Procrastinators Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from chronic procrastination.

motivation and why do tasks seem heavy at some times, then light?


There are all sorts of tasks that I procrastinate. It seems that to-do lists are the only way to stay organized even when behind. THis list is helpful, but maybe also a bit of a self-nag when it seems long or hard. So then I don't look at the list, get another notebook, the lists multiply.

And yet... at certain magical moments those tasks and chores, whether work or household, that had seemed heavy, suddenly become light. I just do them. I feel good.

These moments for me come, not from outside pressure, but from a kind of mental space inside that I do not often find, a just-do-it without recrimination from not having done it sooner. Or an 'I WANT that tidy now' so it's a WANT not an OUGHT. Or a moment of happy energy.

It's all in the attitude, but this mental shift is not one I can obtain by will and force. How to find it more often? Do others have experience of this? Would it help me to think of HP bringing this outlook? Tolstoy said something about accomplishing the largest things by a subtle shift. Maybe I should look up that quote and post it here in my next break.

Here it is:

      'Remember...that the chief work actuating a [person's] whole life is done not by his hands, his feet or his back, but by his consciousness. And this alteration [i.e. a change in consciousness]  defines all subsequent movements of the [person]. Yet these alterations are always minute and almost imperceptible.'.... 'One may say that true life begins where the tiny bit begins--where what seem to us minute and imperceptible alterations take place...'

yes i know this feeling...

thanks to chickadee for sending me to this article.

i do know this mind shift - it is almost being at peace with what you are doing. feeling happy and fine to do it without any underlying fighting feelings, and then such a lovely satisfaction afterward too. i have had this on and off alot in the last two weeks, since becoming a member of this site! i think it is related to an acceptance. an acceptance of who you are and what you WANT. and also accepting that to move forward day by day, hour by hour, things have just got to be done. its just the way of the world. im only doing small things, but even those small things add up when i do anough of them. it is a very therapeutic mind space to be in. if only we could work out how to turn it on and off - i think that would be a discovery of a miracle cure! :)

It's interesting...

When I have a large task (like writing a report) they are almost always "heavy tasks". I actually used smaller things (like housecleaing, etc) to distract myself from starting on these Heavy tasks.

Of course, the advice to break it down into smaller tasks is really just taking a heavy task and attempting to turn it into a light task. A very important step.

This thread is extremely relavant for me today as I attempt to break down a heavy task into smaller bits. I am going to make my "bit list" and get going on this.

Here's to getting the most out of life...

bit list :)

"bit list" i love it.

the touch of the master's hand:

"fall down seven times, get up eight" - japanese proverb

Love the quote.

I have experienced this mental shift, and was able to sustain it for a while 2 months or more. But as soon as I let myself self-indulge just a bit, all fell around me and I was back at square one.

Thank you for the post. ::smile::

It makes me realise that I must be careful not to make the same mistake again.

Good insight, use those who love you

Your experience sounds like my dieting with weight watchers: sometimes it takes off for a few months and then it crashes and burns.

I have found that in that case talking helps. Making yourself accountable to people who actually care what you do to yourself and your future.

And that's a good insight: I should use the people who already care about me to help me take care of me.

This thread is really

This thread is really interesting. If "minute and imperceptible" alterations are what's needed, perhaps the right place to look for them is from a minute and imperceptible influence: the "still small voice" --Rolzup

Thanks Rolzup. I think the

Thanks Rolzup. I think the 'still small voice' (a beautiful phrase) and the 12-step HP can be two ways of thinking about the same thing; it's the most challenging for me, and I think the most important for my own progress--the minute and imperceptible change that comes--as a gift?--from somewhere else...

tasks were light today

A cascade of light tasks today. Got many small chores done and it seemed easy. Here I want to remind myself that this is possible and hang onto how.

Positive mood and sun. Thinking 'I want this done' or 'this will make things nice'.

