According to writer-therapist Dennis Palumbo, a friend and personal mentor, procrastination is ultimately about a fear of being judged. He tells his clients (screenwriters, tv writers, and novelists), that instead of obsessing about it, they should write about it, as a dialogue with themselves, or as if they were writing a letter to themselves.
1. Ironically, often just writing about procrastination gets a writer writing, and, this is in itself a cure. This simple process helps many of his clients. Further exploration of these underlying beliefs can be done in therapy, but that’s not something you can do now.
(If you do want therapy, remember Dennis is out in the Godforsaken Valley somewhere, while I’m centrally located in West LA).
BuddyHive.com is a website that links procrastinators up to “buddies,” who will hold them accountable. Without going into therapy, you can look inward, and try to figure out the nature of the kinds of task you find difficult and which emotions or behaviors are at play. Examples are:
Unpleasant tasks, complex projects, fear of failure (lack of self confidence) and fear of success, indecision, lack of interest, and distraction (or lack of focus). They recommend:
2. Complete unpleasant tasks first.
3. Break complex jobs into smaller, more manageable tasks.
4. With fears, maintain focus on the end result, and remember how good it will feel to finish.
5. For indecision, make a deadline to make a decision, and keep to it.
6. For lack of interest, schedule tasks for when you’re at your peak and reward yourself.
7. For distraction, make it a rule not to leave the desk until a smaller task is done and prioritize.
If you sign up at BuddyHive.com, you can take advantage of their free “buddy system.” Simply login and they’ll assign you a “buddy.” Ask for your buddy’s help in holding you accountable to completing specific tasks. You’ll provide the same service for them.
As a student, Francesco Cirillo struggled with time management. He found the perfect time for a “work sprint” or “pomodoro” to be 25 minutes. He set his timer and worked straight for 25 minutes, then took a five minute break.
During the short break, he allowed himself to check texts, emails, play a videogame, make calls or whatever. Every three to four pomodori, he would give himself a 25 minute break.
Francesco would set out to finish a small, manageable goal, as if there was a deadline looming. This way, he felt the urgency required to get things done quickly, but had time to breathe, as it were, and play during breaks, which kept his mind sharp.
He experimented with different time periods, but found 25 minutes to be the most effective time period for him to work at a “deadline pace” Of course, you can modify the method, say, so you work 40 minutes and take a 20 minute break if you like, or whatever works best for you.
9. Getting Things Done. David Allen is a productivity consultant who created a fairly elaborate method of prioritizing and organizing your work, which can help you overcome procrastination.
The steps to getting and staying organized include:
Put all of your to-dos, recurring tasks, ideas, everything – in a planner or in a Word document on your computer somewhere. Everything you will need to do in the forseeable future should be listed, so you don’t need to carry it all around in your head.
Clarify these “to-dos” or goals. Don’t just write down “outline the screenplay,” break it down into concrete actionable steps.
Organize those concrete steps by category and priority. You don’t actually begin the tasks yet. Place them into priority categories, High Priority (do ASAP), Medium Priority, (sometime soon), and Low Priority (may not even get to this.)
Reflect on your “to-do” list. Periodically review your to-do lists to re-evaluate your priorities. If tasks are too complex, break them down.
Engage and get to work. Choose your next action and start. The to-dos should be organized by now and broken into do-able tasks. It should be relatively easy to begin.
Getting Things Done (GTD) and the Pomodoro method are both all over the internet. Brilliant silicon valley teenagers have created Apps for both. Download the apps only if they help. Experiment. See what works best for you.
For more information on overcoming procrastination, contact me for a free consult to discuss what you need to do to free up your creativity, just click here.