Procrastination Habit: Pretend Work

Fixin’ To Get Ready

I like naming things. When I recognize some pattern of behavior that recurs, something I or others do that I want to remember, I give it a name. By naming things you can build a body of knowledge and experience around the things you do that influence your life. I have one behavior I call ‘Fixin’ to get ready’. It is the procrastination habit of perpetual preparation.

I call it ‘Fixin’ to get ready’ because my grandmother used to say stuff like that. She would say, ‘I’m fixin’ to go to the grocery store’ even though she was just sitting there. Not making a list or getting her keys and wallet. She was literally just sitting there fixin’ to go to the grocery store. I guess that meant she was thinking about it.

Fixin’ to get ready has to do with achieving goals. Let’s say you have a goal that you want to get a new job or start a business or get in good physical shape. Anything you hope to achieve that would make your life better. In order to make that happen, you have to do something different than what you’ve been doing to produce this new outcome. And that’s taking action. If you want a new job, you’re going to have to take action, which means going out on interviews and meeting potential employers. But before you can take action, you have to properly prepare. For example, you’ve got to get a good resume put together.

Getting Ready To Get Ready

This is work that you have to do before you can take the action to get the result. To be clear, that work won’t get you a new job, that’s just preparation for the real action that gets the result. Writing a resume is essential for most job searches and therefore real preparation and real work. But before you actually can get ready.

I haven’t written a resume in 30 years as I’ve been self-employed. So if I wanted a job, I think I’d want to learn more about writing a good resume. I would start searching the Internet and learning about what makes for a really effective resume. I would read articles and watch videos and develop the knowledge I need to get to work. Now I’m making progress. But, you know, the folks at Google are pretty clever because when you’re searching that video for how to write a solid resume, you’re going to see something pop up about how the top five interview questions you should be prepared to answer.

You know that that sounds like a good idea. I should probably watch that video or read that article. And before long, all the things you probably haven’t thought of have been presented to you. And you’re now down a rabbit hole, a little overwhelmed trying to learn everything that you need to know in order to get ready so that you can take action so you can achieve your goal. Oh, my gosh, I am so not ready to find a job!! But, this rabbit hole is kind of cozy.

That’s ‘fixin’ to get ready’.

Good Habits, Bad Habits & The Habit Of Procrastination

Now at some point, you’ve got to take action. If you don’t take action, nothing happens. Even the work you do actually writing a resume doesn’t produce the result. You’ve got to get to action. And now there’s this whole category of stuff that seems workish. It makes sense to properly prepare and to other people, it looks like you’re working. We let ourselves think we’re really working, but we’re actually getting further and further away from our goal by spending time not actually doing real preparation or taking the action that produces results.

And that’s why fixing to get ready can be such a dangerous habit. It looks and feels like real work. And it almost is real work.

There are a variety of forms of procrastination. A more impulsive person might jump on social media apps and lose a few hours accomplishing nothing. You basically know you’re not working, but it’s not like you went to the beach all afternoon. Smart people avoid difficult tasks with all manner of self-defeating behavior. You know you’re procrastinating when you go to the beach. You know that’s not work or work-like in any way. It is doing something else. But fixin’ to get ready has a very work-like feel to it, which is part of the problem. It’s definitely more valuable than browsing social media apps for the afternoon. Making it even more deceptive.

Watching videos is remarkably easy and it’s entertaining. If you find a good speaker on YouTube talking about how to write an amazing resume, it’s educational and entertaining. You believe you’re making progress towards your goal. And, of course, you are, but only for a little while.

What is most dangerous, is developing the bad habit of preparing and not doing real work. We do it because it’s easy, fun and worst of all safe. It is warm and cozy and super safe.

Doing real work can be hard and taking action can be a little scary. Action typically doesn’t feel as safe as preparing. You’re going to meet a stranger who is getting paid to judge you. Yeah, that’s uncomfortable for a lot of people. But if you want a new job you must put yourself out there. Watching videos on how to write a resume or handle tough questions will never get you the result you seek.

Cost & Consequences Of Procrastination

Procrastination By Preparation

I have been fixin’ to get ready to start this blog and a Youtube channel for a long time. With the help of the Internet, just about any goal you might hope to achieve can get real complicated real quick. For example, to have a YouTube channel I got to have a camera, so now I’m researching cameras and phones with good quality smartphone cameras. You can spend a lot of time researching smartphones and video editors. Reading reviews and watching comparison videos. But, did you know the problem with using your phone as your camera is that the screen is on the other side? So now I’ve got to research tablets and how to control your phone with a tablet. And on and on.

Finally, I knew I had to hit publish (ship) my first post ‘What Makes A Man Happy‘ as well as my first video at the Nice Guy School on YouTube.

At some point a person has to complete the task and ‘ship’. That’s a Seth Godin expression. He talks about how important it is to stop perfecting your work and just ship it. Essentially, good is good enough. It doesn’t have to be a great resume. In fact, you’re better off writing a bad resume and improving it over time. The hard part is writing the bad resume with all the jobs, education and dates identified and formatted on a page. Improving over time is pretty easy.

This leads to the real problem. Believing you are working and enjoying the comfort and safety of deep preparation keeps you from doing real work and taking the action that produces results. Like ‘paralysis by analysis’, you can easily get stuck in a loop of planning and preparation and an endless supply of what you still need to know before you are ready to take action. The cost is delay at best and complete inaction at worst. The consequence is unrealized goals and ambitions. Kind of the whole enchilada.

What is the solution to ‘Fixin’ To Get Ready’?

Fixin’ to get ready is awful sneaky. It’s a kind of procrastination that isn’t obvious because there is value to this kind of preparation. I’m happy with my smartphone camera and tablet setup (and all the other extra steps I took to research stuff I didn’t bother to tell you about).

Takeaway #1: Being aware that a lot of work is dangerously easy, fun and safe but can quickly distract you from what produces real change in our lives. While learning more about how to be properly prepared or take action, it remains a form of procrastination.

Takeaway #2: Is being honest with yourself that it may or may not be helping you produce the results that you’re really after. Fixin’ will quickly reach a point of diminishing returns.

Takeaway #3: Recognizing that you’ll never be as ready as you could possibly be. There’s too much knowledge out there that might be good to know, but by trying to learn it all, you’d never get anything done. You have to recognize that this is just an imperfect game. You’ll never have everything aligned just so. So go screw it up if that’s what it takes. You’re better off writing a bad resume and going on some bad interviews than watching a bunch of videos and not taking action.

Productive people identify procrastination patterns in their professional and personal lives and implement a variety of strategies to refocus on your true goals. Get to action. Put yourself out there. Be willing to take chances and to learn from those experiences. But at some point, you’ve just got to stop preparing and go do.

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