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.

How to get momentum going?

Back to PA today after months away. During some of that time, I did incredibly well. But I have been really stuck on a particular project that brought me back today. And I did make more progress on it than I have in ages. Yet, I was unable to build any momentum. So the idea of working on it again now seems just as daunting as it did this morning.

I see that using a timer almost always helps me overcome inertia and get started. But once I stop, even briefly, the inertia is right back again.

I'd be grateful for any feedback about how to get momentum going. And I'm grateful to you all and this program.

inertia and momentum

Hi, Mollie,

You asked about ideas for building momentum. Are you familiar with a book called The Procrastination Equation, by Piers Steel? One of the ideas in the book is that there are four main factors that affect whether / how much we procrastinate:

  • What we expect to happen if we do whatever we are procrastinating about,
  • How much we value the outcome of doing it,
  • How much of a delay there is before we reap the reward of doing it, and
  • How impulsive we are.

From what you wrote on your 8/25/11 check-in post, sounds like you've already figured out that expecting/fearing a bad outcome has been a factor for you. In addition to entertaining the possibility of good outcomes, you might also want to try thinking about how much you'll value having the project done, or ways to give yourself interim rewards for making progress, or whether there's a way to minimize any factors that tend to interrupt you.

For more, see the book! I was able to find a copy in my local library. Hope you can, too--best of luck with your project!

The Procrastination Equation

Dear wrkinprogrss,

I've read lots of books on procrastination, but had not even heard of this one. So many thanks for the suggestion! I like the breaking out of these four factors. And I really appreciate your suggestions. I just requested the book from my local library.

Thanks again!

Now I'm smiling!

You're very welcome--I'm glad to have had something to suggest. Best wishes! Smile

Procrastinator's Laws of Inertia

Hi Mollie:

I don't know if this is any help to you, but I'll throw in an exchange I had in the CI forum a while back in which I likened procrastination to Newton's laws of inertia:

(I was quoted from an online chat; also see my followup reply to this posting.)

In summary: procrastinators at rest tend to stay at rest, those in motion tend to stay in motion (but beware of motion that is non-productive).

what this doesn't say is what to do about it, but the basic implication is finding something to get you started moving (in the right direction) and then you are more likely to keep moving.

Good Luck!

Inertia vs. Momentum

Hi pyrotecher,

Thanks so much for your reply. Inertia is a huge factor for me -- it seems to be very hard to get started. That said, the trick of the timer almost always helps with that (I just have to remember that and have the willingness to use it). However, once the timer stops, I really do stop and re-starting feels very hard. Maybe setting the timer for longer & longer intervals will help (though I think that what makes it work is that I set it for short, totally do-able intervals). Hmmmm.

Thanks again for your thoughts and support,

restarting as a goal

Re tending to get off-track and not go back to what needs doing, one thing that I've tried and found somewhat helpful is to set myself a daily goal of restarting work on whatever-it-is a certain number of times. So, instead of judging myself for not continuing to power through a long task or project, I can feel like I'm making progress each time I return to it. When I was actively doing this, I seemed to have around 5 or 6 restarts worth of willpower in a typical day. 

If you try this and find it useful, I'd love to know about it, since I made this one up, myself. Cheers!