I procrastinated on doing hateful work.
I dreaded the one task I had to do for the entire day…read a postgraduate student’s upgrade document and fix it into a working manuscript to submit to a scientific journal.
Luckily for me, I got started by first recognizing how big this single ‘task’ really was.
This single ‘task’ was really 28 tasks
In fact, getting to an acceptable manuscript is a monumental task.
So I took to my drafting board (figuratively) and broke down this one ‘task’ into 28 tasks.
From one to 28 tasks. I don’t know what I was thinking when I first set out to tackle the ‘one’ task I had to do for the day.
Talk about sabotaging yourself.
In the past, I used to get frustrated whenever I broke the one perceived task into many smaller ones.
Now it is a relief.
All because the new task that I had to do for the entire day was to read the 77-page document and determine the main message of the document.
If I did not get the main message then my job to rewrite will be difficult.
Planning is not the same as taking action
I should have called it quits for the day as planning alone could exhaust you.
But then I thought, planning is just planning. It is not an action.
What I really wanted was to take some form of action to make progress on my work.
The problem was I was still dreading actually reading the document.
Fear leads to procrastination
I still delayed taking action.
I was afraid not of the one reading task ahead of me but of the ton of work to come.
The problem with breaking one task down into 28 tasks is that you see only the long journey ahead of you.
Because I had done rewrites of postgraduate students’ first drafts twice before, I knew the work about the time commitment to get it done.
So what I did was find ways to procrastinate on the one simple task of reading through the first draft.
How did I procrastinate?
I knew I still had to do the one task of reading the document. Just that one task would have made my day. So I read in bursts during the day.
Here is my time log. Rows highlighted in green were my actual work times. Rows in pink were my procrastination activities, non-meaningful activities that do not take me one step closer to my day’s goal.
|50 minutes||Read postgraduate student’s document|
|1 hour, 20minutes||Eat junk food and watch TV|
|15 minutes||Read postgraduate student’s document|
|3 hours||Read kindle book, nap, surf facebook, play game on my Kindle Fire.|
|40 minutes||Read postgraduate student’s document|
|3 hours, 45 minutes||Wash sheets, self-care, clean kitchen, play games, eat dinner, read Quora posts, surf Amazon|
|20 minutes||Read postgraduate student’s document|
|60 minutes||Prepare for bedtime|
In total, I spent 2 hours 5 minutes on my goal (reading the student’s document).
I spent the entire day stressing about a task that I could have done in the morning.
I could have completed it and then move on to something more enjoyable.
All I did was to allow the fear of doing hateful and hard work make me more anxious.
Hating the work makes the work more difficult and less enjoyable.
But I want you to note that even though I hated the work and I spread the task to do over the entire day, I still got the one task done.
In essence, hating the work makes you give up your power to it.
As Brene Brown says, you’ve got to “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
For me, preventing procrastination is a 7-point checklist.
My 7-point checklist to prevent procrastination
- Always chunk down the task.
For me, tasks, when chunked down good enough, should be doable within a two-hour time frame.
Each task should have one specific outcome. So you know the endpoint for the task.
Knowing the endpoint removes some of the uncertainty of the project.
- Every task has one type of action associated with it
The task should require one and only one form of action from you.
In my case, I had to only read the manuscript to determine the main message. That’s it. Nothing else.
No editing. No moving of sentences or paragraphs to ensure logical flow.
Sure I will note if such things would be required. But, I did not need to do them right away.
- Do the right things in the right order
Knowing the main message was the most critical task in fixing the document into a working manuscript.
Once I know what the main message is, I can rearrange lines and paragraphs to have a logical progression of thought in the writing.
Another example is that if you have to organize a stack of paper, then you don’t just start filing.
Instead, you will go over all pages and create say three separate piles. One pile is to be thrashed, another contains only pages that involve action on your part or someone else and the last pile are pages that should be scanned and filed.
Then you scan and file only the last pile.
- Schedule the work
Make a commitment to yourself to get the task done in a specific half day.
I have a phobia of scheduling down to the hour so I schedule by the half day.
No more whole day tasks for me. That is just too much time. There is a saying that the task fills the time allotted to it.
Instead, I write down what is the one task I need to do for this morning. Then the one more task for the afternoon, and finally one enjoyable task for the evening.
- Always schedule a reward right after the task that you are dreading
Having something enjoyable after the main task makes the work easier.
You will have something to look forward to so much that you wish you could be done with the dreaded task as soon as possible.
Then use the rule that there is no reward without the work.
An activity is a true reward when you know that you deserve it.
- Get into the appropriate frame of mind
Develop routines that get you straight to task.
Routines help guide you to the next best action for yourself.
If possible, develop your routines and habits so that you do your most high performing task at the beginning of your day, whether your day starts at 4 am or 4 pm.
- Remind yourself each day why you’re doing what you’re doing
Sometimes I forget why I should do what I say I will do.
I prevent this by reading my goals each day.
I wrote down my goals in my daily diary. I also wrote the reasons why each goal is important to me and I remind myself of them each morning/
You try now
My writing and the submission of manuscripts are most important to my current career goals.
I realized that procrastinating on taking action is self-sabotage.
So I developed my own model for taking action on my writing, even if it isn’t enjoyable.
Don’t follow my method.
The 7-point checklist works for me but it may not work for you.
So, take out a pen and a page, and perform a similar analysis as I have done in this post.
Develop your own plan to circumvent your procrastination.
Then, take action.