Precipice postponed: procrastination #3

Precipice: the edge of an extremely dangerous situation; a cliff with a steep dropoff

Postpone: to delay until a future time, put off

I can breathe again. I made my maiden Powerpoint voyage and managed to stay afloat for the duration of the presentation.  Obviously I should have done another run-thru on a wall more than 2 feet wide, because if I had, I’d have noticed that the right-hand 25% of each slide was truncated… for reasons I don’t yet know.

I talked to the screen rather than the audience more than I should have, and I had some issues with the remote control…   Fortunately, I know my feng shui material well enough that I could talk my way through the glitches, and my Toastmasters club is very supportive of anyone trying something challenging.

As I said earlier, I put off preparing this presentation until the last possible moment…  I usually love putting together presentations, but this one filled me with the desire to change my sheets, reorganize my file drawer, clean the toilets…. ANYTHING else.  And all this when I absolutely LUSTED for the projector which would enable me to do illustrated presentations.

According to the study center at Cal Poly there are four reasons we procrastinate:

1. Difficult – the task seems hard to do; we naturally tend to avoid difficult things in favor of those which seem easy to us. [this would explain my desire to clean toilets]

2. Time-consuming – the task will take large blocks of time, and large blocks of time are unavailable until the weekend. [especially if you have no idea how you’re going to structure the talk to take advantage of a new medium]

3. Lack of knowledge or skills – no one wants to make mistakes, so wait until you learn how before you start. [I’ve heard so many horror stories about AV equipment failures that I was scared even to try the projector!]

4. Fears – everyone will know how you screwed up. [This didn’t bother me for the Toastmasters talk, but I am preparing for a much lengthier illustrated talk for paying customers next week and screw-ups aren’t really cool.]

Cal Poly suggests the following steps to cure yourself:

  1. Realize you are delaying something unnecessarily. (Duh… but maybe it’s the “unnecessarily” we need to come to grips with. You have to realize this before days and weeks have passed – like as soon as you feel that twinge of uneasiness.)
  2. Discover the real reasons for your delay. List them.
  3. Dispute those real reasons and overcome them. Be vigorous.
  4. Begin the task.

I do think the secret is just to start anywhere.  Set a timer and commit to working at it for 15 minutes.  Wait awhile and do it again.  This is the swiss cheese approach. Once you’ve eaten a few holes in the project it suddenly seems like no big deal, and you’re halfway there.

What’s your formula?

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