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How to Procrastinate Effectively

I am a procrastinator. There, I said it. I am willing to embrace my true nature!

Four years ago I wrote a novel in what amounts to about three weekends. Three years ago I finished several major edits of that novel in what amounted to a few more weekends. And then... I sat on it. For three years. Blocked, in theory, on the process of writing a ten page synopsis. The kind of school assignment you got every week or two, and were happy about because they told you to use 1" margins and double-space everything, making it that much easier.

Was I truly unable to write a ten page book report after having already written 100,000 words and plowing through three major edits? What in the world was going on?

I've read several articles recently that talk about procrastination as a manifestation of a deep-rooted fear of failure. At least for me, that's pretty accurate. Oh, sure, I can be obsessive and perfectionist at times, but that's not my real problem. Unfortunately, this fear of failure gives me not just one, but two modes of procrastination. The first is that I have a hard time getting started on anything, for fear that it's going to turn out like crap. The second is that I have a hard time finishing anything, for fear that I'll then have to reveal it to someone else and they will see that it turned out like crap.

In the middle ground, between starting and finishing, I tend to putter along quite well. Actually, I can get downright obsessive, what with the classic all-nighters and marathon sessions -- be it writing, coding, or what have you. It's just around the edges where I tend to need that extra motivation. And if I don't get it, well... I end up sitting on a finished novel for three years.

Luckily, I have found a cure -- or at least, a viable cure for me. I quit my job and started living off my dwindling savings account. This has been surprisingly effective at getting me motivated, for a couple of reasons. First, the ever-running calculation in my head of time left to live on remaining money is pretty inspirational all by itself. But just as relevant, for me, is that deep-down, a large part of me thinks that what I should be doing is going out and looking for a new job, post-haste! Get off my lazy butt and start submitting resumes!

Of course, that sounds like a lot of effort, not to mention the crushing possibility of being turned down and unable to find decent employment. Heck, stress like that, it's enough to make me want to procrastinate on it, and do pretty much anything *except* look for a job. And suddenly, writing a ten page synopsis starts to look pretty appealing by comparison. The worst outcome there is an impersonal rejection letter in six months or so. That's far easier than an in-your-face rejection at a job interview. For that matter, even starting a whole new company and working on all kinds of projects that have piled up over the years sounds more appealing than that kind of gross employment failure.

So I embrace my nature as a procrastinator. Maybe a better person could change outright, conquering their procrastination demons once and for all! Me? I'll just settle for outwitting myself -- especially since I know that's not hard to do.


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