Sep 17

How to Stop Procrastinating: A Fool-Proof Way to Conquer the World

For the majority of my life, I felt I didn’t know how to stop procrastinating. I fell into the trap of putting stuff off, and kept telling myself that I needed the pressure to actually get shit done.

How to Stop Procrastinating

Original photo by Milos Tonchevski

This is stupid and false, and the same damn trap my students fall into right before they stay up all night to binge-write that brilliant paper that will earn them a  low C if they’re lucky.

Why I needed to stop procrastinating

So, I’ve been trying to open up an Etsy shop since spring. And now it’s September. But because I live in Oklahoma, I had to get a sales tax ID to sell physical products online so I could charge my customers sales tax.

This shouldn’t be that hard, so I filled out the paper work and submitted my application. Then, I waited for everything to come in the mail.

When it arrived, I got a notice that I wasn’t approved because of the classification of my S Corp. My S Corp sells creative services, not products, and I’m listed under a specific industry code for services.

I stared at that rejection for like a month. There was a spot to write some information and send it back. Only, I didn’t 100% understand what I needed to put there.

One morning, I called the Oklahoma Tax Commission. I was literally on hold for 2 hours and 48 minutes. (I just left my phone on speaker and went about grading papers.) When I finally spoke with someone, they didn’t know what to do either.

I’m not kidding about that. If you’ve ever dealt with the Oklahoma Tax Commission, I suspect you have a similar story.

So I kept putting it off. Sure, I wanted to get my shop set up, but like, there are always 18,000 other things that can be done too. And then I moved, and unpacking took roughly ONE THOUSAND HOURS.

But a couple weeks ago, I finally just emailed my accountant. And in less than 48 hours, she gave me the simplest answer. She told me EXACTLY what I needed to write. And then I did.

And yesterday I got my sales tax ID in the mail.

It was so easy, but I built up this big wall in my head. And I waisted MONTHS.

It was so easy, but I built up this big wall in my head. And I waisted MONTHS. Click To Tweet

Do you need another example of why I need to stop procrastinating?

This week, I gave my students their first test. Some students take their tests in the class room, and some students take their tests in the disability resource center. While the test in class is given online, some students who test at the disability resource center need a paper copy of the test.

It’s not a big deal to make a paper copy. It just takes time. And it’s something I usually have the graduate assistant do. However, after a big mess that is absolutely no one’s fault, we don’t have a graduate assistant this semester. This isn’t a big deal, because I don’t have a lot that I need them to do.

But I just wanted to have someone else make this test.

So I put it off until the last possible minute. And when I started to make the test, I took a look in a folder in the very back corner of my Dropbox.

Lo and behold, I had actually created the test last semester.

Had I thought logically about it, I would’ve realized this. I would’ve remembered doing that. But nope. I just shoved it to the back of my mind and refused to deal with it at all until the last possible second.

What I’ve learned about why I procrastinate

I procrastinate when things get a little hard or uncomfortable or inconvenient. I procrastinate when I remember how soft my couch is. I procrastinate when I remember that at the end of the day, I still have a day job paycheck coming in.

I procrastinate because I’m in love with easy shit. And I hate that about myself.

To be fair, I know that no one loves doing the dirty work or the hard things. But damn. I wish I could just bite my lip and make it happen.

Like had I gotten my sales tax ID sorted, I would have an established Etsy store already.

Or if I had tackled that test earlier, I could’ve sent it to the disability resource center, and gotten to bed on time the night I found it.

But let’s not dwell in what ifs. There’s no reason to be mad at past Marisa, because present Marisa is the same Marisa. So, I forgive you and your procrastination, Marisa. Just don’t let it happen again.

How you can stop procrastinating

For me, the first step to stop procrastinating is this: Realize that nothing you do is really that hard.

I mean, yeah. You do hard things.

But the daily hard things aren’t the big things that deserve to hang over our heads. Let the big life questions be the daunting things. Let them keep you up at night.

