I'm writing a book - a book that has taken me 12 years to write.
When my first book (Turning 30: How to get the life you really want) was published in 2005 friends and family swiftly asked, ‘When is the next one coming out?’
‘Soon,’ I’d chuckle, happy to bask in the satisfaction of one achievement before pushing towards the next.
I was keen to maintain momentum though. Despite the agony of the writing process and the floundering that comes with a first attempt I was enthusiastic and brimming with new ideas. I pitched one idea to a literary agent who liked it and encouraged me to write a synopsis and send it to her.
‘Absolutely!’ I replied, excited to receive a swift and positive reply. ‘Here we go,’ I thought. ‘The next big opportunity. This is exciting. I’m on a roll.’
Then I did… nothing. I didn’t write the synopsis. I didn’t follow up with the agent. I made a few notes in my notebook, put them aside and didn't glance at them again.
It wasn’t that I was busy with client work, although I was.
It wasn’t that I had travel plans, though I did.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t keen, because I was.
I just didn’t do it. I procrastinated. I found other tasks, other projects, other work. I kept myself busy not writing a book. The hopes and dreams of book two loitered in the dark recesses of my mind and when they dared step forward into my consciousness I pushed them back.
'Not now. I'm not ready;' I'd tell them. 'I'm too busy. I don't have time,' I convinced myself. Meanwhile my gut wrenched. Guilt rose. I pushed the niggles aside and kept busy keeping busy. I put the book firmly on the 'one day' list.
I did this for 12 years. I grappled with fear and frustration, confusion and conflict. Getting a new book into the world was a project I so wanted to complete and yet month after month, year after year, I told myself that it couldn't be done; that I was too busy, that it wasn't the right time. Writing the book was something I would do one day but that day was never today.
Fast forward to 2016. The urge to conquer a second book had grown. I dug out my notes and spent an evening shaping them into a few ideas. I took a big step and employed a researcher. I spent a few days in early 2017 reading the research. I was inspired, I was motivated.
'I love this. I can do this,' I declared - and that was it. I stalled again. I returned to busy and the book went back on the 'one day' shelf.
I'm not alone in this struggle, I know. Clients, friends and colleagues tell me tales of goals half-started and dreams not quite launched; of challenges that, once conquered, will blow minds and transform lives. One day.
Even the mundane has the power to frustrate.
'I really have to clean out the garage'
'Life would be easier if I got my files organised'
'I need to get my tax return done'
'I will get that finished - one day'
Yet 'one day' is never today.
As I psychologist I had to understand. What drives this yes-I-will, no-I- won't struggle? Why do we engage in this battle of desire versus frustration? Why do we torment ourselves by putting off the tasks that we know will make a difference to our happiness, our confidence, our success, perhaps our lives?
This is what my book is about.
It is about procrastination; why we do it and how we can stop. It is about big sky dreaming and taking steps to transform those dreams into reality. It is about tipping the scales in favour of action rather than teetering on the cusp of one day, never quite gathering the momentum to propel us to our target.
Most of all my book is about thoughts and emotions; the emotions that drive our action - or lack of it - and the thoughts that get tangled up in the drive chain as we move forward, sideways and backwards.
I will step readers through the science behind:
- Goals and drive: Why are humans compelled to set goals? Why are we rarely happy with the status quo? And how do you set a goal that you can't help but achieve?
- Procrastination. What is it? Why do we do it? And how do you stop?
- Motivation. Where do you find it and how do you keep it?
- Dealing with overwhelm. Because we're all busy, but not all busy is helpful.
- Practical tips and tools for getting started and keeping going
- The emotions of getting big things done. The good, the bad and downright frustrating.
What my book is not.
This book will not be a quick fix for your procrastination woes. It is not a manual for manifesting your dreams, nor does it contain the perfect planner for creating success habits. There is no three step process for understanding and changing human behaviour.
My book will support you to overcome your procrastination, take action and achieve your goals but it will do it by exploring and uncovering why you do what you do. How do your thoughts, feelings and actions thwart progress towards your goals? And what simple action can you take to feel great and get that task done, once and for all?
With everything I've learnt about procrastination, motivation and taking action to achieve our goals, there is only one thing left for me to do I guess. I'm off to write the damn book!
If you're keen to follow the story of (as yet unnamed) Book Two there will be updates in my regular mail out to Potential Psychology community members. Sign up here.