On Procrastination

My airplane listening (hey, it was a long flight!) was a series of podcasts by Merlin Mann at 43folders with David Allen, the personal productivity guru and one of my heros. I stumbled across David’s email newsletter back in 2001, and printed/saved them until his best seller Getting Things Done came out in print. Heck, GTD was my first Amazon book purchase, OK? So getting to hear the maestro for 90 minutes while cramped in a ‘regional carrier’ was a thrill indeed.

OK, ok, ok. Enough Dave love. What did he have to say about procrastination? Lots, actually. I was just getting around to telling you…

We (you? I?) procrastinate for three reasons: it’s not worth doing anymore but I haven’t conciously killed it yet; I don’t know what the next action is (so I need to figure that out to get unstuck); or I don’t feel confident that I can engage [on the item] with control and success. Zowie! That last one hit me like a ton of firebrick!

Wait! There’s more! He quoted another book [War of Art], (he couldn’t remember the author but he remembered the quote) “the thing that is closest to your soul is the thing that you avoid the most.” Not much you can do about this one, says Dave, other than be aware of it, recognize it and give yourself permission to deal with it anyway.

Taken together, this helped me out quite a bit. The toughest thing about building my brick oven was ordering materials from suppliers who knew everything about their products but nothing about ovens. I could write a whole post just about finding fireclay. In those cases it was my lack of confidence in having a successful conversation with the supplier that caused delays. The thought of being treated like a goof caused huge anxiety. In hindsight, there was more I could’ve done to ensure ‘control and success’ when interacting with suppliers.

Lately however, I’ve been avoiding doing more to get the bakery going. Things like taking two weeks to spend an hour re-assembling the mixer, never chopping wood, etc. In these cases the actual task is easy. So why the delay? I think it’s the last bit — ‘the closest to my soul.’ I’ve still got a ‘fear of something’ with regard to the bakery which I haven’t identified yet. So quit trying to identify it; just recognize that I’ll be nervous about it, and get going anyway.

(Meanwhile, back at home, Cindy just rolled her eyes. Karma. She gets this in her genes. I’m good at other stuff.)