I am a professional procrastinator.
Well, I would be a professional but I keep putting off applying for the business license.
It all started in grade school when I would put off a ‘hard’ homework assignment in favor of finishing a coveted book. I hated that I did it, hated that I would put all this stress on ‘The Thing’ whatever it was. Usually ‘The Thing’ wasn’t just something that was tedious or time consuming, but something that I’d built up in my head as being difficult, when had I just sat down to do it, it would have been handled.
This evolved into a skill that I didn’t realize I needed: The ability to get hard things done in a short amount of time because I had no other option.
I mean, sure, I could have just NOT done the thing at all…but multiple punishments and consequences of not doing ‘The Thing’ made that option not just unpleasant but in some cases, unbearable.
Procrastination stems, I have come to figure out, from a deep seated need to be perfect in what we do. I tell myself all the time, “I can’t write that next scene because I haven’t figured out what happens next!” or “Well, Work In Progress number 3 needs to be done…but I’ve got a month before I have to submit anything to that place, so I’ve got time to do it.”
The answer to my bad habit? Self-inflicted deadlines with dire and horrendous consequences.
Don’t want to finish your rough draft for the Writers of the Future contest? Hmm. You’ve got until Sunday or no Walking Dead for you.
Won’t put your words in on this project this week? If you can’t get them done by Friday, I don’t really think you NEED those ice cream cones this time around.
Oh! Did a new Asimov Magazine come out? Oh…but you didn’t finish your second round of edits on the work in progress? Shame. You’d better get that story combed or your husband is locking away your eReader.
When I was in college, my projects were finished at a much higher percentage than when I graduated. I had DEADLINES. And knowing that something only had x amount of days to be completed gave me motivation and drive. When I work on a story for a contest, I do use all the days I have available, and maybe my submission slide in underneath the lowering door of that time limit, but it doesn’t matter. As long as they are SUBMITTED, I’m not going to worry that I only had 1 hour to get them done. They are finished and that’s the victory.
Now, as I mentioned, the procrastination hasn’t gone away. I still put things off. But giving myself a deadline for each step along the path gives me time to still get something done without giving up all together.