I was just listening (along with 100,000 other people) to the Tim Ferris Podcast where he had best selling author, Malcolm Gladwell on as a guest. They discussed a lot of cool things, but there was one question in particular that stood out to me.
Tim asked Malcolm how he handled writers block. As somebody who constantly stares at a blank word document until I decide to get up to pour more coffee, make a bag of popcorn, or watch the 17th part of the OJ 30 For 30 documentary series, my ears perked up.
Malcolm essentially said that writers block is a luxury that he never had. His editors at The New Yorker were expecting a story at the end of the day. It’d be blasphemy (SAT vocab) to ask the editor for more time. As long as he wanted a job there would be no popcorn breaks or midday OJ Simpson documentaries.
Sucks for him.
But this set off some interesting insights about procrastination.
Parkinson’s Law: Set Deadlines
Parkinson’s Law is the idea that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Have a day to turn in a story to The New Yorker? It’ll likely take you the day.
Have the week to write a term paper? Most of us are taking the week. A whole semester project? It always seems to get completed within the last few weeks doesn’t it?
Have your whole life to get in shape? Wait until Monday to start.
When the Editor of the New York Post isn’t breathing down our necks, there are no hard deadlines that push us towards action. We need to create our own deadlines. This 30 Day Blog Blitz has kept me writing everyday because there is a deadline: each day a post needs to be out. Sure, I’m a little behind, but I’ll have my 30 posts up by the end of the month. Don’t you worry about it.
Set deadlines that are on fire. Set them so that it hurts to miss them. Have something to lose. Be the editor of your own life.
Shortest Internship Ever: Do It Anyways
Earlier this year I applied for an internship for a digital marketing firm. In typical millennial fashion, I quit after two weeks because I was above it.. obviously.
For those two weeks, I wrote more words than I had in my entire life combined. I was pushing out four articles per day, and because I had my other jobs at the gym and Metabolic Effect, I had a small window of time to get them out everyday.
Yet I did them. I did my four articles day after day.
I haven’t written four articles in a day since my two week stint at the agency.
There were days “I didn’t feel like it.” Yet I wrote anyways.
There were days I wasn’t motivated, inspired, or full of ideas. I wrote anyways.
That’s why I dared to title this post “Procrastination is a choice” – because it is a fucking choice.
Time, energy, or busyness can no longer be excuses. If we don’t have time or we’re too busy, it’s because we’ve declared other things (like Netflix and chill) more important than exercise or our passion project. And you know what? That’s actually okay.
We can chose how we spend our time. If we don’t have time for relationships because we work 100 hours per week, that’s fine, but own it. Don’t blame work.
If we watch SportsCenter four times through, and don’t have the energy to exercise, that’s cool, but let’s not say we don’t have enough time. Let’s own our choices.
And if I drink four cups of coffee, make a bag of popcorn and watch all the OJ installments, I can’t complain about my lack of ideas and energy when I don’t have an article written. I made those choices.
The Simple Formula
It really is that simple.
- Set deadlines that are on fire
- Do it anyways
- Own your choices
Have a bias towards action. Choose to things, and then own those choices. Be the editor of your own life, and turn in your story by the end of the day.
Okay, off you go! Procrastinate with blogs and cat photos no more.