How to Procrastinate Procrastinating, Part 1

This article is part 1 of 2 exploring procrastination avoidance. It’s written by Dr. Nadine Robinson, DBA, International MBA, B. Comm., a freelance writer, professor, and keynote speaker based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Nadine is a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada and the Canadian Freelance Guild. Join her on her adventures by following her @theinkran.

How to Procrastinate Procrastinating

Have you ever spent three weeks avoiding a task that only took you 20 minutes to complete? And when you were done you laughed at yourself for being so anxious for so long about something that wasn’t that bad? What’s worse is that you also probably worried or stressed about the task 10 times longer than it took you to complete it?

Overcoming our human desire to sometimes put off work, called procrastinating, all comes back to Sir Edmund Hillary’s quote: “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

On my journey to conquer Mount Nadine, I realized that while everyone is prone to procrastination, freelance writers, who are drawn to a world of deadlines, are often some of the best put-er-off-ers out there. I crave the last minute rush to shift my brain into high gear, and I feel like I do some of my best writing last minute. Academics call this purposeful delaying of work “active procrastination.” I don’t see active procrastination as a problem, since it is thoughtful and purposeful.

On the other hand, there are plenty of freelance writing-adjacent activities that I don’t like, and avoiding them due to some negative association is called “passive procrastination.” Whether it’s me not wanting to have a talk about my business and personal finances, or needing to draft a pitch or a book query that I’ve been putting off, I needed some help.

Strategies to Procrastinate Procrastination

Through a number of online searches, and viewing generative AI bots’ results, I boiled down the majority of passive procrastination avoidance advice to this list:

I’ve used all of these methods to varying degrees, and I’ll go over my favourites in more detail in Part 2. But to begin the process, I needed to start with some introspection, as current research is pointing to the importance of positive self-talk in minimizing procrastination. I set out to unpack why I procrastinate, and I did an overhaul on my thinking about the tasks I was tending to avoid the most.

Unpack Why You Procrastinate

We all have parts of freelance work that make us feel like we’re trying to put two north magnets together. For me, I dislike pitching, and then later opening the emails from the editors I pitched. When diving into why I was procrastinating, insecurity and fear were at the source. The anxiety of being told that “they” don’t want me and my writing, or that my writing is no good, can be debilitating. This is the same reason that I shelved a book that is 70 per cent done.

Statistically though, I have quite a good rate of acceptance for my work, and I have to remind myself, “What if they accept your pitch?” And as Wayne Gretzky once said: “You will miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take.” Every pitch you don’t make will shield you from rejection, but it will also keep you from success.

Another reason for procrastination can be medical. For people living with ADHD and depression, you, like me, may need professional help to develop sound strategies or consider medication to address procrastination and other symptoms. This is nothing to be ashamed of, as some of us are simply wired differently.

As someone living with depression, I am also kind to myself when the black dog shows up. I forgive procrastination and do my best to get back on track as quickly as possible. Otherwise, it can be too easy to get in a delay death spiral, guilting myself for not starting sooner, causing me to avoid the task further.

Thinking Differently About Unpleasant Tasks

There was a quote attributed to David Barr Kirtley that really hit me (pun intended): “Wanting to be a writer and not wanting to be rejected is like wanting to be a boxer and not wanting to get punched.” If you’re going to write, unless you never try to be published, you will face rejection. Research now shows that positive self-talk, and being kinder to ourselves helps not only in dealing with rejection, but also in reducing passive procrastination. (Positive self-talk has also been linked with reporting lower anxiety, and higher satisfaction with life. [source])

Earlier this year, while submitting articles for an award (a task that gives me great anxiety), I caught myself thinking: “There’s no point…last year I wasn’t shortlisted.” Negative self-talk can become self-fulfilling, so I quickly refocused. I reminded myself that my articles are like Picasso’s paintings, and the judges were probably looking for a Monet. It doesn’t make my work any less important, and it’s not a reflection of my talent.

Don’t tell yourself that you are a bad writer when in truth most rejection probably has nothing to do with you or your skills. Zig Ziglar, the sales guru and author, said of rejection: “You’re one ‘no’ closer to a ‘yes’.” To reframe negative to positive self talk, remind yourself instead of the times when your pitches were accepted, and when you were published.

For me, procrastination has always been rooted in fear, and I’ve definitely self-sabotaged with negative self-talk. The most profound difference for me in finding happiness with my chosen freelance writing, which is steeped with rejection and deadlines, was adjusting my thinking about my least favourite tasks and being more self-compassionate. As I climb the mountain to conquer my procrastination, now I lean into Erin Hanson’s prose:

There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling, What if you fly?”

Posted on May 30, 2024 at 5:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: 

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