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When Is Procrastination Not Really Procrastination?

by Jennifer on April 28, 2010

By Jennifer Blanchard

Lately I’ve felt like I’m getting nothing done. No matter how much writing I do, no matter how many links I post on Twitter, no matter how much school work I complete, I still feel like I’m accomplishing nothing.

I’ve been telling myself that I’m procrastinating; that I just need to stop all of my activities and lock myself in my home office and cross things off my ‘to-do’ list until everything is finally finished.

But when is procrastination really procrastination and when is it taking on too much?

I don’t know about you…but taking on too much is something that I’m no stranger to. Since early in my college career, I found that the more I had on my plate, the more I got done. And that belief has pretty much followed me to this day.

In fact, I may do more now than I did in college. If that’s even possible.

There have been many times, however, where I’ve just felt burned out. When I’ve felt like I am working myself to the bone and still not getting it all done.

That’s kind of how I’m feeling right now.

Currently, I’m three weeks behind on my school work, I have a list of blog posts that need to be written, I have a list of guest posts that need to be written…and so much more.

And yet this week I’ve already written a couple of articles and launched my new SavvyAuthors.com column (I’m doing a column called Write Your Weight Away; it’s all about using writing to lose weight and get healthy. If you’re a member, be sure to check it out. If you’re not a member, be sure to join so you can check it out!)

So when it comes down to it… am I really procrastinating? Or am I maybe burning the candle at both ends?

What are your thoughts on procrastination versus taking on too much?

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Meghan April 28, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Ooooh I saw your column on the savvy authors site (which is a great site!), I am excited about it! I definitely need to work on my health, I eat A LOT of bad food and have high cholesterol because of it. I also need to start exercising, but then I feel like that’s even LESS time I’d have for writing!!!

And don’t feel bad about being overwhelmed, it happens to all of us sometimes. I am feeling it right now too. My day job blows and it sucks 40 hours of my life from me (not including the commute which is an extra 45-60 min a day). I am going to the Pennwriters conference in PA in a few weeks and I only have 21k written of my manuscript. I was hoping to be at least halfway finished by the conference, but that’s pretty unlikely considering how much time I have left. Also there is this contest for a scholarship for some writing course thing, and I have to have a synopsis of my WIP by Friday. A synopsis of a story that’s about 1/4 finished!!!! Oh, I didn’t mention I’m a “pantser” and I never really outlined this story? Yeah, so don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone in feeling overwhelmed! 😉

2 jblan April 28, 2010 at 1:36 pm

@Meghan Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Being overwhelmed can be a really irritating feeling because it’s like no matter how much you do…you never get anything accomplished (even thou you do). I think maybe it’s better to take a break, then sit back and figure out exactly what’s most important, and then do that.

Good luck with finishing your manuscript! And if you have to get your WIP by Friday… you could always make a plan RIGHT NOW and write from that. Of course, then you’ll have to make the book match, but you know what I mean 🙂

3 jblan April 28, 2010 at 1:39 pm

@Meghan And if you ever need/want help reducing your cholesterol and improving your health… let me know. I do free health consultations: jennifer@creative-happy-healthy.com 😉

4 Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire April 29, 2010 at 2:36 pm

I think taking on too much leads to a direct correlation of how much you procrastinate. People tend to do what they want to do, unless they are going to get fired or lose money for not doing it. I can be a productivitiy machine some days and other days it’s a mess.

My worst story of procrastination is that I bought a book called “how to stop procrastinating” about 11 years ago (true story). But I am only half way through it and have been putting off reading the rest until the end of time.

-Joshua Black
The Underdog Millionaire

5 jblan April 29, 2010 at 2:54 pm

@Joshua Black Haha… don’t worry, books about overcoming procrastination aren’t usually very useful for procrastinators. I agree with you–it’s hard for some people to find motivation unless they are going to get fired or would lose money for skipping it. I think maybe we just need to find something that’s so inspiring to us (whatever that might be) that we can’t help but work on it constantly.

6 Sandra S. Richardson April 30, 2010 at 5:16 pm

You are burning the candle at both ends.

