Sunday, October 29, 2017

I have a demon

I have a demon.

My demon's name is Procrastination.

There are some of you out there who share this demon with me. Others of you just don't get the mind of the procrastinator.

If you haven't already seen this, please take a few moments and do so. It is worth it.

Really, watch the video. It's great.

Procrastination is something I've been dealing with for my entire life. My instant gratification monkey is very powerful. I'm very lucky World of Warcraft didn't exist when I was in college. I shudder to think what it would have done to my GPA.

Of course, I blame the game when it really is all on my shoulders.

You'd think procrastination would be more enjoyable. Isn't skipping your work to play games (or read a book or watch a movie...) a lot of fun? It isn't. Deep in your mind, you know that you're doing something you shouldn't be doing. The guilt from this knowledge makes the procrastinating less fun.

Why not do your work first? Just do the work and reward yourself with a game? It's the responsible thing to do.


I just can't stop myself. Pretty pathetic, huh?

One of the most powerful messages in Tim Urban's Ted Talk is that procrastination is at its worst when there are no deadlines. As he says, deadlines wake up the panic monster. A looming deadline forces the procrastinator to GET WORK DONE. Is the work as good as it would have been if you hadn't procrastinated in the first place? Of course not. But it gets done.

What if there's no deadline? Well, if there's no deadline panic never takes over and the work never gets done.

What kind of activities don't have a deadline?

Learning to play an instrument.
Learning a foreign language.
Learning to be an artist.
Getting a degree.
Getting in shape.

Why isn't my fourth novel done yet? Trust me... it could have been finished a long time ago. Over a year ago (at least). Why isn't it done? Instant gratification.

Unfortunately for the readers waiting for my next book, I don't feed myself with book royalties. If I did it would have an instant impact on my writing output. There would be a DEADLINE: Don't write and you don't eat. Don't write and you lose your car. Don't write and you get evicted.

I have a day job that I love. This means there is no writing deadline for me. I can take as long as I want to get my next book done.

I want TO HAVE FINISHED writing my novel. It's the finishing it that's getting in the way.

One of Tim Urban's visuals is what he calls a Life Calendar. He projected an image that showed one block per week of a ninety year life. It really wasn't a lot of blocks. That image fascinated me. You don't think there's a deadline to accomplish the things you want to do in your life? Our Life Calendar is an inescapable deadline.

I took his lifeline to heart and made one of my own.

I'm a positive thinker, so I made mine 100 years long. Each block is one week of a one hundred year life. I took things a little further than Tim Urban and then went and put a hash through each of the blocks I've already used.

The paper is at a slight angle. It doesn't look like it, but once I finish the current line I'm half way through my blocks.

I made a motto to go with my Life Calendar:


Is this depressing? I don't think so. I think it's inspiring. What am I going to do with this day? Am I going to waste it or am I going to make something of it?

Once it's gone I can never have this day back again.

After today I have one less day to live. 

For the past three weeks it has been my motto as I've awakened each morning at 4:55 AM to run my morning 5K. If I don't run today I've missed that chance forever. That day is gone. It is also my motto when I sit in front of the computer to work on my book after a day of being a teacher and a father and a husband.

What do I do when it's 9:00 PM and my instant gratification monkey is saying, "How about a game of World of Tanks? Won't it be fun?"

For the past three weeks I've looked at my Life Calendar and said, "F@#$ off, Monkey. I've got a book to write and after today I have one less day to live."