Procrastination used to own me. Until the Gorilla came along.
It was 1982 and I was an hour late turning in a final paper for a college English class. “Sorry” the instructor said. “You’ve just flunked. You must repeat the class.” “No way!” I exclaimed. “Way” he said.
At that moment, a Gorilla in a suit and tie grabbed me from behind, threw me on the ground and stomped all over me.
“What the…?” I croaked feebly from the under the dust.
“Allow me to introduce myself”, said the merciless brute. “I am the Gorilla, at your service. For a small fee, I will inflict massive pain on you if I find you procrastinating.”
“Uh, you’re hired” I mumbled as a I put my shoulder back in its socket.
Around that time I had just got back my car from someone who had been using it in another state. The registration and insurance had expired and payments hadn’t been made in 4 months. I knew I had to deal with this but procrastination got the best of me for about a month. One day I got pulled over by a cop and got a ticket for $350 including an expired drivers licence. A week later, I walked out one morning and my car was gone. While I was wondering what happened to it, the Gorilla came out of nowhere and tackled me, mowing me over like a hairy freight train.
Yes, I once suffered from procrastination. Until it got too painful. Some stuff I was able to get away with, but with the big stuff, the adult responsibility stuff, the Big G was always there to inflict major pain for my procrastination.
I’m better now at motivating myself to accomplish most things, but not everything. Give me a new project that I’m unfamiliar with and you can bet that procrastination will rule. That’s why the Gorilla works for me.
I fear him. But I fear procrastination more, so sometimes I make that dreaded call.
“Hey G” I usually start with.
“Need your butt kicked?” I hear him smiling over the phone.
“I’m hoping to avoid that.”
“If hope is your strategy, then I will mop my floor with you. Tell the Gorilla what you are trying to accomplish.” he’ll say sarcastically.
“I’m trying to write a book”
“Ah so, taskhopper, taking on something big, are we? Unusual for you to step so far out into the unknown.”
“That’s why I need your help. I need to get the book written and uploaded to the publishing site by Tuesday night. I cannot afford procrastination.”
“Very well. You know I’ll be watching. And I will come for you if…”
“Procrastination” I say feebly.
“I will mangle your self esteem. I’ll destroy your momentum and stomp on your dreams. I will crush your integrity into dust. And I will carve a giant L into your forehead, Inglorious Basterds style.” I hear a click and the line goes dead.
I got the book uploaded at 2:15 am. Technically it was Wednesday morning, but it was still night and I guess that was good enough.
Sometimes I’ll get a glimpse of him driving by my house in his Jag, or I’ll catch him watching me through the window while I’m sitting in Starbucks…reminding me that there’s a dark angel dealing dire consequence, should I find myself mired in procrastination.
Dealing with Procrastination
You may not have a scary beast to frighten you into action when procrastination has you shackled. But there are two very powerful things that you can do: make yourself accountable and put something at stake. Here are some tips:
- First: create a deadline. There must be a date on your calendar as to when you will complete the project. Break it down into phases and schedule in time when you will work on it every day. Make sure it’s written down.
- Next, put something at stake.Take a hundred dollar bill and give it to someone you trust. Tell them that if you don’t produce on time they get to keep it. If you complete on time you get to spend the hundred bucks rewarding yourself. Most people will take much more action to keep from losing $100 then they will to earn it. Or give your word professionally to put your reputation at stake.
- Create accountability with a person or a group. Each person puts in writing what they are going to accomplish by when. You can check in on each other regularly to keep each other on track. Whoever misses the deadline or doesn’t finish first buys the other(s) dinner or a night out on the town.
- Create a scenario of frightful consequences. This is a mind technique. The most extreme example I’ve heard of is a guy who imagines that terrorists are holding a gun to the head of his wife and kid, and if he doesn’t complete his project on time they will die. That’s uh, pretty extreme but I guess it works for him. You might imagine yourself out of a job, or failing the class, or people laughing at you. Pain is a great motivator.
- Some people are more motivated by pleasure. In your mind you can imagine all the wonderful benefits that will come to you if you complete on time. Or again, you can figure out some kind of reward for yourself. Make sure to set that up, putting some money aside or making a reservation for a trip or dinner.
- Hire a real coach. Pay money to someone whose job is to push you and hold you accountable.
- Call Ted A. Moreno. Not only will I hold you accountable, but we’ll also use the tool of hypnosis to train your brain for action and productivity. I’ll call you every day if that’s what you want, but I promise not to beat you up.
The key to getting things done is to put something at stake. It could be pain or pleasure, it could be preserving the quality of your word or the desire to avoid embarrassment. But there must be something, some compelling reason to take action or you won’t do it.
Take it from me, I learned these lessons out in the jungle, at the hands of the Ape of Accountability.
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