The daily hard things aren't the big things that deserve to hang over our heads. Click To Tweet

Those things that are mild irritations/inconveniences/hoops to jump through? Know that you can tackle them. Know that you’re making mountains out of molehills. Know that you’re giving way too much time and energy to a thing that straight up doesn’t deserve it.

I know it’s hard to think in those terms. As stated earlier, I’m basically the queen of putting things off. (BOW TO ME, PROCRASTINATION PEASANTS!)

So please. Learn from my nonsense.

Ask yourself if one person can answer the question you have. And once you get that answer, can you finally move forward? If so, YOU BETTER ASK THAT QUESTION.

Ask yourself if you’ve been there before. And if you think the answer is yes, then ask yourself what you did when you were in that position. Rely on what you did in the past, because you can use that now.

Ask yourself if the thing that’s tripping you up is actually hard. Or if you’re just using it as an excuse to procrastinate. If you are, knock it off.

How to Stop Procrastinating Click To Tweet

What little things have you procrastinated doing? What tricks do you have to help people stop procrastinating? Are you as excited as I am for my soon-to-open Etsy shop?

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Oct 16

Keep It 100: How Moderation is Self-Sabotage

Keep It 100

One of the things that always blows my mind about students is the lengths that some will go to NOT do the assignment. I’m settling in to that time of year where my days are filled with teaching, and my nights are filled with paper grading. And there’s always one student in every class who spends way too much time and energy looking for a work around rather than actually doing the assignment.

  • This is the student who asks if they actually have to write in complete sentences. (It’s a college-level writing course. DO NOT ASK THAT.)
  • This is the student who can’t be bothered to do all the regular assignments, but wants extra credit assignments for days. (As if I want to sit around creating new assignments to grade.)
  • This is the student who goes through their 5-page paper, and makes all the periods font size 20, so it takes up more space. (I invented that one, bucko, but I got to use it before professors graded digitally, so I got away with it.)

I could go on, but I don’t want some student stumbling onto this post while they’re on a deadline, and thinking they’ve just found all the ways they can get away with not doing the work.

I bring all this up because students have a tendency to put way too much into workarounds. They put too much into not actually doing what they need to do. They give 70% effort all around, and nothing gets fully done. And if I’m being real, I do that too.

Are you self-sabotaging with moderation? Click To Tweet

See, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to build habits. I want to stop biting my nails. I want to quit drinking diet soda. I want to work out regularly. I want to wake up at the same time every day. I want to attack my to do list with the sort of zeal exhibited by a pack of wild dogs on a 3-legged cat. I want to be the person who I know I am in my head, only my head won’t always let me be her.

The other day, I realized that I’ve put too much of my life toward moderation. I mean, how often do you hear “everything in moderation” only to practice that idiom and find that it gets you nowhere? And the definition of moderation is just avoiding extremes. Extremes are relative. The definition of too much or too little is up to your personal interpretation, and even then, let’s not even act like we don’t all operate on sliding scales when someone merely suggests we expand our definitions.

I read Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin last year, and I’m finally starting to believe what she says about personalities. Basically, some people have the capacity for moderation. A lot of people don’t. And when I try to live  with moderation as my guidepost, it sets me up for failure.

Keep It 100

When my students spend hours trying to find clever ways to not do their homework, it’s like me trying to live in moderation. It’s me giving my attention to too many things at once. It’s me trying to be everything to everyone. It’s me going out for beers after work even when I know I want to wake up at 5 AM the next day. It’s me going shopping when I want to see if I can go a whole month without spending money. It’s me doing cardio and then yoga all before 8 AM, only to eat 4 donuts by 2 PM.

That’s why I have to keep it 100. I have to pick a side and stick to it. I have to focus all my energy in the direction I want it to go. I can’t metaphorically change the sizes of the periods in the essay of my life and expect to get an A. (That was a terrible metaphor. And I want you to know that I keep it 100 by being nigh unreadable.)

So let me ask you this: Are you able to live in moderation? How do you keep it 100? Have you ever given something up completely so you could keep it 100?

Let me know in the comments. I live vicariously through your successes.