Mink Machine

The art of defeating procrastination

Every now and then, there may be a time when you feel your brainpower is diverted towards lesser goals instead of focusing on the issues at hand. A time of procrastination. This phenomenon is not reserved for writers as it may hit everyone doing creative work in any form.

Procrastination is by nature modifying your mood, but it’s usually a short-term bliss. After all, the most precious resource we all have is time.

Apart from the obvious things such as disabling your IM client and those annoying new mail notifications, to really beat procrastination instead of just postponing it, you will need to consider that it’s all in your own brain. One of the origins of procrastination is your own anxiety, so trying to understand (or simply acknowledge) your feelings on the matter is a good way to start.

Another thing to consider is the FOMO factor (Fear Of Missing Out). Catching up on every subscribed blog may seem important at the moment, but it will probably keep you away from entering the flow needed for those extraordinary bursts of creativity.

Your flow may also be interrupted by external factors such as noise or colleagues. Jason Fried makes several great points in his TED Talk “Why work doesn’t happen at work”. He names the problem M&Ms (Managers and Meetings) and compares the creative flow to a good nights sleep.

You may feel overwhelmed by a large task. A classic approach is to start working at a small part to get the ball rolling, but what about the feelings that cause the dread in the first place? What is on the other side of that fear?

Procrastination could also come from a sense of perfectionism, which unchecked may lead to “analysis paralysis” which makes you an easy target for the temptation of distractions. Are you in the flow “zone” or just busy? Michael Lopp calls it the Faux-Zone and describes it in his post A Precious Hour like this: “It is a place intended to create the same rewarding sense of productivity and satisfaction as the Zone, but it is an absolutely fake Zone complete with the addictive mental and chemical feedback, but there is little creative value.”

The Pomodoro Technique may be a way forward. Set a kitchen timer or similar to maximum 25 minutes, then do the work during this time slot. When the alarm rings, take a short break and then start over again with a new 25-minute time window.

There are lots of great resources out there on the topic of procrastination. For instance, have a look at the article Conscious Procrastination by Steve Pavlina. Additional reads include Good and Bad Procrastination, Kick procrastination’s ass and Patching your personal suck.


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