Contact and Coil | Nearly In Control



Beating Procrastination

I recently downloaded The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (by Steven Pressfield) for my Kindle and blasted through it. It was recommended by Seth Godin, etc., and I figured I’d give it a shot.

First of all, I couldn’t help but notice the irony: certainly reading a book about procrastination is, by definition, procrastination. Or is it just sharpening the saw? Well, I had just finished pushing out FluentDwelling so a little procrastination at starting the next project is probably understandable.

Secondly, the book is well worth a read. If you’re an artist, writer, engineer, entrepreneur, or really anyone that does creative work on a daily basis, this book is like a shot of caffeine. He starts off by describing what he calls “the Resistance”, which he manifests as the ever-present enemy of all of us. It’s the collection of invisible forces that keeps us from starting.

It made me do a little introspection of my own Resistance. I know that the key is to start working. The biggest thing that keeps me from sitting down and starting work is anticipation of interruption. Certainly we already know the dangers of being interrupted while working, particularly if you need to get into “the zone” to be productive in your job. The problem is that the negative consequence of possible interruption became so great that the anticipated consequence of the interruption was worse than the anticipated reward of getting work done. Interruption is a physical assault. It feels like being punched in the gut, and even though I can take a few of those in the course of the day, a constant pounding wears me down.

What was the consequence? Entire days lost to quadrant 1 (or worse yet, quadrant 3) activities. When you work at a place where, if you wait 15 minutes, someone will call you with some “urgent” problem, then it’s too demoralizing to start working on the bigger tasks (or the bigger tasks only get done after hours and on the weekend).

I’ve only, in the past few years, realized how hard you have to fight for the right to work even in the workplace. Pressfield describes every day as a battle, and he’s right. The stakes are high. The enemy is relentless. Here are some of the tactics I’ve employed:

  • No instant messenger
  • Email notifications are turned off – I check email on my schedule
  • I work from a prioritized to-do list
  • I automate myself first – increase your own productivity, then help others

What are the worst productivity killers I’ve experienced?

  • Being asked more than once a day for a status report
  • Not having the tools to do your job
  • The Web – which is a nasty double-edged sword, because it’s a productivity multiplier

I don’t win this battle every day, but my win-loss record is improving. This book is one more salvo deep into the gut of the Resistance. I’ll leave you with this quote:

We were put here on earth to act as agents of the Infinite, to bring into existence that which is not yet, but which will be, through us.

Maybe that’s a prayer to say before sitting down at my desk in the morning. I look forward to doing battle tomorrow.

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  • Tim · April 20, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Thanks for that Scott. Makes me realize my fear of being interrupted is a problem. I’ve taken to making micro goals in bigger projects to overcome it.

  • Author comment by Scott Whitlock · April 20, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    @Tim – it’s good to know we’re not alone, but somebody has to be the first to risk saying, “hey, is anybody else out there?” 🙂

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