Willpower is having the ability to do what you need to do, regardless if you feel like it or not. I concede, I falter on this virtue more often than I’d like to admit. It’s not even things I don’t want to do or don’t feel like doing. I’ll be super motivated to get something accomplished and the time comes for me to muster the willpower to finish, and I just collapse.
Having Power Animals for my eating habits works remarkably well. Unfortunately, no endangered species rely on my dedicating 2-3 hours a day to just writing. Not that I would wish for an animal to be in such dire straits that only my writing could save it, but it would be a powerful motivator for me to smash my writing goals each and every day.
I have borrowed willpower from conservation challenges around the globe to help motivate me to do what I need to do for a better planet and a better body. But I can’t shake my strong procrastination habit.
Reading the book “Willpower” by Roy Baumeister has given me inspiration that may just do the trick! He calls is “Positive Procrastination” and there is indeed a bit of evidence that procrastinating may be done to my own advantage.
People in a study demonstrated they could effectively avoid eating chocolate simply by telling themselves they could enjoy it some other time. The postponement method was shown to work better at resisting temptation than simply denying one’s pleasure. I wonder if that would work on my own issues. Facebook will always be there, I can enjoy it some other time. My writing, though, cannot wait.
Procrastinators have also shown that they typically avoid one task by doing something else. “anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t what they are supposed to be doing at that moment.” This resonates so well with me. While writing a section on reinforcement of incompatible behaviors for my fitness book, I was remembering how I quit smoking by replacing the habit of smoking with cooking every time I had a craving for a cigarette. Only now, certain triggers that used to send me outside for a cigarette now motivate me to spend all day in the kitchen. One of those triggers was a procrastination technique. If I wanted to stall, I’d have a cigarette for “a mental break” and to “clear my head”. So, now, having successfully replaced smoking with cooking for over a year, when I get overwhelmed or feel the urge to stall on a project I’m working on, I start experimenting with food. It’s still procrastination, but as Baumeister says “rarely does a procrastinator sit there and do nothing at all”.
Raymond Chandler, the author of “The Big Sleep” has a perfect solution to procrastinators like me, if I can just muster the courage to actually do it. He dedicates 4 hours every day to his writing. But he’s somewhat of a procrastinator too, so he tells himself if he doesn’t feel like writing, he shouldn’t try. If it’s his writing time, and he isn’t inspired, he lets himself stare into space, sit on his chair, twiddle his fingers, but he doesn’t allow himself to do any other “positive” action- he can’t read, he can’t write letters, organize his desk, nothing productive…except write. He claims “there are two simple rules- A) You don’t have to write. B) You can’t do anything else.”
Write or die of boredom. It’s powerful because I absolutely loathe sitting still. Even now, when I visit my family and go to church with them, I can’t sit still in the pew for more than 5 minutes without my mind going out of control with wandering thoughts, ideas, and brainstorms. This philosophy is also why I’ve rented space at a co-works away from the apartment. When I go there, I can’t do anything but write.
Which is probably why I’ve avoided it this week! Guess I’ll have to remedy that soon…