the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Fighting Procrastination with “The 100 Method”

There are chores that give me anxiety.   Some that give me the most trouble are quite simple on the surface, like making a phone call or renewing a gym membership.   But indecision creeps in and I end up procrastinating, finding actions that help me avoid doing my To Do list.  I probably should go into therapy for help with this, but this week I needed a quick fix to help me get over a few hurdles.   After giving the matter some thought, I pieced together a technique of my own creation that worked fairly well.  The technique combines a bit of meditation and the old method of “counting to ten,” except in my idea, I count to 100.

In order to explain it better, let me use an real example of a stressful situation —

I need to write an email to a producer in LA. It is freaking me out. I am insecure. My internal “selves” are fighting with each other over the content of the email.  One self says the email is too wimpy; another that it reads too arrogant. The nasty self, a perennial bully, calls me a loser and announces the situation as hopeless. My head is spinning and I am hyperventilating from thinking too much about all of the options available to me.  There are too many voices and too many choices.

What do I do in this situation?   Well, I might go onto Twitter, for one.   I can chat with friendly women with smiling avatars.  This will help me relax.    Soon, I will forget all about the email until it is too late to send it, and I will make the executive decision of putting it off until tomorrow.

Now, let’s see an example of  Neilochka’s “100 Method” in action, helping me to stay on task:

First, I need to acknowledge to myself that I’m a cool guy with the minor problem of having a screwed up mind.  That is why I want to procrastinate.  My brain is fighting with me because I am neurotic, and this is painful, which causes me to avoid whatever task is at hand.

Since I have accepted myself as a cool, but screwed up, I choose to be nice to myself. Rather than berating myself, I will give myself the gift of procrastination.

But I will control it with a time limit of 100 counts.

So, I give myself permission to lie down on the bed or sit at my chair with my eyes closed and start counting to 100 in my head.   The numbers are my internal mantra, so by the count of “25,” I have forgotten everything about my inner turmoil concerning the task.   The voices have been silenced.  My only focus is on the counting, like Zen meditation.

By number “50” I start thinking about my task again.  Clearly, I’m not very good at meditation.  But I know that already.  And I accept that.   But I feel the anxiety already returning.  What should I do?

“Relax,” I tell myself.  “You’re only at number “50.” There is plenty of time left to relax and procrastinate. Why worry when you are only half way there?”

This works surprisingly well,  until I hit number “75.”   Now, at 3/4 in, I am smart enough to know that my procrastination window is quickly getting closed shut.   My brain reverts to that of an eight year old bratty child.  I start crying, yelling and pounding the table, all in my head of course.  I will do anything to keep my procrastination from ending.

But throughout this all, I continue counting.  “76.”  “77.”

I become Machivellian in my methods, dragging each syllable out, so the word “Seventy-seven” takes up to fives seconds in my head. I realize that I am cheating myself, but who’s going to know, other than myself?

By number “85” in the count, there is an all-out war raging in my brain, with tanks and hand grenades and atomic bombs.  This is very different than the genteel neurotic indecision from earlier, where multiple selves debated in a civilized court.  This is a knock-em, sock-em primal battle between two opposing forces.   The choices are clear as good and evil —

1)   Do I keep my promise of doing the task now that my procrastination time is over, like an honorable man —

2) — or do I blow it off like a lazy sloth?

By number “90,” this tough question stares at me, waiting for a reply.  I can see nothing else but black and white, no shades of gray, no typical insecurities; the choices are “keep your own promise” or “be an asshole.”

By number “95” I realize that I have set myself up in a trap of my own making.  I know that even if I was so devious to extend the count from 100 to 200 or even 1000,  at a certain point, the bell will ring.

The Bell Always Rings.  It is the fate of humanity.

By number “98” I am a man who has seen his own mortality.  I live in a finite world and I must conquer it, despite my fears.

At number “99” I say goodbye to all of my procrastinating on this particular task, and as number “100” forms on my tongue and my eyes open, I can hear a marching band in my playing a personal fight song in my brain, inspiring me to act… and to act now.

“Now Get Up And Do That Task, You Motherf*cker!” the band plays hard, the trumpets blaring, the drums a-knocking, as I sit down to do the task.

Until the next task.

10 Comments

  1. Juli

    This is awful. You are so mean to yourself. Instead of counting, why don’t you reward yourself for each task that you complete? Break up the big tasks into smaller tasks. Rewards for everything you do. (I’m soft.)

    • Neil

      I don’t see it as mean. I see it as a transition period from worrying about the specifics of the task, which prevents me from doing it, to a moment where the only choices are “do it” or “don’t do it.” That is freeing.

  2. UpsideUp

    Brilliant. Heading to the couch right now.

  3. sage

    I’m a fan of the to do list and carrot method. I make the list of have to’s, than decide what I will reward myself with when i’m done (usually involves chocolate). as for awkward emails, i’ve often felt the same as you. at the end of the day, you send the email and let it go. whats the worst that could happen? either way you end up with chocolate!

    • Stasha

      You had me at chocolate. But I happen to agree with you all the way!

  4. Titanium

    I like your method. My problem is, I’d fall asleep by “17” and wake up to find I’ve grown shoulder-length grey hair. Or something.

  5. Memoirs of a Single Dad

    What happens if you forget what number you’re on? That would be my biggest problem. I’d have to write it down, which would be another task I’d have to procrastinate on.

  6. Irish Gumbo

    Yeahhhh, about that procrastination thing…I’ve lost track of all the post-it notes I’ve lost count of or thrown away…you know, the ones that I wrote to remind myself to do something…later.

    It’s kind of like turning up the car radio to make that “wahwahwah” noise go away.

    I’m going to go rest now.

  7. Not Fainthearted

    I love it and am going to give it a try. Later.

  8. carolina

    Wow!
    I’m sorry you have such a difficult time doing certain types of tasks but I am THRILLED that you do and share it here. That battle in your head sounds so much like my own, it’s funny, annoying, depressing at times, but, like you, I’m finding my way around it and trying to gain some wisdom out of it all.
    Glad to have found your blog.

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