by Raymond Moody, M.A.
Like most people, I have a range of responsibilities and experience stress from the competing demands of work, school, and home. I sometimes get in the habit of focusing on whatever is most urgent. Sometimes I feel like a firefighter, running from fire (i.e., deadline) to fire. I can only imagine that after a day of putting out real fires a firefighter just wants to come home, relax, eat some good food, and get some rest because that is how I feel most days. It is hard for me to prioritize the tasks I have that aren’t burning even though I know if left alone long enough a fire is sure to erupt. In other words, I am a procrastinator. I work hard throughout the day and when I get home I just want to relax. The problem is I often can’t relax like I want to because I am worried about the project.
How do I work on my procrastination and find the time and energy to work on things that are less interesting but important? The other day I confessed my troubles to my supervisor and she suggested a little homework assignment. I thought, I already have too much to do how will adding homework help? I went along with her suggestion. My goal was to have several productive writing days working on a single project. The first step was to outline a specific strategy and so I designated specific hours for writing over four days. Next I had to increase my motivation and if I since I was having trouble increasing the enjoyment of the task then I increased the adverse consequences of not doing the task. I came to an agreement with my supervisor and colleagues that for each day I did not meet my writing goal I would have to do two tasks at work that cause me discomfort. Finally, I needed to be accountable throughout the week so I had to email an update on my progress at the end of each writing session.
At the end of the week I was successful at meeting my writing goal for four out of the four days. I did not finish the project but I made substantial progress and felt great about the progress I made. I also had more enjoyable relaxation time because I had done the work I set out to do each day. So, homework for homework worked for me when I was having trouble procrastinating and I plan to continue using this strategy to finish this project and to keep me on top of my other work.