10 Tips to Conquer Procrastination

Bob Borson —  December 17, 2012 — 22 Comments

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” – Mark Twain

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone” – Pablo Picasso

“You may delay, but time will not.” – Benjamin Franklin

“I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do – the day after.” – Oscar Wilde

“My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.” – Charles Dickens

“It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.” – Leonardo da Vinci

“Never put off for tomorrow, what you can do today.” – Thomas Jefferson

“You can’t procrastinate in order to procrastinate, you have to do it right now … which doesn’t make any sense.” – Bob Borson

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Architects are procrastinators by design, it’s built into our process and refined during our education when we spend hour upon hour up at the studio. Work for a little while … go see what that person is doing on their project … work a little more … go get a coffee … sketch out some concepts that came to you during your trip to get coffee … make a tape ball … incorporate tape ball-ish feature into concept … go look at someone else’s project … remove tape ball feature …

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

There is a pattern here and while there is some time being wasted, there is also time spent processing information whether you realize that’s what’s happening or not. Stepping away from a project during the process allows a person the ability to re-evaluate the validity of the concept they are pursuing and exploring. The idea you thought was genius is in fact total crap, you just didn’t realize it at first.

The difference between procrastinating and making good use of your time is the ability to fill in the gaps with meaningful and productive uses of your time … which making a tape ball does not qualify. In order to have the ability to make good use of those gaps is to have a plan, make some preparations to know what needs to be done and formulate a process on how to get there. I am a master procrastinator unless I take steps to make sure I am covering all my responsibilities. It’s one thing to procrastinate in school, but it’s far more serious to procrastinate when people are paying you for your time.

I recently came across an article written by my friend and architect Mark LePage with Fivecat Studio and it had his approach and strategies for conquering procrastination. I thought it was an excellent list and asked him if I could include it in today’s post to which he gratefully agreed. There are some great techniques here so if you are an architect (and therefore a procrastinator – either current or recovering), I think you will find value in these tips.

Cheers.

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overcoming procrastination

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My name is Mark R. LePage and I am a recovering procrastinator.

There… I said it.

After 40+ years, I don’t have much hope of ever finding a cure, but recently I have found some ways to hang on to the wagon and stay focused on getting things done.

Here are 10 tips I’m using to conquer my procrastination.

1. Write out a plan. In order to get anything done, you need to create a plan. What does the end result look like and how are you going to make progress. Write it out. As a serial dreamer, I have hundreds of plans in my head, at all times. The plans that make progress are the ones written down and developed into a clear step-by-step process.

2. Schedule milestones. Progress looks much less daunting when you break things down into smaller easily attained milestones. Set them to specific dates and get to work.

3. Work toward deadlines. The quickest way to NOT get things done is to never NEED to get things done. Set deadlines on each milestone, and base your deadlines on realistic timelines developed in the plan you developed above.

4. Turn away from distractions. In November, I re-instituted my “full media blackout”. I stopped reading the news, turned off the television and tuned the radio away from the talk station. If the world as we know it does in fact end on December 21st, I am quite certain I will hear about it. I am now focused on the things that are fully within my control. The things not within my control are simply distractions. Turn away from the distractions and focus on the things that truly matter most.

5. Stop blaming others. No one else is going to get it done. There is nothing stopping you from progress except YOU. You are in control of the decisions you make and the attitude you choose to adopt.

6. Birth good habits. In his book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessCharles Duhigg deconstructs the habit into three parts; a cue, a routine and a reward. Once you understand that, you may give birth to your own good habits. If you want to do something consistently without the pain and frustration of broken resolutions, make it a habit and watch what happens.

7. Kill bad habits. From what we’ve learned in number 6 above, we can now analyze every bad habit standing in the way of our progress. Identify the cue, the routine and the reward. The key to making sustainable change is keeping the cue and reward, and changing the routine. Do you unnecessarily check your e-mail everyday at the same time, rather than working on those pending construction documents? Identify the cue and reward. The cue may be the time of day. The reward may be a sense of accomplishment. Change the routine to completing a simple task on those drawings and a new habit may be born.

