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Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I co-host the Your Home Story podcast and believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!
Mom to Otto born April 2018 and Lucy born August 2020!

The Now Habit - what I learned about overcoming procrastination

Back in the day I used to share blog posts with my thoughts about nonfiction books I'd read. Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, The Happiness Project books, and Better Than Before really helped me and I enjoyed sharing my notes and favorite strategies with you. I don't have much time for nonfiction reading these days. But I did recently finish one (I read the first part from the physical copy, then sat on it for months till I gave up and listened to the rest via audiobook) and it was GOOD.

I heard someone rave about The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play on a podcast and put a hold on it at the library. By the time it was my turn and I started reading it I'd forgotten why I decided I needed to read it... but I was immediately engaged. 

I wouldn't say I have a problem with procrastination or am a chronic procrastinator, but I try to fit a lot into my life, and having lingering things on my to-do list weighs on me. The strategies in the book have been really helpful for both personal and professional tasks and goals!


The Now Habit Book Review


What procrastination really is

There are dozens of procrastination books and strategies out there that urge you to get organized, break things into small pieces, set priorities, etc. etc. But The Now Habit defines procrastination differently. Procrastinators aren't lazy--they are often perfectionists, who get overwhelmed by a task or decision and struggle coping with their anxiety about doing it right. (Anxiety about wanting something to be the best it can be? That sounds like me for sure.)

I'll keep it really short: the book's summary of the reasons we procrastinate:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of success

So making better to-do lists won't really help. The Now Habit program outlines several powerful tools for dealing with the stress we feel around big projects and long to-do lists. Things like creating safety to lessen the fear of failure, using an "Unschedule" to focus your work time, and (the most fun and very important) making time for guilt-free play.
What does this photo have to do with the book? Nothing, although I did procrastinate arranging those flowers for a week after I bought them and when I finally did they were droopy. An example of feeling overwhelmed (had to move the vase from somewhere else) and fear of failure (I'm not that good at arranging flowers).

Strategies and tools for dealing with procrastination

I'll summarize just a few of my favorite techniques. 

  1. Guilt-free play is important! An example from the book is, doctoral students that took weekend days off to go hiking or whatever finished much faster than the ones who thought they should be working all the time. Guilt-free time off creates a subconscious urge to return to work, and keeps you from hating or resenting it. He says, "One of the reasons we procrastinate is out of fear that once we start working there will be no time for play, that work will deprive us of play and the enjoyment of life."
  2. Do just one part of a task. For example, when I decided to write this blog post I was overwhelmed so I started by starting a draft with just a few thoughts that were on the top of my mind at the time, and fill in the rest later.
  3. Do a crappy first draft. Spin on the above. Procrastinators tend to be perfectionists so we want everything to be perfect, but that creates a real barrier. It's freeing, and very helpful, to tell yourself you'll just jot down a rough outline of a report in an email first, or just cut out a template or start pinning a sewing project.

I've recognized that often the reason I'm delaying tasks is I'm intimidated by them. Giving myself permission to do a crappy first draft has been really helpful!

Wise words about procrastination

There are a few other really great parts of the book that I flagged. 

  • In the part about procrastination as fear of failure, and defining ourselves through our work: "If you believe that judgment of you work is a judgment of yourself, then perfectionism, self-criticism, and procrastination are necessary forms of protection."
  • On the language of "shoulds:" "Should for procrastinators has lost its original meaning: 'I dislike the way things are, and I'm going to do something about it.' Instead it has come to mean 'I'm angry and disappointed about the way things are... and I'm going to complain and feel badly.' The self-talk of 'should' has the same negative effect as setting counterproductive goals, envying others, and longing for the future." This takes away the power we have to choose what we do and makes us feel obligated, resentful, and insufficient.
  • Calm and focus help us concentrate and be more productive. The "working in the flow state" section of the book reminded me that working frantically on a million things at once is not efficient!

I've honestly found multiple times to bring up these strategies and philosophy at work and in my personal life, and really value what I learned from this book!

I highly recommend this one! The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play.

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