If you haven’t seen the movie What about Bob?, find it and watch it today. If you have problems with procrastination, watch this wonderful film twice. You’ll probably recognize yourself somewhere in the movie, and you might also see a plausible solution for dealing with procrastination: Baby Steps.
If you remember, Bob drove his psychiatrist stark raving mad, but before he was committed to the asylum, Dr. Leo M. Marvin had written a book titled Baby Steps. In it, he suggested tackling life’s problems in small, manageable units, rather than trying to conquer them all at once.
I know that I have problems with procrastination. In fact, when I examine all of my weaknesses, I can probably lump several of them together and file them under one big blanket heading: Procrastination.
- Problems with Clutter – Procrastination [I Put Off Throwing Things Away]
- Problems with a Dirty, Messy House – Procrastination [I Put Off House Cleaning]
- Problems with Weight Management – Procrastination [I Put Off Going on a Diet]
- Problems with Making Appointments for Doctors’ Visits, Dentist Visits, etc. – Procrastination [I Put Off Making the Call]
- Problems with Tax Season – Procrastination [I Put Off Getting My Taxes Prepared]
I decided that I needed to know more about my problems with procrastination, and I sought information from the website Psychology Today, where I found myself described several times Here:
” Twenty percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators. For them procrastination is a lifestyle, albeit a maladaptive one. And it cuts across all domains of their life. They don’t pay bills on time. They miss opportunities for buying tickets to concerts. They don’t cash gift certificates or checks. They file income tax returns late. They leave their Christmas shopping until Christmas eve.”
“Procrastinators tell lies to themselves. Such as, “I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow.” Or “I work best under pressure.” But in fact they do not get the urge the next day or work best under pressure. In addition, they protect their sense of self by saying “this isn’t important.” Another big lie procrastinators indulge is that time pressure makes them more creative. Unfortunately they do not turn out to be more creative; they only feel that way. They squander their resources avoiding.”
” Procrastinators are made not born. Procrastination is learned in the family milieu, but not directly. It is one response to an authoritarian parenting style. Having a harsh, controlling father keeps children from developing the ability to regulate themselves, from internalizing their own intentions and then learning to act on them. Procrastination can even be a form of rebellion, one of the few forms available under such circumstances. What’s more, under those household conditions, procrastinators turn more to friends than to parents for support, and their friends may reinforce procrastination because they tend to be tolerant of their excuses.”
I am not a lazy person. In fact, I work at one thing or another 12 to 18 hours every day. I laboriously dig in my garden and move mounds of dirt there. I write continuously, and I work hard at finding just the right phrases and words to express myself, but for me, gardening and writing can become ways to procrastinate from doing other things.
“Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don’t take a lot of commitment on their part. Checking e-mail is almost perfect for this purpose. They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure.”
I suggest that all procrastinators read the article at Psychology Today, but I’ll conclude with this final thought on the issue of procrastination:
“Procrastinators can change their behavior—but doing so consumes a lot of psychic energy. And it doesn’t necessarily mean one feels transformed internally. It can be done with highly structured cognitive behavioral therapy.”
I have decided to try a form of Baby Steps as my own cognitive behavioral therapy. I have begun making a list of things that I need to get done. Initially, when I began the list, my goals were too large and too general for me, the Procrastinator, to manage.
For instance, my messy house is an enormous problem for me, but it would be a mistake to add to my list: “Clean My House.” That goal is gargantuan and too vague for me to actually tackle. Although I have other studios, my bedroom has become my main workplace, but I also cannot clarify my list by simply saying, “Clean Bedroom.” That task is still unmanageable.
I need to break my list into small, bite-sized tasks that can be completed in an hour or less, and then I need to select ONLY one task and complete that one. In an hour or in a day, I need to complete one more task, and I need to continue to move forward until I have completely worked through my list.
To help organize myself, I have decided to keep a daily diary where I keep a running list of things that I need to do. I also want to begin writing morning pages every day, and I am organizing a daily diary type of journal, where I’ll have a form of the following To Do List for each day and the morning pages for that day, too. I don’t consider either of these things to be stuff that I am doing for any type of publication or self-expression. These are simply things that I intend to do to bring more order and functionality to my life. I found the following list online. This one might work for you, too. After I have completed a task on my To Do List, I’ll reward myself by checking that item off my list. You might prefer to give yourself a little smiley face or a star, but I believe that after an item on the list is completed, some sort of reward or ceremony is in order.
As you see below, after merely making my To Do List, I have already earned one star.
Here Is My List of Things to Do This Week Begins:
- Make a To Do List
- Get Blood Work Done
- Call the Family Practitioner for an Appointment
- Call the Eye Doctor for an Appointment
- Call the Ob-Gyn for an Appointment
- Call the Hair Dresser for an Appointment[Two
- Go to the Pharmacy – Shock them by picking up the meds that have been sitting there for 9 days.
- Paint the Rose Arbor
- Re-route the Grapevines
- Paint the Grape Arbor
- Paint the Hall Wall Going Down to the Art Studio
- Paint the Hall Wall Going Up to My Bedroom
- Mop the Art Studio Floor
- Move One Kitchen Pantry Cabinet
- Clean My Kitchen Stove
- Clean My Refrigerator Outside
- Clean My Refrigerator Inside
- Clean Off Dining Room Table – Completely – Leave No Stacks of Anything on It
- Clean Off My Credenza – Completely – Leave No Stacks of Anything on It
- Wash Sheets and Change Bed
- Clean Bathroom Sink Top
- Clean Toilets
- Mop Bathroom Floors
- Fill One Garbage Can with Junk to Throw Away that I Normally Would Not Throw Away. Regular trash does not count. [Two cans gets two listings and two stars]
- Completely Organize One Shelf in One Bookcase. [Two shelves gets two listings and two stars three shelves get three stars, etc.]
- Fill One Bag for Goodwill. [Two bags gets two listings and two stars, three bags three, etc.]
- Sort All of the Fleece Fabrics and Shelve Them
- Shelve All of the Cotton Fabrics
- Read One Chapter of this Month’s Book Club Book [Each chapter gets a separate listing and a separate star]
- Go Cut Bamboo to Create an Obelisk for the Children’s Garden
- Go Buy Seed for the Children’s Garden
- Plant Seeds in the Children’s Garden
- Write Morning Pages [Each morning page writing session gets a separate listing and a separate star]
- Go Outside Somewhere and Write about Something Growing or Flying or Flitting in my Garden, at the Beach, by the Wayside, etc. [Each outing gets a separate listing and a separate star]
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you conquer procrastination? In Baby Steps–One task at a time. How do you stick with your program? One star at a time.
©Jacki Kellum April 27, 2017