Sometimes you get a mirror held up to your face and you recognize yourself in ways that had never occurred to you before. That was the case when I began reading The More You Do, The Better You Feel, a book about procrastination. I have, for a really long time, jokingly referred to myself as a procrastinator, and I say “jokingly” because who really thinks of procrastination as a serious condition? I certainly didn’t, and never really gave much mind to my habit of putting things off, much to the dismay of my take-charge-take-action husband who could never really understand why it took me 3 weeks to complete a simple task like paying my car insurance. But when I started reading this book, I understood for the first time, just how debilitating procrastination can be.
Within the first few pages of this book, I was saying to myself “oh wow, this guy GETS IT.” the author, David Parker, understands first hand what it’s like to be a chronic procrastinator and gives his personal story of falling down the rabbit hole of avoidance and low self-esteem that procrastinating can bring. I began underlining sentences, then paragraphs and finally just putting an X next to passages that had me vigorously nodding my head in agreement. Suddenly I felt like I had an answer to “why can’t I just DO this???” which is a question I have asked myself for several years in regards to not only weight loss, but housekeeping, and paying bills before they’re due.
Parker puts procrastinators into 2 groups: casual procrastinators and habitual procrastinators. The difference between the two being casual procrastinators might let dirty dishes pile up in the sink for a day or two, whereas habitual procrastinators will avoid the dirty dishes to the point of going out and buying paper plates and plastic-ware so they don’t have to deal with the dishes at all (an example Parker uses in his book). I think I would identify as a casual procrastinator with one foot firmly planted in the habitual camp. I will wait to do dishes until right before I go to bed, or I will pay my bills online the day they are due. I seem to come in right under the line but manage to keep things going without many consequences. I do think my weight struggle is in part due to my procrastination and that has NOT been without consequence, obviously.
The book is in two sections with the first part titled Understanding Procrastination and the second titled Into Action. In this first section Parker talks about how procrastinators think and how they come to be the way they are as well as listing 25 characteristics, traits, and behaviors of procrastinators. I could list them all out here for you, but instead I’m going to share the ones that I relate to the most:
- waiting until The Right Time to act, except the right time never comes, so nothing gets done.
- a profound dislike for tasks that are complicated or take more than a few minutes to accomplish
- being easily distracted from tasks
- worrying that if I’m able to do xyz now, shouldn’t I always be able to do it?
- feeling like I’ve earned the right to do nothing once I do complete a large task (this could relate to that feeling of “I’ve done so well on my diet this week, I deserve to take a break with this double dip chunky chocolate hot fudge sundae).
- feeling envy that other people have seemingly superior abilities
- have all-or-nothing feelings
- feeling impatient and frustrated much of the time
I imagine most people feel this way at some time or another, but I think procrastinators feel this way most of the time – I know I do – and it becomes what feels like a huge insurmountable obstacle to happiness.
In the second section, Parker discusses ways in which the procrastinator can begin to change his/her ways, but first he goes through what he calls The Golden Rules of Overcoming Habitual Procrastination (found in Chapter 9). There are eleven rules total, but here are the ones that spoke to me particularly:
- Always keep the promises you make to yourself.
- The primary goal of accomplishing your tasks is to increase your self esteem.
- Be wary of making harsh or inappropriate self statements.
- Understand there will be consequences for your inaction.
- Take the pressure off yourself by developing patience from within.
The subject of self-esteem comes up many times in this book and I had honestly never really linked my procrastination to my low self esteem, but I can see now how avoiding tasks can keep someone from feeling good about themselves.
The way out of habitual procrastination, according to Parker, is to use The J.O.T Method™ that he developed. This method is very simple, but very effective in helping the procrastinator to getting things accomplished. I don’t want to give away The J.O.T Method™ here, but just know that it is something anyone can do. It involves making a list, but the technique is special because it gives your instant gratification and genuinely makes you feel as if you have accomplished something at the end of the day.
I appreciate that Parker included a section in his book on dealing with setbacks, because as we all know, changing a habit is not a linear experience. There will be times when you are nailing it every day, but then those times come up where life just seems to get in the way and you end up right back at square one. He has tips for dealing with setbacks and things to look out for that might lead to having a setback. I like an author who can accept his readers are human and might have trouble adapting to change.
Overall, I found this book to be incredibly helpful and insightful. It explained a lot of things about myself that I had never really taken the time to question, and it gave clear answers to those questions I didn’t even know I had. I recommend this book for anyone who has referred to themselves as a procrastinator, whether casual or habitual, and also to those who sometimes just have trouble getting started and/or finishing tasks. I feel that it was really worth my time to read this book and also worth my time to review it for you here. I hope that it will help someone else who may be suffering.
Here’s where you can get the book (not an affiliate link): http://amzn.com/1935880012