The More You Do, The Better You Feel – Book Review

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

The More You Do The Better You Feel

Interesting conversation with my husband

In keeping with the theme of procrastination for this month, I wanted to discuss a conversation I recently had with my husband about laundry. Yes, laundry. I know, super exciting, but hang with me for a moment, it gets interesting.

We were packing up and getting ready to head home from a weekend getaway with the kids when my husband asked where the dirty laundry should go. I pointed to a trash bag stuffed full of towels, swim suits, socks, and other items that we had worn throughout the weekend, sighed heavily and said woefully “I can’t wait to get home and spend the rest of my weekend doing LAUNDRY”. He said “You act like you don’t like doing laundry” to which I replied “Nobody likes doing laundry!! Do YOU like doing laundry???” He quietly said “Well, sort of…I mean, I like having clean clothes, so yeah, I like doing laundry.”

Whoa.

Back the truck up!

My procrastinator’s brain had never considered that thought before. In my mind, doing laundry = unpleasant task because I would rather be doing something else. It never occurred to me that doing laundry = pleasant task because of the outcome of  clean clothes. I think as a procrastinator, I tend to focus on instant gratification and how what I’m doing is making me feel RIGHT NOW. Digging clothes out of the hamper and loading them into the washer is not a pleasant task – and that’s what I focus on when I’m doing laundry. If, however, I can shift my thinking into “it’s going to feel so good to get this laundry done!” the task at hand might not be so unpleasant.

In relation to weight loss, this can be explained in why it’s sometimes so hard for me to step away from the cookies or get up early to work out. I’m so focused on the taste of the cookie or how comfy my bed feels that it’s difficult to wrap my head around the concept doing something “unpleasant” now is going to yield outcomes that make me feel really good in an hour. For a long time, I never understood how runners could keep doing something that they themselves often deem as awful or hard, but now I think I’m beginning to see that they run for the good feeling they get afterward. Unpleasant task = good outcome, therefore they keep doing the hard thing. *lightbulb*

My husband is not a procrastinator. He takes care of things as soon as they come up, or often before they come up. He is very proactive and also what I call a Long Term Thinker. He is very good at supposing things that might come up long term  and planning ahead and being proactive. I, on the other hand tend to spend most of my time flying by the seat of my pants. In our years together, I have improved and I’m getting better, but I still have a ways to go before I’m up to his level of adulthood. 🙂

In the days since our conversation, I’ve thought a lot about what my husband said and how I can apply it to other chores I tend to put off because they seem unpleasant:

  • At my job, I do a lot of filing and my File Pile can get very tall in a short amount of time. I really dislike filing, but I love seeing that empty space on my desk. So I’ve been trying to file more often, which when I do it more regularly, takes less time overall. Winning!
  • I dislike having to wash my car, but I love having a clean car, so on Saturday I went through the automatic car wash. Yes I paid a little extra for the convenience, but it got done and I didn’t have to think about it anymore.
  • I don’t like to grocery shop on Sundays, but I even like it even less on Mondays after work, so last Sunday I did the shopping for the week. After work on Monday, I went straight home and had to time to read a book for a few minutes before getting dinner started. That was a treat!

I’m still looking for chores/experiences that I can view with a fresh perspective. It’s a different way of thinking and one I hope to adopt into a habit.

So what about you? How do you feel about laundry? Are you a Long Term Thinker and if so, have you always been that way or did you learn it? Or are you like me and constantly drowning in unfinished chores and To-Do lists?