Career Changers

Procrastination and Motivation

April 27th, 2010

National Procrastination Week was last month, and I meant to post something about it, but... yeah, didn't get around to it. While working on writing projects and the Career Changers TV show, I get easily distracted by emails, articles I'm reading on the internet, or message boards related to screenwriting.

To stay on track, I keep to-do lists in front of me. Some have been there for months, others are there for a day and no more. I get satisfaction from crossing off even the most mundane tasks.

However, the biggest motivator for me is reading. It could be a random article, a few lines in a blog post I come across, or a chapter in a book that was recommended to me. Believe me, when you're self-employed or struggling to make it in the creative arts, investing daily time in staying motivated is crucial to your mental and emotional well-being. So here's a couple of books that are currently on my desk that you might want to check out...

THE WAR OF ART by Steven Pressfield - One of my blog readers suggested I get this since it's all about overcoming "resistance" and procrastination. As it turns out, the forward is written by Robert McKee, the author of Story -- an influential book on screenwriting I had read a long time ago. The book also draws parallels between overcoming addictions with overcoming creative blocks. Interesting, and more importantly, it inspires you to get moving!

THE SPIRITUALITY OF IMPERFECTION by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham isn't really a motivational career-related book -- unless you're in the business of story-telling or treating addictions. Yet I think non-addicts can get a lot out of it because it deals with an obstacle many of us have: the desire or need to be "perfect." Isn't that what stops many from pursuing their passions or attempting new things?

This book explains how accepting our own imperfections makes us better at accepting imperfections in others -- which can help in recovery or improve workplace relationships. By telling and listening to personal stories, we find meaning in everyday experiences. In a way, that's what I try to do in these blog posts.

The Spirituality of Imperfection was recommended to me by William Cope Moyers, when he was in town to speak at a fundraiser for the Hina Mauka treatment center. He's the son of journalist Bill Moyers and is a recovering addict, like myself. His memoir Broken tells how drugs derailed his career as a CNN reporter, and eventually led to his current job as a spokesman for Hazelden, perhaps the most well-known treatment center in the world. You can tell he loves what he's doing now -- there's a sparkle in his eyes when he talks about recovery. He didn't have that same sense of purpose when he was trying to follow in his father's footsteps.

When people say they're feeling burnt-out or unmotivated, I think it's often an indication they're not doing what they really want to be doing in life. So they unconsciously sabotage themselves by underperforming, or over-compensating to the point that either they will be terminated, or have to quit from the stress they put on themselves. And yes, I've been there too.

So what do you read or do to stay motivated? Any other recommendations?

Today's relevant links:

Here's a Lifehacker piece on procrastination with practical tips on how to beat the time-waster blues.

This U.S. News article poses 10 questions to determine if you really have a bad case of job burnout or just the blahs.

On the Career Changers TV site, we have a link to a motivational speaker who's the father of Erin Gerwig, owner of Dogwalkers, etc., which we profiled on one of our shows. You can sign up for John Chappelear's weekly positive thoughts emails too!

4 Responses to “Procrastination and Motivation”

  1. Michael:

    I enjoy working for someone who gives me the freedom to do the job on my time and when I feel like it. I can accomplish a lot more with more freedom than to be told to have it done by a deadline. I work better on my own.

    I find that most artist or authors feel the same way. I need a kick in the pants once in awhile but I can do a job better alone than with someone there but not helping.

    I set a plan, trim the edges and then full on do the job. I don't need to worry what the other is thinking or doing. If they cannot think or do like me, I rather work alone. I don't need someone who can't do the job without me telling him what is needed to be done. Just do it. I don't want to worry about that person also if I am not there. I just want to be sure the job is done even if I am not there.

    So all in all, I rather work alone. I will help others but they take responsibility on how the jobs ends. Not blame me for doing something wrong, I just follow orders and do the best I can. I rather work alone. You see?

  2. Rich Figel:

    Michael -

    I don't like to generalize, but I think it's easier to stay focused on physical jobs -- with or without supervision -- simply because you know what the task is and what has to be done. It's hard to start yard work or building/fixing something, then just walk away from it. But when you're working out of a home office or doing creative writing, there's all kinds of excuses to procrastinate... especially when you don't have a boss looking over your shoulder!

    Writing is a lonely job that takes discipline and self-motivation to crank out pages every day. I don't think a lot of people would actually enjoy the prospect of getting up every day and facing a blank screen they have to fill with words. That's why a lot of writers also like to blog or work with partners -- it's good to get feedback and interact with other human beings!

    What good is creating art or doing constructive work, if no one appreciates it?

  3. Michael:

    I do because I like to. I have a sense of joy of seeing what I do and can do.
    Whether one likes my thoughts, they are mine.

    I liked landscaping because I can sculpture what nature provides and other get to see the finished work. If they can do better than they can criticize. It is being Japanese and American that I can think both ways. Not one sided but open to what is good from all aspects of what is given.

    In your blogs, there may not be a comment, but that does not mean I don't read it. Somethings are meant just to be read and some things are meant to be commented on. If you see a blank screen, I see a white rabbit in a snow storm. Imagine what you can paint or write in a blank screen. I am sure there are thousands of things to write in a blank screen.

    I bet if you wrote just one sentence in your blog you will still get comments.

    "Blog with no words". Try this and see what happens.

  4. Scott:

    People need to be controlled, to a certain extent. People need to find the job that balances their desire to be independent, and to be managed. A dream job can have all of that.