The Procrastination Trap

There’s a saying: “Why put off to tomorrow what you can put off altogether?” It’s a riff off the more popular: “Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can get done today.”

In the age of doing so much, staying on all the time, busy schedules and busier inboxes, it’s easy to procrastinate.

What I’ve realized is, the longer you put it off, the less likely it is to get done. Regardless of your intentions.

There is a cumulative power in putting this off, and two days postponed is greater than one plus one: it compounds.

Of course, this applies to work without deadlines. That’s a different form of procrastination, and any of us who have jobs or went to school recognize putting things off until the deadline looms.

Most of this insidious form of procrastination – putting off until it’s a vague notion in the back of your mind – spring up from personal projects. Things you might actually like doing. Yet, it put them off for the more “important” things.

If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to reprioritize.

One of the lists

There are many things I’m interested in. A bunch of them come across here on the blog. The vast majority of them in fact.

In trying to sort through the stuff I’ve accumulated, and my finances vs. my debts, and my time management obligations, and my work and gig schedule, and everything else that I do or plan to do – mostly it ends up in my pocket Moleskine at some point.

So what am I interested in? My list is partially in response to this article on building your own personal library.

I recall having a conversation with someone who at the time was helping me through a very rough patch of life. I was looking at a book, Akashic Records for Dummies, and of course, I didn’t need it. But I told her I’d planned on leaving a library of books after me. When I died. She said that any meaningful library left behind probably wouldn’t have a collection of For Dummies books. She tended to say smart things like that.

So here are my interests, more or less, of topics which may or may not appear on the blog, and which are listed here in no particular order:

  • Travel
  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy
  • Esoteric Studies
  • Work (How to work better, smarter, and for more money)
  • Finance & Investing
  • History
  • Japan, and to a lesser degree other Asian countries (focus on history, philosophy, language, and culture)
  • Art (Theatre, Visual Arts, Other Performing Arts)
  • Arts Management
  • Self-Help
  • Fiction (Fantasy, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Action, Literary)
  • Writing Studies
  • Videography and Photography
  • Memoirs, Biographies, and Autobiographies
  • Mythology

In looking at this, I realized how broad it all seemed. There are so many facets that can fit into each topic; some that overlap topics. I write this out now as I work on honing in onto what this blog will look like – especially over the next six months while I’m in Alaska.

Anyway, I’ll keep posting. And maybe someone will read it. And that’s about all anyone can do.

The least-talented professional

It’s hard for me to admit, but as a performer, I’m often not all that different from other performers I’m working with when it comes to talent. Occasionally, I’m the least talented one there.

Thing is, that rarely matters. What helps me is I come in with a positive attitude and a good work ethic. In most situations, as long as you can perform the basic minimum tasks, that’s all you need to keep the job. To stay, and even to get asked to do more, get promoted, or offered more pay. As long as your a pleasure to work with.

The world is full of people who can do the same work you can. Sometimes cheaper, sometimes faster, and sometimes better. But if others like working with you, that means more for your career than anything else you can do.

In Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art speech, he says the three things that keep people working are: 1) their work is good; 2) and because they are easy to get along with; 3) and because they deliver the work on time.

“…And you don’t even need all three. Two out of three is fine.”

 

How to decide what’s important

I’ve been asked many times, in many different ways, when will I find what I’m looking for? I’m asked this because I’ve jumped from job to job, picking up gigs along the way. I’ve traveled overseas and down south. I’ve acquired a couple of degrees (along with some debt), and I’m still looking at getting my Ph.D.

I have a half-dozen or so irons in the fire, so to speak. There’s a radio program I put together; some film & video work I still do; this blog; three gigs right now, which I’ll have reduced to one for the summer; and a couple of creative projects in the pipeline.

And I know it’s too much.

In one of the Weekly Roundups, I mentioned this blog post on working Smarter, Not Harder. I’ve taken some of the advice I gleaned from the posting, including trying to flesh out my goals. These are have proven enormously elusive to me, at least over the past four years.

I’ve seen what can happen when you have a singular focus and move methodically towards the goal. I’ve experienced it, and I know it works. Only when it happened, it wasn’t how I’d imagined it, and I now select goals with a bit more reluctance.

So as I take my time to list out my goals, for the short-term and the long-term, I think it’s important to (as I often say) be mindful and honest about what it is you’re searching for – what it is you want in life.

Once that’s done, the next step will be pulling the top three to focus on, which may yet be more of a challenge.

Making time to create

More often than not, when pressed for time we give up our own ambitions or creative work to make room for other things. The challenge, then, is to not push aside our creative work. Make time. Chisel it in stone into your calendar.

This is my time, for my creative work. It will not be altered.

Force yourself to work, and hold yourself accountable. That’s how to make meaningful projects come to life.

