Thoughts on Procrastination

I have this issue with procrastination, so despite having studied quite a bit of material, I have not yet developed a daily regimen that will help me progress the way i’d like, that can be done quickly.”

Procrastination is as close to a universal problem as you’re going to find.   Almost everyone puts off some of the things that make life work, or a project shine.  The underlying motivation to delay action is fear of some kind.  Motivations include:

  1. The work is painful or difficult.
  2. A successful result would “change you” in some way that you find uncomfortable.
  3. You will be forced to face or deal with something you wish to avoid.
  4. You are unsure about how to proceed: the entire thing seems too huge.
  5. You are distracted by shiny, fun things, and believe that you can “crush it” at the last minute.

There are many potential answers to the problem, but the best answer is a tactic that is both curative and diagnostic.  It has the added benefit of giving rapid feedback: there are few things worse than a slow feedback-loop.   It would be better to learn TOMORROW that you have avoidance patterns that need to be addressed rather than in five years, yes? And if you are going to test a potential solution you would be better off find out it works immediately rather than in ten years, yes?

With that, we come back to the concept of the “Diamond Hour” and the “Morning Ritual.”   The “Diamond Hour” concept is that you boil down the most critical things that you must do until they all fit into sixty minutes.  That if you ONLY got that 60 minutes to yourself, if friends and family and business steal the rest of your day.  For a writer, this might look as follows:

10 minutes Heartbeat  meditation (centering and anti-stress)

10 minutes Five Tibetans (health and fitness)

10 minutes reviewing goals (focus and alignment)

30 minutes writing or rewriting (write 1st draft one day, edit the next)

While there are infinite other alignments, these will take care of your core needs.   Now: the trick is that you won’t do it.  No, you won’t, not unless you are already pretty well aligned.   Why?  Because if you did, you would actually get the result, and to do that you have to have actions, thoughts, emotions, values, beliefs, and goals all aligned and moving in the same direction.   Not only that, but you would have to have internal “permission” to actually be strong and healthy and happy and successful.  Only a tiny percentage of the population has such “internal permission.”

So when you try to do it, you’ll run into your “stuff” big time.   Keep a journal.  Write down the excuses and issues that arise (they will be both positive and negative things.  Both opportunities and problems.)  If every day you make a commitment to spend an hour (or scale it down to the time you ARE prepared to commit) note how you break your promises to yourself.  How you lie to yourself.

This might be painful, which is why your FIRST issue is to contact your heart–you have to LOVE yourself to be willing to look carefully at your flaws.  Otherwise, the self-loathing will overwhelm you, the guilt will distort your perceptions.  “There’s nothing but ugliness!” you will fear, and stop trying.  Why bother, right?

On the other hand, if you are obese, and you commit to a pattern of motion and eating which, over time, would take you to a body you covet, if that extra flesh is the result of fear, guilt, confusion, or power games those obstructions will fight for their lives, and clobber you if you actually step onto a path of power.  Your task is to NOTICE how they sabotage your efforts, and what tools they are using.

In other words, your ego will try to make things so complicated that there is no way to unsnarl the Gordian Knot.  So create a simple morning ritual which, if followed for 100 days, would change you.   YOU WILL FALL OFF THE HORSE.   The trick is to have a slightly disassociated, dispassionate view of it.  Watch without attachment.  

1)What happened?  

2) How fast did it happen?

3) Has this pattern emerged before?

4) What would you have to have done differently to prevent it?

5) What allies or capacities would have prevented it?

Look, there are countless ways to clarify goals, break them into smaller chunks, gain emotional leverage, interrupt negative patterns, recruit allies, or whatever.  But it starts with KNOWING WHAT IS GOING ON.  If you set it up so that either you do the work or you are breaking your promise, lying to yourself, then you are getting smacked in the face with your own lack of maturity and clarity.  To stop your ego from using guilt about this to stop you (tricky bastard!) START with loving yourself (Heartbeat meditation and the Ancient Child work great).  If your baby tried to walk and fell down, you would applaud, say “good  baby” and help them try again.  Why don’t you do the same thing to yourself?

TREAT YOURSELF AS IF YOU WERE YOUR OWN MOST BELOVED CHILD.

That means both compassion AND discipline.

Your homework, should you choose to accept it, is to devise a “morning ritual” which, if you did it for an hour or less every day, would, in 100 days create joyous effect, and in 1000 days change you forever.

Then the only question is how do you do it TODAY. And then tomorrow ask the same question. And again. And again.  Notice the effects.   Look into the causes.   Gather resources.  Increase leverage.  Interrupt negative patterns.  Start over again. And again. And again.

Just as you did when you learned to walk and talk.  You are ALREADY a master. When will you claim your heritage?

Namaste,

Steve

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5 comments

  1. There is a variant of #4 which often affects me. I have a clear idea how to proceed, but something seems to hold me back, sometimes for weeks or months. When this happens, it turns out that I had had a complete misunderstanding of what the task required. Once my subconscious had digested it, it becomes easy, but attempting to force a completion earlier than that leads nowhere.

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  2. 2, 3 & 5 particularly speak to me as reasons for avoiding. Part of that compassion and discipline is not letting your Beloved Child give away all your time, energy, etc. Very powerful Steve!

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  3. Well, I have been starting this process for years and have barely gotten up for the “morning”. This is a perfect time to restart my work with the “Diamond Hour” and “morning ritual”. As I downsize and clean-up my life, I keep running across barely started journals. I either need to throw them away or complete the work. I hate to throw anything away so my procrastination from the cleansing will be to do the “morning ritual”. Turning a procrastinating tendency onto it’s head.
    Here goes nothing, EVERYTHING, this time!

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    1. Your key will be to expect obstacles,and learn from them. The danger will be allowing setbacks to discourage you, so put a new resource into place–a friend, for instance, who you are “buddying” with and cross-supporting. Without some new element, you are likely to fall prey to old patterns. Good luck, hon!

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