In his book, Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-free Play, Neil Fiore advises people to keep a procrastination log. The idea is to record when you procrastinate, what you procrastinate on, your thoughts, your feelings, your justification, and how you deal with it. (Of course how you deal with it, is a little bit affected by the fact that you are monitoring your procrastination). Here is my log from the last couple of days:
Work, morning 26/11. A co-worker asks me to take over her project. I really do not want to, but I also sympathize with her situation, and end up agreeing to it. It involves giving a lecture in front of 200 people within a few days. I still haven't started preparing. Feel a bit like a victim for having taken on this task. Feel overwhelmed, and stressed about not having enough time to prepare, about doing a bad job, about being unable to answer questions etc. I procrastinate even thinking about this and still haven't started the preparation.
Work, morning 27/11. Working on a simple project. As I am working I realize the project is more complicated and time consuming then I originally thought. I feel overwhelmed and frustrated. As some kind of reflex, I open up my email and facebook. I procrastinated for about 10-15 minutes, but then forced myself to get back to the task.
Work, afternoon 27/11. I finally get back to my important project that has been neglected for a while. There is no fixed deadline, but I feel like this project should have been finished months ago. It involves finishing up a research project and sending it out for publication. I am really reluctant to finish this up, as I am afraid that it has mistakes, or that it will not be perceived well. At the same time I am irritated at my self that I haven't gotten this project out of the way sooner. As to justification, I feel like I never have time to work on the project and finish it up, but I am still very much aware of that lack of time is not the main problem here.
Home, evening 27/11. I look at the boxes in my living room. Simplifying the children's room a few weeks ago left me with 4 boxes full of toys that I am not sure what to do with. It feels wasteful to throw them out, I want to give them away but I don't know who would take toys for charity. Then I feel overwhelmed about the task of figuring that out, and about getting the boxes somewhere else. I am also concerned that my kids will actually miss some of the toys, and I will have to explain to them that I gave them away. I should probably involve them in the process....but that too is overwhelming. I am frustrated at myself, my indecisivness and my tendency to drag project like these on forever.
Work, morning 28/11. Need to start on a task that I expect to be both boring and time-consuming. For a moment I get caught in the victim role, I think about what I "have to do" and what I "should be doing." I check email and fb for 10-15 minutes. Then I shake it off, and think to myself "I choose to start on this now, and get it over with as soon as possible," and I make a commitment to myself to work on it for at least 30 minutes. The task ends up being less boring and less time consuming than I expected it to be.