Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 311: Mantra Monday - Be Inspired... But Show Up and Get the Work Done!

... But Show Up and Get The Work Done!
Sometimes it feels impossible to just sit down at my desk and make progress on my dissertation (or fellowship applications... or my unending email backlog... or - gasp! - blog posts...).  The truth is, I've had a bad habit of procrastinating for as long as I've had responsibilities. I know no easy cure.  Procrastination means feeling obsessive urges to clean my kitchen before I can write a sentence.  It means "needing" to organize my closet before I can my second sentence. It means playing games of solitaire between every completed paragraph of a 20-page paper (I'm not kidding).  It means feeling anxious often.   Like a lot of creative types, I wax poetic about needing "inspiration."  Often, it doesn't show up, so I get "inspired" by looming deadlines.  All-nighters ensue, and I end up needing days to recover.

Back in high school and college this process felt kind of romantic and special.  Emergency deadlines made life exciting, and I wasn't even jealous of those folks who ran their races the "slow-and-steady" way (how boring!)  But these days putting things off just makes me feel immature (while procrastinating) and then as though I've aged rapidly and painfully (when recovering from said procrastinating).

The good news is that I've improved dramatically since college.  Instead of being motivated only by the "stick" of looming deadlines, I occasionally move towards the "carrot"of feeling sane, productive, and well-rested.  I've also abandoned the myth that I work "best" under pressure, because I don't.  Instead, I know that I write best when I'm feeling positive and confident, and when I regularly set small, achievable goals (and then accomplish them).  Even knowing these things, I still struggle with procrastination.

I recently found myself on a website offering advice on "how to overcome procrastination" (I should have been working... ironic, eh?).  I read this quote and found it compelling (perhaps even... inspiring!):
I think Mr. Close (a painter - I googled) has a good point.  Waiting for some kind of phone-call-from-The-Almighty each workday is foolhardy at best, egomaniacal at worst.  I agree with Woody Allen's similar insistence that "80 percent of life is just showing up."   Yet I'm still not anti-inspiration.  The truth is that I could never work on anything that didn't, itself, inspire me.  That's not something I'll ever give up, but it's a truth I need to take more seriously during those times when I feel stuck.   I fundamentally believe that the questions I ask in my research are important and interesting.  I believe even more strongly that teaching has the potential to change my students' lives (well, when I'm lucky enough to have a teaching position anyway) .  Finally, blogging makes writing FUN! (How's THAT for inspiring?)  So, this week, I'm determined to not wait for inspiration to "strike." but to instead to focus on what I KNOW inspires me....  To "be inspired" .... but then "show up and get the work done."

Anybody else out there battled procrastination? If so... share tips!  Or share your pain.  Feel free procrastinate on whatever you "should" be doing, by commenting on my blog.  :)

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  1. i procrastinate when I'm not too sure how to complete the task/assignment/chore. So when i know that i don't know how to do it, i set tiny goals to get it done and then once i overcome that hurdle i enjoy finishing it!

  2. Waiting for inspiration is like waiting for Mr. Right. It/He will show up as soon as you stop looking for it.

    And I'm a total procrastinator. I have to say though, inspiration does tend to show up as the deadline looms. I think my best strokes of brilliance have come at the final hour.....usually, but sometimes I've sent out mediocre stuff I'm not too proud of. So I've started making fake deadlines, and that works. Schedule yourself an hour or a day or a week ahead, to finish a project. If you're busy enough and your schedule is full enough, you'll forget when it's really due and therefore not cheat...too much.

  3. I am a college student and ironically, I'm procrastinating on reading. I'm currently looking for ways to help me stay on track when reading things that don't interest me or are difficult to understand. My issue is I have a short attention span so I never finish things completely. I'm ready to be done with my BA so I need to do well in order to pass my classes and check courses of my academic plan. I really hope I can find ways to not procrastinate on reading/ while reading.

  4. I struggle with the big "P'. one thing that helps is remembering that inspiration often comes after I make myself start work.

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