Tools: Kill Procrastination Part 2
Calling out procrastination is just part of it
Several weeks ago a published a short piece on killing procrastination. I realize in hindsight it might not be enough.
People want to get things done but run into the same roadblocks over and over again because instead of taking action they procrastinate. And because of that, new skills aren’t learned, memoirs aren’t written, businesses aren’t launched and rock hard abs aren’t obtained.
People know they need to get to work on whatever it is they want to achieve but end up sad and deflated because constant procrastination continues to push their goal further and further into the future instead of the obtainable near-time.
What can be done to change this pattern?
Procrastination is basically a fear response—wanting to delay an unpleasant or uncomfortable experience, a person will find any number of ways to consciously or unconsciously avoid that experience.
And because the person procrastinating isn’t out and out rejecting the thing they are procrastinating over, the brain processes it as being worked on even though it isn’t.
It doesn’t matter how sensible or important the delay tactic might seem at the time—if it is any thing other than what you set out to do, it’s procrastination-not progress.
When I started studying Japanese in February, I procrastinated a lot! I was using a recorded program initially that had worked for me to learn basic French and German. However now the learning patterns were very stale and Japanese was a strange and difficult departure from what I already knew—in combination it was extremely boring and frustration.
Everyday I would plan to spend time with the recordings but would find plenty of other things to fill my time until it was too late at night to focus on my lessons.
How was I going to learn Japanese if I kept avoiding practice?
Clearly, it was time to change things up.
I accepted that what worked before wasn’t working now. I did a little research on what other students of Japanese were doing that was working for them—there were dozens of methods out there and people had varying degrees of success with them all.
It was then I found my key.
Learning the alphabet.
The first try wasn’t a brilliant success—I found Japanese characters as strange and bewildering and the sound of the spoken words.
Unlike the roman alphabets used for most Western languages, Japanese uses three different alphabets—Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. Context determines which alphabet you use at any given time and the meanings of sentences change radically depending on the addition or omission of a kanji character.
The first time I tried to tease these character sets apart I despaired.
But then I found a study guide that used a system of pictorial mnemonics to aid in memorizing the sounds the characters represent as well as how they are drawn.
The first few lessons were short and simple—a few days of quick successes made me feel more hopeful. I practiced drawing the characters while visualizing the mnemonic—such as the katakana characterラ which represents the sound “ra” looks a little like a bowl of ramen noodles (the noodle being the line over the rest of the character that looks like a bowl). The memorization was fun and challenging. I found myself stealing time away to practice my characters.
The added benefit of studying in this fashion is that it improves the brains ability to memorize, builds new neural pathways as well improves resilience--all key to helping combat the impulse to procrastinate.
The act of creative memorization, the repetition and the incremental progress felt good! In fact it was very relaxing. Instead of procrastinating and avoiding, I was actively pursuing my study and ENJOYING IT.
I changed up my study sessions to begin with alphabet review before diving into other activities such as vocabulary or sentence structure. My studying became a relaxation habit and ceased to be a chore.
I indulged in other play like activities such as watching anime as I like to familiarize myself with hearing spoken Japanese. I also engaged a tutor who helps plan lessons that go at my pace.
I’m not learning Japanese over night but I’m making consistent progress-something that wasn’t happening when I tried to force myself to use the other method.
What procrastination hump are you trying to cross? What can you change to make your supposed chore more enjoyable, productive or relaxing?
If you aren’t making progress with the old way, give yourself permission to try something else or add an element of play to what you already have planned. Keep adding play and trying new things until you find a combination that you can’t wait to work on. Then see how far you go.