The coffee shop I was sitting in was about to close. It was late and I’d been there for hours, pounding away at my response to a request from an institutional review board with whom I was conducting some research.
I’d been in that coffee shop, off and on, for many days, hemming and hawing, stalling, and wasting large chunks of time distracting myself with anything other than the work I didn’t want to do.
However, this night was different…
Normally I look for spaces in my calendar where I can carve out big chunks of time to fully concentrate all my effort on just one thing. I dream of a clear workspace, no phone ringing, pencils all sharpened and lined up neatly (this must be some throwback to taking statewide exams in school since I don’t even use pencils).
But this never happens.
And truthfully, that’s not how progress happens anyway. Having the perfect, unencumbered chunk of time is not where the work gets done.
It seems to get done in between all the other stuff that makes up my day.
I’ll admit it, when I’ve had an entire day to work on something, it rarely gets done. The distractions are too many and any alternate task suddenly becomes more interesting.
“Oh, I think I should sweep out the garage.”
Even if I have just one phone call to make on those days, it might take the entire day just to pick up the phone.
No, the work gets done in chunks, the way Michelangelo chipped away at a piece of marble.
Chip, chip, chip…
I know this. You know this. So why don’t we stop using “the lack of quality time” as an excuse for not moving out smartly? Because it seems too hard to start something big in the space of something small.
But the magic happens in the starting…
- Open a blank document and tell yourself you’ll just type anything for 2 minutes.
- Pull out a business card and put your hand on the phone.
- Sort ten photographs.
I had been putting off for days (okay, actually weeks) beginning the response to that review board. Just thinking about it made my stomach churn.
I spent more time dreading the effort than would have been required to actually do it.
Then One Day…
Then one day, in a moment of weakness while pondering a photograph of Michelangelo’s “Moses,” I told myself I would just pick out one item and complete the required task.
I opened the corresponding documents and began making changes. Fifteen minutes later I was both thrilled and baffled at how much I had accomplished, how much I had chipped away.
And the best part? I was now exhilarated and motivated to do more. Yes!
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed.”
I know you have some giant project looming in your peripheral vision. You can see it swaying there like a drunken ogre just taunting you as you continue to sidestep and look away.
Today, as a cure for procrastination, I want you to stop, turn and face it, and just begin.
That’s all, just begin it.
Give yourself a short time limit too if that helps – say 15 minutes. You can do anything for 15 minutes. Then let me know in the comments below how much you got done or how you have found a cure for procrastination that works for you.
Chip, chip, chip…
What To Do Now
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