Why I post daily

This was an easy decision to make, but slightly more challenging to put into practice. Some days I easily write four or five posts to queue up. Other days it’s challenging to put a sentence down.

The prompt was Seth Godin’s interview with Tim Ferris on The Tim Ferriss Show (ep. 138). “The first thing I would say is everyone should blog, even if it’s not under their own name, every single day. If you are in public making predictions and noticing things, your life gets better. Because you will find a discipline that can’t help but benefit you. If you want to do it in a diary, that’s fine. But the problem with diaries is because they’re private, you can start hiding. In public, in this blog, there it is. Six weeks ago you said this; 12 weeks ago you said that. Are you able, every day, to say one thing that’s new that you’re willing to stand behind? I think that’s just a huge, wonderful practice.”

I like looking at the world – its working philosophies; the creative industries; environmental concerns and conservation efforts; books and publishing; and many other things that come into my attention. If I’m lucky, I have an original thought about them.

At the very least I have something to say about what’s happening, or maybe I just to shine a light on it.

And the world needs perspectives – of all shades – to be shared.

We work, then we ship

This blog is shipping. It’s a continuous reminder to me to get the work done. I’m at a point where I can now write every morning. I write here, and I write in my other media (at this time a novel, which I started during NaNoWriMo, but which has been a holdover).

Work completed isn’t much until we get it out. Really, it isn’t completed until you put it out. And it’s scary to put it out. There are times when I’d rather not see the finished product.

I do some work in improvisational acting, and that’s instantaneous shipping. That’s getting up, creating a scene (doing the work) and performing it in front of an audience (shipping), all in one moment. Terrifying!

But doing that, it’s helping me here. It’s helping me everywhere. Because in improv, as in any other work, it’s okay to fail. Maybe one project lands flat. Flatter than flat. Just put it in the dungheap and move on.

Seth Godin has a graph of shipping that looks like this:

6a00d83451b31569e2017ee8407661970d-500wi.jpgOriginal post here.

This is specifically for the publication of a book. But it applies to any artistic medium. The Y-axis is the joy you feel for the project, and the X-axis shows time passing with each milestone. I think data point 6 is even lower than what’s shown because fear can take hold. That resistance.

But it’s so important to ship. To accept that fear. That fear is a gift. It’s your body telling you that what you’re doing may very well be important. So don’t stop now. Accept the gift, and get your idea out there.

Love the art in yourself

I’ve spent the last week with the words of playwrights, actors, poets, philosophers, and directors. An eclectic mix, to say the least. What I’ve gathered in my journey is a collection of thoughts on acting, theatre, and art.

Constantin Stanislavski said to love the art in yourself, not your self in the art. For me, I think he’s warning against getting too big for your breeches. And that can happen anywhere, in any occupation.

When you get to feeling like you’re the best thing since sliced bread, even if you happen to be the best thing since sliced bread, something is wrong. Humility goes a long way in keeping you working. In keeping you producing. It’s when you start to lost that humility that you think anything you do is above reproach.

As the Chinese proverb says, the higher up, the greater the fall.

Finding inspiration

Something I heard long ago was about a songwriter who would frequently hear tunes  while driving. Like, original tunes, only in the mind. And it was frustrating, because while driving it’s hard to write down music (this was before cell phones and inexpensive voice recorders, but you get the idea).

The moral was, train your inspiration to come when you’re ready for it. Not when it’s convenient for your muse.

Somewhere in Stephen King’s On Writing, or perhaps in one of the interviews he’s given about writing, he says that the way he writes is to start at the same time every morning, write the same number of hours, take the same breaks. His inspiration comes during that time.

Certainly he may get ideas while showering, or taking out the trash. Notebooks and recorders are handy in that way. But mostly he puts ideas to paper during that time when he’s set down to write.

Thankfully, we are never lacking in ideas. Good, bad, indifferent, we think things up every day. Many aren’t original. Some are. Of the original, many are terrible. Some aren’t.

As Seth Godin says, ““If you put enough bad ideas into the world, sooner or later your brain will wake up, and good ideas will come.”

I thought of this because as I was waking up two mornings ago, I heard a whole song. An original song. I got as much of it down as I could, as I was just waking up and fumbling with the recorder. I unfortunately haven’t trained my muse in the same way.

Pursuit

It’s easy to be distracted. To fall off the bandwagon. Because pursuit is hard work.

It’s hard to maintain laser focus. To devote precious time to a specific activity.

We can’t be sure it’ll pan out. Sometimes we jump ship before reaching the goal, just because it’s difficult.

But imagine what finishing would look like. That’s what successful people do. They see it through to fruition.

Yes, sometimes they too will fail. Hard. Public, epic fails that make everyone cringe.

But not completing the pursuit is the only sure way to not succeed. Yes, you may not fail. You just won’t be

In fact, the true successes are those who have doggedly pursued their interest in spite of failure.