8. Look beyond yourself. Find some inspiration. Find others who have accomplished what you want to accomplish. Learn everything you can about them and how they made progress. When you know that others have done what you are trying to do, you’ll find hope that you too will accomplish your goals.

9. Raise the stakes. As many of you know, I am working on the plan for my 12/12/12 Project. Talk about procrastination. I’ve been trying to make progress on this project for more than a decade. By announcing the concept of the 12/12/12 Project to the world and publicly committing to my plan, I raised the stakes. If I don’t do what I said I’ll do, I will lose credibility with you, my family as well as myself.

10. Start. It may be the most difficult step, but believe me, no task has ever been completed without starting. So, start… and see the procrastination melt away.

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A little bit extra about Mark LePage and one of his side endeavors, Entrepreneur Architect:

Mark LePage decided to launch Entrepreneur Architect to serve the growing need and desire by architects to learn more about business. He writes and includes posts on management, sales, marketing and every other necessary ingredient required for a successful architectural practice (also known as a small business). He is also the host and moderator of a twitter chat every Wednesday at 9pm EST – just follow along with the hashtag #EntreArchitectChat

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  • Dyuthi Prakash

    I love that you added your own quote at the end of them all. Maybe one day I’ll have the courage to do that.

  • txbuilder

    11. Close Bob’s Blog and load up a CAD file.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      that’s a terrible idea … just minimize it and come back to it when you need inspiration

      • txbuilder

        11. Revised (submitted for approval or further revision): For blog newbies like me – make a diligent effort to catch up to Bob’s past post and articles, such that the time spent on Bob’s Blog is minimized (not the blog). Note also that hotel owners in Bob’s area can offer free rooms during his home renovations, and can turn off the WIFI during his stay so we all get a break from blog procrastination temptations.

  • Drew Hasson

    Numbers 1, 5 and 8 are a couple of favorites I have in my head, as of now.

  • Kartik

    I have often found that the most effective strategy is to “just do it”. Only thing is how often can you “just do it”.

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  • Steve Mouzon

    A bit off-topic, but I’ve finally come up with my submission for that ancient mind twister of defining time without invoking some description of time into the definition:

    Time is the rate at which uncertainty solidifies into things that can be sensed

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      that is a good one!

  • mitch

    In 1957, I joined the Procrastinators Club of America whose motto is PROCRASTINATE NOW.

    I havn’t gotten around to paying my dues, yet!

  • http://twitter.com/kriswa kriswa

    10. Start — that should obviously have been the first thing, for most people anyway.
    4. music is not all bad for focus, actually certain music like classical has been shown to improve focus, while catchy lyric-filled pop is going to do the opposite, as are the ads on most radio stations.
    5. Stop blaming others — MRLP, you are the one at fault here, don’t try passing the buck onto us, the innocent readers…
    ;-)

  • MadCzech

    Of all the several variations on a theme at the beginning of the article, the Jefferson quote is the one I’ve heard most often, although I’ve always preferred a slight variation: Why do today, what you can put off to tomorrow?

    I never made tape balls; I made tape tangrams. Hey, at least it’s creative.

  • Kat

    I am procrastinating by reading this post…

  • http://www.facebook.com/thomas.streicher.56 Thomas Streicher

    This reply is procrastination, after the procrastination of
    reading the article.

  • daniel4d

    I am reading this post on procrastination as I am suppose to be working on a project that needs to go out today…

  • JUDITH REPP

    I flagged this to come back and read later…..

  • http://twitter.com/remarchitect Robert Moore

    Very good, I plead guilty. I have found the distractions only get worse over time. The good habit building and the bad habit breaking are the keys for me. PLAN! PLAN! PLAN!

    • http://www.facebook.com/bee.lor.50 Bee Lor

      What a coincidence, I received this quote from today’s email by, “The Happiness Project” also.

      • http://twitter.com/remarchitect Robert Moore

        That’s also where I received it. I probably should have given proper credit.

        • http://www.facebook.com/bee.lor.50 Bee Lor

          No worries as tomorrow comes another opportunity to put it off to another tomorrow. When will this vicious cycle end.