Pushing Past Procrastination: How To Get Stuff Done

Pushing Past Procrastination

Do you have brilliant idea that you keep putting off or just aren’t able to bring to fruition? Or maybe it’s a small task that never seems to get done? Author Phyllis Korrki is here to let you know that you’re not alone. A reporter and assignment editor for The New York Times, Korrki tackles the problem in her book, The Big Thing: How to Complete Your Creative Project Even If You’re a Lazy, Self-Doubting Procrastinator Like Me. She shared what she learned in the process of writing her book — and why she pledges to be lazy for the rest of her life — on the [email protected] show on Wharton Business Radio on SiriusXM channel 111. (Listen to the podcast at the top of this page.)

Image credit: marke1996 – Flickr

An edited version of the transcript appears below.

[email protected]: I’ve never interviewed somebody that has described herself in this manner or as part of the title of a book.

Phyllis Korrki: It’s pretty out there. Honest subtitle, isn’t it? The book itself is a very meta book. It’s a book about creative projects, and my creative project is this book.

[email protected]: What things did you learn about yourself in the process of doing this book?

Korrki: The idea for it came when I was writing a column in my job at the Times about deadlines. I said in the column, which was also kind of a meta column, that the only reason that I finished it was because I had a deadline, I was accountable to my coworkers, and I would have endangered my reputation if I hadn’t finished it. I thought to myself, how do we give that same sense of urgency to our own personal creative projects that no one else is asking for? I explore that in the book.

[email protected]: Has doing this book changed your philosophy on your work at The New York Times?

Korrki: I think it’s opened up my voice a little more and made it a little more personal. I think my writing has gotten a little more personal. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it has had that effect, I think.

The reason I say I’m not a self-help guru is because I feel like I am suffering just the way most people are, and I feel like I have gone through a lot of failures.

[email protected]: You say in the book that you are not a self-help guru. So what do you want people to take from this? Maybe a little bit of understanding of what you went through and how that could relate to their own situations?

Korrki: Exactly. The reason I say I’m not a self-help guru is because I feel like I am suffering just the way most people are, and I feel like I have gone through a lot of failures. As I say right up front, I am very lazy. There is all of this sort of self-help religion out there or inspirational kind of material that says you have to get up every day and you have to have discipline and you have to work every single day without fail on your project.

I would sometimes say to myself, I need to get up and do this, and then I just stay under the covers and read a mystery or play with my cat instead. I thought because I am that kind of person, I am not capable of doing a big project. It turns out it’s not true. You can be lazy sometimes, you can maybe not get up on one particular morning or two particular mornings. But if you get up on that third morning, and if you get up enough, increments add up and you can finish it.

[email protected]: There were times where I saw a word or a phrase in the book that I latched on to. One is the word love. A lot of what people do with their projects ends up being a labor of love.

Korrki: Yes, I have a whole chapter on love and work. Freud is the one who was reported to have said that the most important things in our life, for us to feel fulfilled, are love and work. I call them our two psychic tent poles. But it’s very rare for a person to have complete success or fulfillment in both areas. So, we sort of put our psychic energy into one or the other. We talk about a passion project as a labor of love. We talk about our book as being like our baby. Very true.

[email protected]: You also talk about drive being another thing.

Korrki: Yes, one thing I think that is important for this kind of project is for it to be intrinsically motivated. I make a distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Where something really fulfills a deep creative, spiritual or intellectual need, and it’s not driven by the need to be famous or get rich or get a lot of followers on social media. That shouldn’t be the main motivation for that. That’s not going to carry you through to the end.

[email protected]: How often do you think that big thing that somebody is dealing with has nothing to do with their daytime job?

Korrki: I don’t know percentages on that, but I do talk about some people in the book who need to have a job that is completely different. For example, the composer Phillip Glas, before he was able to afford to work full time on his music, he drove cabs. He was able to make enough working part time as a cab driver to devote all of his mental energy to his music. I talked to another person who is a janitor full time, and he likes that that doesn’t tax him too much intellectually. He founded this museum devoted to the works of his late father.

I think it doesn’t matter who you are or what walk of life you are in, a certain segment of the population has this yearning to do it. Not everyone, and that’s OK. But if you do have it, it doesn’t matter what your income level or your job is.

[email protected]: There were a couple of pieces that I went back and read a couple of times over. They’re not what you would consider to be the normal thought process in completing a project, but you talk a little bit about health, maybe with your own situation.

Korrki: The thing that happened was I got horribly anxious, and I got stomach pains and back pains. I ran to my doctor and said, “Will you please, please give me some Klonopin so I can relax?” She refused. She said, “Oh, it’s addictive,” so I was forced to seek natural answers to it. I actually took breathing lessons, believe it or not. I paid $350 to get a lesson in breathing. It really helped. What she told me made a lot of sense because I was breathing very shallowly, I was breathing vertically, I was breathing from the top of my body where there are barely any lungs. That was limiting the

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