Nearly a month has slipped away since my last post. How did that happen? I set reminders on my to-do list. I have ideas about what to write. I even block out time in my week for working on this blog. So why haven’t I posted?
In a word, procrastination. I’ve been procrastinating a lot lately. Despite—or perhaps because of—having a lot of projects going on, I’ve been putting things off. Somehow, I fill my hours with less important activities – watching movies, gaming, listening to podcasts.
Ah, podcasts, one of my favorite ways to pass time without accomplishing much. In fact, I’ve spent a fair bit of my procrastination time catching up on episodes of the Start With This podcast, which focuses on writing and creating. So, how ironic is it that this podcast shined a spotlight on my procrastination?
If you care to check it out, the episode is Anxiety. The hosts bring up an excellent point early in the show: procrastination can stem from anxiety about a project or deadline. Instead of facing the anxiety-producing challenge, we procrastinate by doing other activities. We then further procrastinate by justifying the reasons for our procrastination.
The process goes something like this: I want to write a blog post, but feel anxious about it – what if the readers hate it or, worse, what if there are no readers? So, instead of working on the post, I listen to a podcast about writing, which is ok, because writing relates to blogging, right? Besides, the hosts have excellent suggestions and I find the shows interesting … and so on.
In the meantime, the blog post remains unwritten, even though I should have done it weeks ago. I’ve mastered the fine art of putting off anxiety-provoking work as demonstrated by my recent lack of posts.
So, how to stop the procrastination? The podcast suggests a method I use: set aside a specific amount of time to work on the anxiety-inducing project. When you’ve completed that portion of the work, do an activity you enjoy. Repeat until done.
I’ve also learned to set aside five minutes to worry every day. During that time, I catastrophize by using a method whose origin I have forgotten (but will gladly credit if I recall where I heard it). I ask “So what if [insert worry here]?” Then list one consequence and one alternative resolution.
So what if readers don’t like the post I’ve written? Well, they might not come back. Or they might decide this post wasn’t for them and check back in with the next post.
By framing my worries with the what-if question, I force myself to think about the consequences if my worries become reality. This will either prompt a solution to the problems or, more likely, make me realize I’m making the worry more significant than it needs to be. Whatever the result, when five minutes is up, I set aside the worries for the rest of the day. If I find my thoughts creeping back toward those worries, I’ll make a quick note of the worry and promise myself to give it my full attention the next day.
So what’s worrying you? What nagging thoughts are keeping you from what you should do? Tomorrow, try giving them five minutes of your time and attention. Then go and do that thing. Even if you only work on it in ten-minute increments, you will get through it. When it’s done, celebrate the accomplishment of mastering your worries and getting the work done.
Well, would you look at that? Another blog post accomplished. Get out the balloons and confetti!