“My mother always told me I wouldn’t amount to anything because I procrastinate. I said, ‘Just wait.”
― Judy Tenuta
I am a master procrastinator. So impressed am I by my great skill, I’ve actually researched this great art. In my search, I found this quote from one of my favorite authors:
“The scholar’s greatest weakness: calling procrastination research.”
― Stephen King, 11/22/63
Yes, that was not a good sign, I was now getting busted by my quotes.
I needed to find something to help me get something done. I’d become too proficient at finding ways to push things off until tomorrow.
What do I do and where do I start?
This is when I discovered MOOCs. What in the world are MOOCs? They are Massive Open Online Courses. They are free–unless you want a certificate of completion. There are many courses available on just about every subject imaginable. I began with a MOOC called Learning about Learning with Barbara Oakley, Ph.D. This course was exactly what I needed. Each lesson taught me new methods of learning. Not only that, this new way of learning gave me the opportunity to start something and successfully complete it. Completing something is a very big thing for a procrastinator. Because I found the entire course so interesting, I wanted to get all I could out of it.
One of the biggest things I was able to add to my brand new writer’s toolbox was the Pomodoro technique. By using this technique, I’ve been able to write and share my stories daily.
Let me share with you my Pomodoro technique.
Before putting my new tool into practice, I needed to totally commit to making my stories happen. I had to tell myself I was ready to step out of my own comfort zone. I was ready to put my writing out there and risk criticism. What made this work for me was the fact this was an investment in myself for myself. What anyone else thought was okay. If people read my stories and liked them, I’d been given an extra special bonus. If they did not, I was ready to let it go.
Using the Pomodoro technique has become my routine. When I sit down to write, whether it’s my morning pages or my stories, all electronic devices are off and out of reach. Any sounds that could disrupt me are silenced. As Professor Oakley points out in one of her lessons, music can be a good thing to have in the background. She cautions listening to music with lyrics. I’ve always studied with music. To prove or disprove this for myself, I did a quick experiment–playing music with and without lyrics. I was surprised. Within a few minutes of starting the playlist of songs with words, my thought process was distracted and I felt off, almost irritated. After switching to the instrumental playlist, my mind began to settle back down, I felt more at ease, my thoughts flowing smoothly along with the music. Maybe this was a reflection of my age. Whatever the reason, my background music is now instrumental, mostly classical or Celtic in nature.
Once I have all my distractions out-of-the-way, I set a timer for twenty to thirty minutes. If I am tired, I dial in twenty. If I’m feeling rested and ready, I dial in thirty. I’ve found a timer is important. Without that, I was always checking the time. Even with the timer set, it took time for me to trust that the timer was set and working. After a few days, my mind had trained itself to let go and work. For that twenty to thirty minutes, my focus is on working on my specific task–the ONLY goal is to work on this one thing for the designated amount of time. My focus is not on getting it done. My focus is on working.
Once the time has expired, it’s time for a reward. That reward is very important–take the reward you have set up for yourself. Whether it’s checking your email or your phone for text messages–do it. There have been times when I needed a big break in order to rest my mind so I can do a final proofread. These are the times when I go outside for a short walk around the yard or around the block. During these breaks, my subconscious mind is working away on the loose ends of my project. When I return for my next session, the words I’d been searching for are often right there for me.
If you’ve never tried this technique before, give it a try. It took me a good week to really get comfortable using it and adapting it to my specific way of working. Within a few days of continued success, I was sold. What surprised me was how each successful experience fostered more successful sessions. I am learning that nothing beats down procrastination faster than the sweet feeling of a job well DONE.
“Success is not obtained overnight. It comes in installments; you get a little bit today, a little bit tomorrow until the whole package is given out. The day you procrastinate, you lose that day’s success.”
― Israelmore Ayivor
Sending you all love and prayers for many blessings.