, “Really? I was done a week ago.” Thankfully, they’re the exception instead of the rule, or there would probably be a lot more homicides.
But for people with Attention Deficit Disorder, getting something done can be really tough. Not only do we have the same tendency as other people to put off doing something that’s not thoroughly entertaining, but we have an extra hurdle - our distractability. After I had written the first few sentences of this SharePost, my eye fell on the XBox Live card on my desk that I had been meaning to add to my son’s account. “Hey, you want me to upgrade your account to Gold for a month?” You can imagine what his response was, and ten minutes later I finally got back to work.
Of course, for many of us, there is something positive about ADD/ADHD that can help us get things done - we work best under pressure. We find it easier to focus and might even get into what’s called hyper-focusing.
But after one too many all-nighters in college (one night I wrote four papers), I decided that I didn’t really enjoy working under pressure, even if my mind performed better that way. And yes, an awful lot of tasks that I had been putting off got done while I was putting off the chore I was supposed to be doing, but is that any way to prioritize? Not really. I was tired of always having things hanging over my head and ruining my day.
So, I am not trying to lecture or scold, but if you are kind of tired of always procrastinating, here are some tips I’ve developed for myself over the years, although you could probably also call it a process.
1. Get over the idea that you will somehow magically get in the mood to do the project. Other than a deadline that forces you into working under pressure, which is an outside force and one you have no control over anyway, it’s not going to happen. Stop waiting for the mood to seize you.
2. Be honest with yourself about the fact that you’re procrastinating. Get rid of the excuses “I really need to mix that coyote pee first.” Nuh-uh. Don’t kid yourself, because you’re not helping yourself that way.
3. Figure out why you’re procrastinating. Sometimes when you examine the scope of the work, you find that it’s not as daunting as you’ve built it up to be in your mind. You might also find that you’re procrastinating due to fear of failure or perfectionism. You could be scaring yourself with your own expectations.
4. If it’s a big project, sit down and do some planning. This will make it feel much less insurmountable, and again, scary.
5. For an incentive, in your mind go to the future after the project’s done. Won’t that be great? Nothing hanging over your head.
I hope this tips help you to beat that procrastination. If you’ll excuse me, I need to go do another load of laundry. Although, before I do that, maybe I should check in on my hobbit in Lord of the Rings Online.
Deborah Gray wrote about depression as a Patient Expert for HealthCentral. She lived with undiagnosed clinical depression, both major episodes and dysthymia, from childhood through young adulthood. She was finally diagnosed at age 27, and since that time, her depression has been successfully managed with medication and psychotherapy.