I think some days, no matter what we do or get done, it just feels like we haven’t done anything. My life is much too laid back and unlike most people I’ve met online I really don’t have a lot going on in my life. That said, I still have days where I get tons done and know I got tons done and feel great about it, days when I get tons done and don’t fell like I did much at all, and days where I actually don’t get much done.

If anything at all got crossed off your list, you got something done and didn’t procrastinate. Every little bit helps. 🙂


7 Marvin D Wilson May 3, 2010 at 1:32 pm

LOL I love that pic and can sometimes soooo relate!

The Old Silly

8 Keith Davis May 4, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Hi Jennifer
Great point, taking on too much leaves you panicking about how much you have to get done.
Result? You end up doing nothing.
It reminds me of the old saying:

When I was young, I was very indecisive.
But now…. I’m not so sure.

Glad it’s not just me.

9 jennifer blanchard May 4, 2010 at 2:11 pm

@Sandra S. Richardson Your’e right. As long as SOMETHING is being crossed off, you are making progress. Even if it’s progress on cleaning your house, and not progress on writing your novel 😉

@Keith Davis I’m glad it’s not just me too! So many people have commented on here saying they feel the same way. I’m glad to hear it; now we just need to come up with a plan to overcome it! (Btw, I LOVE that saying, haha!)

10 Greg Blencoe May 4, 2010 at 2:31 pm

This is just my two cents, but it definitely seems to be a case of burning the candle on both ends. This is something that I struggled with in the past. But fortunately, though I’m still a work in progress, I’ve gotten a lot better lately.

I’ve come to really love minimalism. And not just in how many things I own, but also with my time, too. It’s such a relief to eliminate the things that don’t really, really matter. This frees up time so we can enjoy what we really love.

I try to think in terms of the 80/20 rule. This can be applied to friends, work, leisure, etc. What really brings us happiness? And where could we be fine with a lot less? Are two blog posts a week absolutely necessary or would one good one be just fine? Do we have to hang out with that person twice a week? Or would once every two weeks be just as good? What work project means the most to me?

While it can initially be painful to eliminate some things in our lives, in my experience I have pretty much always felt better over the long run.

11 jennifer blanchard May 4, 2010 at 2:52 pm

@Greg Blencoe Wow, thanks for the great advice. Minimalism is definitely a challenge for most people. For me, I am pretty minimal with my possessions that I absolutely can’t live without…where I’m not so minimal, however, is with my projects. I always have like 10 projects going on at once and it becomes a very delicate juggling act. 90 percent of the time I feel like I’m half-assing pretty much everything I do because I take on so much. But I also tend to find when I have a lot on my plate, I get more done because I’m always working with ‘a gun to my head’ so-to-speak.

I am going to take on your challenge of minimizing other parts of my life to see if that helps. For example, I’ve been attending three stamping workshops a month, and now I’m going to cut back to one. I think choosing the workshop I REALLY want to attend, is a great way to cut back and still be happy.

12 Greg Blencoe May 5, 2010 at 12:15 am

Hi Jennifer,

You’re very welcome. Please let me know how everything goes. I’ve seen a lot of people in this situation. It made me think that I just might want to focus on it on the blog after the money challenge is over. It’s a fascinating issue that would be very interesting to explore.

13 Andrew Toynbee May 10, 2010 at 6:48 am

Hi Jen

I’ve always avoided Twitter because it seems like it would just suck the time away. Living my life whilst telling everyone how I’m living my life? Hmmm..How much time does that really use up? Just a thought. {8-D

*Andrew is currently commenting on Procrastinating Writers, leaving a message on a post about where all our time goes*

Andrew Toynbee

14 jennifer blanchard May 10, 2010 at 11:49 am

@Andrew Toynbee Haha… you’re hilarious!! But actually, Twitter is a fantastic way to promote your writing, as well as your blog (if you have one). In fact, I’ve organically grown the traffic to this blog exclusively by using Twitter (by posting links to helpful content, as well as links to my own content). Just another side of Twitter for you to consider… 🙂

15 Laura Lee Bloor May 14, 2010 at 1:48 pm

You know I know where you’re coming from on this! I am 100% in “burned out” phase. I’m burned out on school, I’m burned out on work and I’m burned out on writing. The good news is, I know it’s just a phase. The bad news is, I still have five more days before I can even think about catching my breath.

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