The things I needed to catch up with can seem impossible. (I thought they were unpleasant or hard; because I had put them off it reinforced my view that they were hard.) Then when I do one of those it releases energy for the next IF I say: 'that was quick, what can I do next' instead of 'that was quick, I am so stupid not to have done it sooner.

Affirmation: 'I am a person who does lots of things'. (it might sound silly but it works.)

Reminder to self: for non-work lists, use 'done lists' and 'things I want to do' lists rather than do-lists 

Help me find the energy to get through the backlog in housework.

Me too :)

I seem to have a cycle where for several days things seem really easy, I can keep up with the housework, feel good (although I always find my thesis hard, even at these times - the last few days have been much better though!) and then suddenly, for no reason, the daily tasks needed to keep my home and family life running smoothly seem impossible.  I grind to an almost complete standstill, my dh comes home and the breakfast dishes are on the sink, I nap with my dbaby whenever she naps, and go to sleep when she does at 8pm, and get nothing done.  This usually continues for a few days until the house is pretty chaotic, and then I get so sick of how horrible it is that I force myself to do a huge cleanup.  This starts the cycle again.

I wish I knew how to maintain my productivity and light mood continuously (or at least for more of the time and make the dips less deep), maybe I do too much when I am feeling 'up' and it is unsustainable?  What do others think?

heavy versus light tasks/goals versus process

The Now Habit, p. 163:

Getting to the goal is heavy if you focus too much on the goal, how big it is, etc. rather than being immersed in the process.

 Once you have gotten to the goal, doing an extra mile is light because 'you are choosing to do it, and you're watching your energy level instead of your internal chatter about whether or not you can do it .' (p. 163)

Being immersed in the process or getting to a 'flow state' can be fostered by calm and relaxation. And it seems to be a habit you can cultivate. 

the attitude or the task itself

It's physically hard to help someone else tidy or move. But cleaning one's own clutter can become a huge obstacle and backlog. I used to think this was because of memories or decision making attached to each step. Now I think it's because of toxic self-talk. Aim: get in the zone, turn off negative self-judgment, just do.  Many things I put off are less hard than things I do do. It's the attitude and associations that make the difference.

I can choose the attitude and self-talk I bring to each task. 

HP, willpower, divided will

I began to see this after reading the Now Habit. It made a lot of sense--part of the will wants to do the task, get things done on time; another part digs in its heels, says it's too hard, I can't, I don't want to, or all sorts of subconscious messages of resistance.

A battle of the will is very hard to heal: I think it just escalates: more pushing and ought and self-punishing, more resistance in return. And then the inner battle uses up lots of energy.

I begin to see the point of HP, and trying to get away from ego ('help me do the next right thing'), and to feel that that way of facing myself, the world, and facing tasks really offers more than just a glimmer of hope; so far it has brought me even the experience of moments of change, moments when the things I have to do are the things I want to do and the tasks become light...Just moments of that for now for me, but I am looking forward to more of them.

* By chickadee at 22 Sep 2008 - 10:38pm
* reply

Divided will and Mark Forster principles

The Mark Forster book Do It Tomorrow addresses some of the issues about the divided will.

These quotes and summaries (below) come from chapter 2 and chapter 1.

Here are some reasons that this book speaks to me now. From it, I see how time binging is the other side of the coin of p., because they are both about being impulsive and reactive rather than calm. Knowing that you can have a plan, can define the steps and then can follow them builds confidence and serenity. In contrast, reactive work uses a different part of the brain because reaction and impulse are part of the fight or flight stress response. -There's where resistance comes in. So in a way the whole system is about maximizing your best concentration and deciding where to apply it and making sure that that decision is guided by a longer term goal.

Have a clear vision--that will bring clarity and focus; ask 'what am I trying to achieve' and you'll be more likely to achieve it. When you choose your path, you also reject others. Try using a to-do list that tells you what you won't do and that sets limits (e.g. not working past a certain time.

