I sit at my computer all Saturday, and this is the place I should be. I begin early with ambition, 5:00 AM. Blank white windows on my Mac's Retina screen await my brilliant ideas, and my mind is bubbling with them.
But I wait to write because I need to research my ideas. I can't just whip out whatever slop comes to my mind. No, I need some scholarship to support my ideas and clarify my thinking.
Hours pass as I not only research but spend time promoting my blog, sending emails, feeding children, and even raking some leaves that have fallen in the yard. By noon, I have not written a word.
However, I've been productive, right? These tasks needed to be completed, and I have responsibilities in addition to my writing. The time I spent at the computer was worthwhile and informative. I am better educated on e-book publication, and my blog does need promotion.
Productivity equals procrastination or writer's block if you have no focus or sense of priority. This sounds odd, but it's true, and I write about a problem I have yet to solve, but I struggle with it daily, proposing new remedies when I realize each evening how little I have actually accomplished.
In fact, most self-help gurus are full of crap because they give you all kinds of ideas and strategies to be productive when the source of the problem lies at a level much deeper. Schedules and timekeepers only scratch the surface. My productive procrastination comes from a lack of control over what I will myself to do. To truly solve our problem, we must develop a character trait, not a habit. Habits and techniques are easy to list, but character traits require a lifetime of practice.
So, we must redirect our productive energy through mastery of the self, the body, and the mind. This sounds Zen, and it is. One of the keys of a Zen lifestyle is to master the self and to be in the present moment. The masters work at this over a lifetime, and most feel that they never succeed. But this is the core of the problem and solution.
Let me turn positive now. In the wee hours of the morning, I finally began to write this article. I was not inspired or driven to do so, but I forced myself and controlled the temptation to perform other productive labors. In other words, I mentally positioned myself in a place where I had mastery over the present and over my natural tendencies. Although this arose from frustration and disappointment, I focused on the need to get something done because focused action would make me feel better about myself and my day.
Once I began to write, the hardest part had passed, and I enjoyed sharing my thoughts in the present moment. I transcended the failure of the day by focusing on what remained. Rather than looking forward to what I might do tomorrow to change my habits, I imposed self-discipline upon myself and that made all the difference. I told myself that in order to feel better, I had to work.
So my tips here focus on self discipline rather than tricks or habits. They are not easy.
- Focus on and take control of the moment. Planning out your day has value, but it also distracts you from the moment at hand and can be a form of procrastination. Limit the amount of planning and maximize the amount of doing.
- In each moment, avoid straying from your priority focus. When you shift your focus for a few minutes, these quickly turn into hours and returning to your priority becomes all the more difficult. When you are in the flow of the moment, focusing on your priority task, don't disrupt the flow by taking a break or performing another necessary task. Being in the flow is so valuable that you cannot sacrifice it for anything.
- When you must turn from your priority, set a timer for yourself with a reasonable limit. People tend to think that you should time your priority work and include scheduled breaks. For me, if I am in the flow of my work, I defeat myself by taking a break just because it's on my schedule.
- You are capable of doing hard things. Remind yourself of this, and disciplining yourself to work on those difficult tasks is rewarding and satisfying.
- Force yourself to start the task despite the difficulty.
- Meditation is a key to self discipline. In meditation, you require yourself to impose limits on time, thought, activity, and the world around you. Forcing your mind to be empty for a time is a challenging task, but it changes the way your mind works and helps you to create self-discipline.
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