Can we talk?  

Where do you fall on the procrastination scale?

Not sure?  Take the survey.  

I’m not hardcore but I do lark about and enjoy dilly-dallying as an extreme sport. I like to think it’s a small flaw but one that has its benefits.  (*More about that later.)

That’s why I’m intrigued with The Kaizen Way.  It’s a Japanese philosophy that espouses continuous (kai) improvement (zen) through small steps and tiny changes.

One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way

In his book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, Robert Maurer tells about a woman who wanted to start exercising on a regular basis. She was a couch potato for a long time and just couldn’t start an exercise routine. Even though she bought a treadmill, she kept procrastinating. Then, she turned to Kaizen.  Think: Luke-Skywalker ~ I am here to rescue you.

Here’s what she did:

  • For the first month she stood on the treadmill each morning as she read her newspaper and sipped her coffee.
  • Then, for the next month, she started walking on the treadmill for one minute after finishing her coffee.
  • Each week, she increased the length of time on the treadmill by one minute.
  • She kept increasing the length and intensity of her workout, very gradually, until she was running a mile a day.
  • She overcame procrastination and created the firm habit of running a mile a day.


Oh, the temptation to spend endless hours on email and deck-chair-web surfing, the whole of the Internet laid out before me like The Game of Life, instead of doing anything that reeks of Not-fun-at-all-ness. Maybe Kaizen can help me.  I’m thinking I’ll start with a summer list.  I’ll have some fun things to do (watch birds in my yard) and some derailing don’ts (don’t google the mating behavior of that red-bellied sapsucker on the suet) as well as must-dos (clean the cellar ~ that needs A List of Its Own, with aforesaid small steps and tiny changes.)

Annie Lamott tells this story in her book for writers about breaking a big task into a smaller, less daunting one. ( I apologize for this mini-distraction, but do follow her on Twitter. She’s a hoot.)

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”


I’ve decided to take it wing by wing.  Take a walk, pick blueberries, blast pop music from the 60’s (called oldies ~ I have no idea why), schedule appointments I prefer to ignore. And pat myself on the back for what I do….if I get around to it.

I may procrastinate ~ but I rarely sit around absolutely idle.

*And, now, that fringe benefit ~  Let’s say (hypothetically, of course) the family DVD player crashes the day before the British Open. Personally, I’d rather chew roofing nails than read about the hundreds of models on or walk the aisles of Best Buy. I say brush that chore away like the minor annoyance it is, put the shopping off until tomorrow and, if you’re lucky, someone else just might do it.  🙂

What about you?What’s your experience with procrastination? How do you deal with it? Have you ever experimented with small steps?

Toni 8/8/13

7 thoughts on “HOW TO GET THINGS DONE

  1. I like the treadmill story!
    On the whole, I’m pretty good at breaking tasks down into little bits so they don’t seem so overwhelming. I married a procrastinator. I guess opposites really do attract!


  2. And how, dear lady, could it ever be possible that studying the mating habits of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker would be wasting time!! Spending time. Creating Time. Luxuriating in Time. And as for web-surfing to research some tiny thing that’s tugging at your mind and heart? Go for it. I say ditch the whole concept of procrastination. Put it in a bag, weight it with cement blocks and put it, put it…well, put it wherever one puts things weighted with cement blocks. (Hmmmm. I’ve been reading too many Whitey Bulger reports.)


  3. Rather than our typical after dinner walk, I stayed in last night to watch Netflix stream for me “Orange is the New Black.” This morning on our pre breakfast walk the dogs and I had to step over a 10 inch around, thirty foot tall tree, that had fallen across our trail sometime since 4 p.m. yesterday.
    Might Netflx procrastination have saved us?
    How many more trees are waiting to fall? How many more episodes of Netflix will save us or drive us to look up the yellow bellied sapsucker, or shall I begin to read the books in the pile.


  4. I have become a huge procrastinator. It snuck up on me over the last couple of years. He-Who is really good at procrastination and I have learned a lot from him. It has just been the last two weeks that I realized what had happened. I use to be that person that was always so busy that you always gave the stuff to do because you knew it would get done. Perhaps I will try something like your treadmill story to get back on track.


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