Of Pavlov's dogs and "doing it"

I am a procrastinator. It is hard for me to deny it. I procrastinate for many reasons, but they usually boil down to:

1) not in the mood
2) no sense of urgency
3) lack of information

no sense of urgency: filing taxes on time, making a reservation, etc are all things I fail miserably at. The simple reason is that I just don't see the point. My world is not suddenly going to end if I delay it. I need to work on recognizing that the world has its own timetable that does not always coincide with mine. It also has arbitrary rules that, quite frankly, I see no point in - they exist solely for the point of existing (in my mind) and hence have no relevance to me. Need to be less arrogant and more in tune with the world around me - which is not a trivial thing for me to do.

lack of information: this is simply another form of perfectionism, trying to make the perfect decision or doing a job perfectly, so I keep waiting until everything falls into place. It is pretty self defeating. I am getting better in some areas (writing documents comes to mind), where I just do it and then wait for feedback to correct whatever I did. This approach is summarized by a number of motivational speakers and writers as: “Ready! Fire! Aim!” You will advance faster if you adjust based on feedback rather than trying to get it right the first time.

not in the mood: what a killer this one is. I should exercise, but I am too tired. I should write something, but I am not inspired. I keep waiting for that epiphany and it never comes. Sometimes small spurts of energy course through the veins and I start something, but then run out of steam (actually part of the problem is also that I constantly flit from one thing to another – staying focussed for any extended period of time is quite hard – which is one reason I find work so tediously monotonous and unfulfilling).

The oft quoted solution is "Just do it."

In Dan Kennedy's book "No B.S. Business Success" he wrote that you can't wait until you are motivated, until you are in the mood. You just do it. As he said, if you are going to write, then write. Set aside some time for writing and write whether you want ot or not, whether you are inspired or not.

No doubt good advice, just how to feel motivated to apply it?

Last night I was reading an article in a writer’s journal (sorry, don't remember the name of the magazine - I bought 3 woodworking, 2 writing and 1 business magazine last night) and one article was on how not to sabotage your writing career. Most of the time these articles are pretty standard filled with the same advice and platitudes that boil down to "Just do it."

The author had an interesting insight on the "I'm not in the mood" excuse: every time we put off doing something (in this case writing) because we are not in the mood or inspired, then we are conditioning ourselves, like Pavlov did with his dogs, to doing nothing. Each time we put off doing something because we are not in the mood, we reinforce not doing anything because we are not in the mood.

An interesting insight that resonated with an old procrastinator like myself. The message is no different from what I have heard and read many times before, but the expression of it echoed within me.

I shall have to see if I can put that into practice … tomorrow :-)


ghee said…
good morning,Richard..

I can relate from your no. 1 to no. 3.

we all need an inspiration to do our usual acts especially when writing.
but even the greatest author has the tendency of losing their magic sometimes.

I believe that you have a lot of things in your mind that you can share.

happy weekend!enjoy your days with your family. :)
Richard said…
I am sure we all put off things - just with some of us it is more chronic than others.

I wasn't sure where I would go with blogging. I had thought about having an Internet presence since 1997 or so. I eventually took the plunge, being inspired by Ingrid.

I seem to have settled for a place where I express some of my thoughts, as I might if I was sitting in a coffee shop and talking with a friend.

I will try to have a nice weekend :-) Thanks!
ingrid said…
I relate much too much with your plight. I do well when panicked though.
Richard said…
I try not to panick, sinc eit causes me to stop and want to assess the situation even more - consequently aggravating #2.

Deadlines can help. In fact they generally do. Now if I could actually be inspired to stick to my own deadlines.

the funniest solutions to procrastination are those which involve trying to play mind games with yourself: set a timer for 15 minutes and get as much accomplished before the buzzer goes off; promise yourself a treat if you finish by a certain time; put $1 (or $5) in a jar every time you unecessarily delay; etc ...

I don't do mind games or hints or windows.
Sassy Lady said…
Hi Richard,

Like Ingrid, I work well under stress..learnt it from an ex-perfectionist boss..

Its true how sometime we need something or someone to inspire us to get started..but that makes us 'lazy'..it all depends on individual actually..

I suggest you try those mind games or hints or windows...a way to 'relieve' procrastination.. hee.. (pulling ur leg..can u feel it?)

Great weekend with ur loving family!!
Hell I know exactly what you mean and I am equally inflicted with those 3 viruses. I have more than 3 in fact, but that will take up another blog entry of its own.

And that advice on wirting whether you feel or don't feel like it, he's absolutely right.

I always think writing should be as routine as sleeping, eating and breathing. But I guess excuses always have a way of making me less disciplined.

But I am glad I am in jobs that made me write all the time....creatively i mean. So I don't pack that much luggage on that guilt trip....
Richard said…
sassy: the problem with mind games is that I know it is a motivational game and it does not inspire me. It is very hard to trick out my brain.

elvina: you mean there are more than three motivators for procrastination? Hmmm ... you must write about it someday, I will be very interested to read it.
vina said…
i work better under pressure and stress, although most of the time, i hate procrastinating!
Richard said…
Well, Vina, I think we all work better with a definite deadline. Certainly, my work will expand to fill the time. It wasn't so much when I was younger, but years of learning that if I finish early I get to sit around bored isn't too appealing.
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