I spend a lot of time writing in coffee shops (well, one coffee shop in particular), which means I get to observe all kinds of people working, socializing, and slacking off because that’s what people do in coffee shops.
Fortunately for me, I find people (well, some people) fascinating. So most of the time, I don’t mind observing people living their lives in my general vicinity. I’m not sure how they feel about me observing them…
Beyond pure entertainment value though, I have also learned a few things that are relevant to running a business. One thing I’ve noticed is just how many people spend hours pretending to work—for example, mulling over a personal problem with a friend on the phone for hours, while sitting in front of their laptop with a half-written Philosophy 101 paper open (‘tis the season).
Usually, at this point I force myself to squish my headphones into my ears, turn on my favorite Pandora station, “Beats for Studying Radio” (yes, really), and block out those slacking off to get my work done. But for some reason, Pandora is boring me today and I’d rather hear the music being piped in over the coffee shop speakers (Tom Waits, at the moment, such a cliché, I know). So, I’m alternating between working and procrastinating, while half listening to others procrastinating.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that we all love to spend time doing whatever is not the one thing that we are supposed to do. But each time I realize that I’m my own worst enemy, I die a little bit.
Of course, we’d all be better off if we didn’t procrastinate. Of course, we’d all be better off if we didn’t get pleasure from slacking off and doing things that get in the way of achieving our life and business goals. The fact is we are always fighting our inner slacker.
And most of the time (at least if you were born in the US with a minimal amount of privilege), it’s that slacker part of us that prevents us from getting what we want.
It’s not the professor who gave us the grade that we didn’t want and caused us to lose our scholarship or have to take a summer class.
It’s not the supervisor who is overbearing and creates all kinds of arbitrary rules that make us feel small.
It’s not the walls and obstacles that others build to try to keep us from our dreams.
It’s nothing external to us at all that keeps us from getting what we want.
It’s that part of us that just doesn’t want to do the hard/boring/tiring/annoying/intense stuff.
All of this is so disappointing because it would be so much easier to push through and accomplish our goals if it were the external stuff that was getting in our way. It’s so much easier to fix the stuff that’s outside of us. That’s why we all immediately look to fix the external stuff before even considering kicking our slacker-selves to the curb.
Anthony Bourdain, who seems to be fairly successful (for a chef, author, and television personality anyway), has a great quote that I just heard somewhere the other day. He says, “I understand there’s a guy inside me who wants to lay in bed, smoke weed all day, and watch cartoons and old movies. My whole life is a series of stratagems to avoid and outwit that guy.”
I love this! When I’m on top of my game and things are going right, it’s totally because I’ve managed to outsmart that part of me who sees slacking off as a better option than doing the hard work.
How do I outsmart my inner-slacker?
I do small things to avoid and outwit my inner-slacker. I wouldn’t say these tips constitute a stratagem, but they work for me.
- I start early and spread out the work on each project as much as possible, so if I have an unproductive afternoon, I’m not sweating it.
- I don’t beat myself up for having an unproductive afternoon (beating myself up would be engaging with, not avoiding my inner-slacker).
- When I’m feeling busy, I wake up extra early, so it feels like the day is longer than it actually is.
- I reward myself for even small wins, like following up with that lead.
If your inner-slacker is keeping you from writing regular blog posts or working on any other writing projects, you can outsmart her by contacting me. I’d love to avoid doing something (this week, probably finishing my Christmas shopping) by working on your project!
How do you avoid and outwit your inner-slacker?
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