One thing at a time--in a restaurant you only eat what you ordered.  Routine work needs simple and effective systems to free creativity and imagination for the big projects. Good concentration is precious. Apply it judiciously.

Little and often- This is an effective way for the mind to work--it avoids getting bogged down and also your ubconscious may stay engaged and solve problems even after you move off a stint on a task. This applies to exercise and learning (languages and music) but also to writing projects. It's a work method that avoids perfectionism and binging  and fosters new insights and thoughts.

Limits-creativity and achievement need limits and focus; clear boundaries and well defined limits allow deeper more effective attention; timed concentrated bursts on a big task will get you farther than binging. (Partly because of the 'end effect' and because you build up momentum and confidence by working this way. You will concentrate best when you know you are working for a limited time instead of for as long as you feel like it (which is a kind of impulsive binging).

Closed lists--dealwith e-mail in scheduled batches at regular intervals rather than reactively and randomly. Closed lists are motivating, nothing gets added, they are possible to complete; open lists are demotivating. Since you want to be working calmly and rationally, you need to be able to trust your plan.--Identify the backlog; have a routine for processing new things that won't generate backlog; chip away at backlog.

Reduce randomness--work by plan not impulse--having to deal with some random and unplanned stuff is inevitable, but one should minimize it. Randomness and interruptions use the impulsive part of the brain rather than the rational part. We react to random things as threats or pleasures; randomness means that priorities get lost.

Commitment vs. interest

What do we need?

A project needs good structures and routines rather than just will power.

'So long as the reactive brain regards [a] task as a threat, it will keep the brakes firmly on'

'Without the right checks, stimulus-reaction will... overwhelm thought-decision-action.'

motivation and faith

 believing that something is possible plus wanting to do it, i.e. positive motivation


work for me. But really having both attitudes is not always easy.  Microbursts and seeing progress make me want to keep going. It is starting on the MIT-task, the one that seems impossible or overwhelming because it has been delayed, that's tough. Microburst, microburst. Think: I can do something, can take one small step...    Getting over procrastination is partly about rediscovering my motivation and my faith that things are possible...

thank you.

Thank you for posting your insights on this matter as they evolve and grow.

The adrenaline you've been living on only leaves you wanting.


I'm going back to this old thread because it seems relevant to my next steps: fitting more in and getting to important long term backlog things. Reawakening motivation, getting aware of goals, retrieving ambitions... and all that needs: believing that things are possible; having the faith that small steps can get me there and the hope to take those steps today.

Later I will post some of the aphorisms I've learned from others here, short sayings that help me think differently and then do.


thanks, all for being here and sharing.

Thank you, Chickadee :-)

Thank you chickadee, 

For this inspiring thread. Just reading it lifts me up a bit :-)


"Study how to use the symptoms of procrastination to trigger the cure!" Neil Fiore

thanks for sharing

Your thoughts are very helpful. A quote I like that seems to fit with this discussion is one from Rick Warren:

"Work becomes worship when you dedicate it to God (or HP) and perform it with an awareness of His presence"

I am trying to remember this so I won't see tasks at work and home as so big and dreaded that I cannot handle them; instead, with His help and baby steps, I can make progress slowly but surely, especially on the backlog of things left undone by past procrastination (that is by far the most difficult for me).


Great Quote!

"Work becomes worship when you dedicate it to God and perform it with an awareness of His presence"


OOOOOOH! Thank you for posting that!

Thank you too, rec   

Thank you too, rec    :)


I'm posting a tip I just heard--for when the divided will is at war... I haven't tried using it.

When not on task, ask self: what will I accomplish/end up with if I keep doing this?

Do I want that?

my today-catalyst for

my today-catalyst for motivation:

do a small, finite task that I WANT to do. Today: a small sewing job. Then I hung onto the motivation, faith that 'I can' and satisfaction of seeing that I could do it.