the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: procrastination

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.

Self-Help Books

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Today, Sophia and I sat in Borders for half the day, reading self-help books. I was determined to find a book that described me and my “problems” in psychological terms. After my two months of therapy, I’m fully convinced I need this help, and I want to understand myself better. I almost feel as if I’ve been blind to parts of my own personality. I am neurotic, but just saying “neurotic” is too vague for me. I want a stronger sense of the problem. I’m envious of you bloggers who have something specific, like ADHD. That is a “sturdy” psychological problem. If I met you for the first time, I could shake your hand and you could look me in the eye and say, “My name is Jack and I have ADHD.” It’s just not the same to answer, “Hi, I’m Neil. I’m neurotic, but I’m not exactly sure what that means or what exactly I’m neurotic about.”

The first book I read at Borders was on procrastination. I certainly procrastinate on my writing, but not with everything. Other times, I am very much on the ball. (Editor’s note: I’d like to see that ball — Sophia) I can’t honestly say that I’m NOT a pure-blooded procrastinator. (Editor’s note: I can.)

I was excited about finding a book on anxiety, especially one that screamed “Millions sold” on the cover. Anxiety is nothing new to me. I HATE making cold calls. I freeze in fear. That is anxiety. In my single days, I could never get enough nerve to talk to women in bars. I was too anxious.

The trouble is that “anxiety” is a term too broad for my taste. I don’t feel anxiety in typical social situations. I love to speak in public. I would have no problem running naked in the woods. I’ve met many who are plenty more anxious than me. Maybe I’m not really “anxious.” (Editor’s note: Yes, you are.)

The book that affected me the most was one about self-esteem. There was much in the book that made sense in the way it related to me– from the way I speak about my own accomplishments to my inability to say “no” to someone — fearing that they wouldn’t like me.

After our visit to Borders, we went to a Bistro-type restaurant for a late brunch. I brought along a 2-1 coupon that I had found in the mail. As some long-time readers of this blog know, giving coupons to waiters is one of these events that makes me ANXIOUS. I need to talk to my therapist about this. I know this makes little sense to you, but it almost feels as if I’m asking the waiter for a favor and imposing on him. I know, it sounds crazy, especially since I always leave a good tip on the full check amount.

As the waiter came over to our table, Sophia nudged me to give him the coupon before we order, as it is stated to do.

“Excuse me, ” I said to the waiter, as I fumbled with the folded coupon. “I have this thing… some sort of a certificate… um… but I’m not even sure if you even take it on weekends…uh?” (Editor’s note: On the coupon, it said, “Use any day.”)

“Oh yeah”, the waiter said, matter-of-factly. “Great. I’ll take it.”

And that was that. Sophia looked at me, laughing at how the episode made me into an incoherent wreck.

I thought to myself, “Think about what you just said to the waiter, and WHY — and you’ll understand YOURSELF a lot more than reading self-help books.”

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Make Me Insecure Friday

The Buddy System

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Back in my single days, I liked to entertain a woman on a first date with this little trick. After dinner, as we walked hand-in-hand in the crisp night air, I would take off my shirt and ask her to bounce a quarter off of my chest. Women would be amazed as the quarter would spring off the tautness of my muscles and fly 150 feet away.

This afternoon, I was in Staples buying an ink-jet refill, when I found a quarter on the floor. For old-times sake, I asked this cheerful mother of two (buying colored construction paper for her adorable little girl — hello, Rachel!) if she would bounce the quarter off of my bare chest. She happily agreed, and as her two daughters looked on, she threw the quarter against my body. While the mother was very impressed with the result — the quarter flew smack into the middle of faraway aisle 12 (“Digital Media”), I was very disappointed that the quarter only went 75 feet. This meant only one thing — it was time for me to go back to the gym.

The only problem is that I don’t like going to the gym. It is BORING! I’m also a major procrastinator. When I try to do something I really don’t want to do it, I find a million reasons to put it off. For instance:

Neil 1: “I thought about going to the gym tonight.”

Neil 2: “But whoops, I just ate”

Neil 1: “Maybe later. ”

Neil 2: “Oh, I’m sorry. I have to wash some towels later.”

Neil 1: “How about after that? ”

Neil 2: “Hey, isn’t playing with yourself considered exercise? I’ll do that instead!”

Remember, I live in Los Angeles. Being in the best shape is very important here, especially in the summer. Showing off your body is actually SO important to Angelenos that law firms in Century City now allow their partners to come in wearing bathing suits and bikinis during the summer months.

I need help with this gym thing. And here’s where YOU come in.

A week ago, I was reading a post by the charming Caitlin at Caitlinator. She was writing about how she was avoiding writing some resumes. I instantly related, because I just happen to procrastinate on writing resumes as much as I do about going to the gym. I wrote a comment to her, joking that we should make sure the other wrote ten resumes this week. If one of us didn’t, we’d have to pay the other ten bucks. I completely forgot about this “deal” until today. And you know what? — it’s not a bad idea!

Think about how much easier it is to write your blog posts than any of your “regular” writing. That’s because you know that someone — even if it is a crazy stranger living thousands of miles away — is reading your blog. We’re always motivated by others!.

So, I’m looking for a virtual exercise buddy for the next week. Just one week to see if it works — and get us both started. This person should be someone as lazy as me. He/she should hate going to the gym.

This is the deal: We each go to our gym, or exercise in some other way — let’s say twice this week — nothing too over-the-top. By the end of the week, if one of us fails to accomplish the mission, the loser has to:

1) Write a post humiliating yourself in front of the world.
2) Buy your buddy a CD of his/her choice.
3) Donate twenty bucks to some cancer research charity.

I think the fear of humiliation alone will make us exercise.

Anyone want to be my buddy?

A Year Ago in Citizen of the MonthMy Date with Rob and Kai.

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