How to Cure Procrastination and Build Better Habits

I have a serious problem sometimes. Maybe I should say “Had” a serious problem. Although to be honest, it still crops up from time to time.

Steven Pressfield in War of Art would call it “Resistance”. Maybe Gretchen Rubin would call it a bad habit.

It’s procrastination, my friends.  Mixed, to be honest, with self-loathing, insecurity, and feeling like I’m not “enough”.

I get asked about this quite a bit, and I’ve wrestled with overcoming it to the point where I feel like I can write about it some more.

The Biggest Helps in Fighting Procrastination.

I feel like I need to put first things first and give credit where credit is due. I had help in overcoming my bad procrastination and insecurity habits.

I have to give credit to a few books and those who recommended them.

My friend Sandi who went from dirt poor to living comfortably was always talking about Pressfield’s book The War of Art. I have to admit. It took me two years to get through this book, not because it was a drudgery (it’s actually a very easy read) but because it was so darn convicting. I was hit with this overwhelming sense of, “Oh my goodness is this guy reading my mind or what?” It’s been on the front page of my Kindle reading list since 2013. I re-read it from time to time when I need a swift kick in the seat of my pants.

Pressfield refers to procrastination, insecurities, and anything that holds us back as “resistance”. Since reading it, I’ve come to realize where resistance lurks, and how to overcome it.

Then my friend Teresa handed me a copy of Gretchen Rubin’s book Better than Before. Given that her previous book was called The Happiness Project, I sort of rolled my eyes and decided to only pretend like I read it. I mean, can you say, cheesy?

As it turns out, both Better than Before and The Happiness Project are great reads, the cheesy title of the latter aside.

Of the two, I prefer Better than Before as I’m more of a nuts and bolts sort of person.  She offers some great insights and helps in getting started forming better habits to help you in life, in a very realistic way.

If possible I strongly recommend getting either or both of these books. They’re worth it.

Understanding Procrastination

From the start, I didn’t fully understand procrastination.

How to cure procrastination and build better habits

I actually viewed procrastination for a long time as a sort of character flaw or moral failing on my end. I was forever trying to improve myself, do better, try harder, etc. Maybe this natural, innate drive that has been in me since childhood is what caused me to fall headlong into a legalistic counterfeit of Christianity for so long (as opposed to simply walking with Jesus and trusting in Him).

As it turns out, I started realizing, thanks to both of the books I mentioned above, that much of the struggle I have always had with procrastination (followed by beating myself up) came from not fully believing in my own abilities and talents.

I suppose people can go to the other extreme. I was raised by one parent who is a manipulative narcissist, so I always felt on some level like the two choices were between being a crazy narcissist who thought their septic tank smelled like roses, or not believing anything I did was of any merit or value. There is a middle ground, you know.

I suppose it’s best summed up by Christian singer Keith Green…

Just give Him your best

Pray that it’s Blessed

Jesus Takes care of the Rest.

 Ignoring the Dissenting Voices

Do you want to know what will let the wind out of your sails sooner than you can get this boat out of the harbor?

Listening to critics.

For reasons unknown, I was always taught and lead to believe that the BEST way to learn and grow is to listen to those who criticize you instead of only listening to those who are on your team.

There is some truth to that. Just sitting around with a harem of sycophants and adorers isn’t going to help either if what you’re doing is terrible work.

What I’m talking about, however, is ignoring those dissenting voices that don’t matter. If you’re doing what you are meant to do, and are called to do, and you have an audience that needs your skills and message, press on and ignore them.

In other posts, with reference to writing for the web and starting up a side hustle, I’ve written about figuring out who your audience (or target market) is, and directing what you do to them.

Negative Comments and Reviews

That advice came out of me learning this lesson. It’s not just about marketing. It’s also about growing as a person and learning which critics matter and which to ignore.

Nearly ten years ago now, I wrote a book on frugal grocery shopping, and I had very good reviews on Amazon for the most part. 4 stars on average. Yeah, me!

However, it was those handfuls of negative reviews that got me down. It took Sandi giving me a copy of War of Art, and some other tough love to help me realize that those voices didn’t matter. If these grouchy people thought my money saving tips were too extreme or too crazy, then they obviously weren’t broke enough to need this book. They could go read one of the books about paying off $10,000 worth of debt in 10 weeks, and I could continue to write to people who didn’t even make $10,000 in 10 weeks.

Negative “Friends” and Relations

It wasn’t just reviewers though. There are those in our lives who somehow demean or discourage unintentionally,

  • Oh, that’s cute. You have a blog? What about a J-O-B?
  • If you were that good, you’d have a real publisher publishing your books
  • Stop listening to your friends telling you how good your little pictures are. They are only encouraging you so they can laugh behind your back.
  • You really think people are going to pay for your drawings? Maybe you should spend less time doodling and more time cleaning your house.

You know what? Even if you’re related to someone who doesn’t value you or the skills you have, it doesn’t mean you have to listen to stuff like that. I wish I had learned that less 40 years ago. Some people are just miserable and upset they didn’t have the courage to use their talents or follow their dreams.

Do the Next Thing

I really believe that getting your head right, especially if you grew up with negative voices in your brain or for whatever other reason have an inferiority complex, is crucial. It’s not something that can be covered in one blog post. Counselors and therapists can help, as can good books that encourage (see above).

The other thing that helps is to stop with the endless planning (which Pressfield again identifies as “resistance”) and just do the next thing. And then keep doing it. One foot in front of the other. Pressing on.

Experts agree that it takes 21 days to form a habit. 

While trying to form a habit, I try to ignore anything that will distract me from it:

  • Exciting offers
  • Opportunities to get involved in….
  • What Google Analytics, Pinterest Analytics, other Analytics, and my Klout Score says
  • How many people just unliked my Facebook page
  • Any reviews of my ebooks
  • My financial situation (as much as possible….you don’t want to bounce checks…)

And I just press on….

 

 

 

 

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