Stop procrastinating and get those D&D projects done

As the New Year approaches, many of us make resolutions about how our behavior will change during the next 12 months; one of my resolutions for 2010 is to complete, among other things, a long-overdue writing project for a D&D fan site. Part of planning that project’s completion involves determining why it hasn’t been done – and the answer in my case is time management and procrastination.

Strangely, it was the fact that I frequently post to this blog that brought this project back to the forefront of my mind: The word count posted on this site could account for ten such projects, yet this one remains incomplete. Why was I procrastinating?After a bit of reasearch on the topic of procrastination – which, in retrospect, was probably an act of procrastination itself – I discovered a few tips that will hopefully allow me to complete those unfinished gaming projects. Since most RPG Athenaeum readers are dungeon masters and writers who may be struggling with completing their own projects, it may be helpful to present those tips and ideas here.

According to the folks over at about.com, procrastination is a habitual (and ineffective) way of coping with things we don’t like – by putting off work on an unpleasant project today, we won’t have to deal with the unpleasantness until tomorrow. Unfortunately, the longer we postpone completion of our tasks, the worse we feel about them not being completed, which leads to our postponing them even further. It’s a steep slope downhill from there.

It’s important to start by remembering that we seldom procrastinate with tasks we enjoy doing. Usually, it’s the tasks we dread – or, more rarely, tasks we enjoy that carry an unpleasant aspect we want to avoid – that end up eternally on the back burner. The key, then, is to identify those aspects of a project that make us not want to complete it, determine why those aspects are unpleasant to us, and plan accordingly.

According to About .com, there are four motivators behind procrastination:

Self-Doubt – These people feel there are rigid standards about how thing ought to be done and they fear they will fail. They second-guess themselves and delay taking action.

Discomfort Dodging – This person avoids activities that will cause them distress, discomfort or anxiety. Rather ironically, the act of dodging the activity doesn’t make it go away so tensions mount because of this avoidance.

Guilt-Driven – The person feels guilt over tasks undone, but rather than correct the original lack of action continues to procrastinate in order to not face up to the guilt feelings.

Habitual – The person has procrastinated so many times, it becomes an ingrained response. The person no longer thinks about why they do it, they feel it’s just a part of themselves. It becomes an automatic response to say, “This is too hard”, “I’m too tired”, or to laugh it off as a character flaw.

After identifying our motives for not getting things done, we can plan how we’ll overcome those motives and bring those projects to completion.

While I had been engaged in low-level procrastination on my writing project for quite some time, it really ended up on the back burner when I accepted my current job and my wife gave birth to our son. Now that things are beginning to settle, I’m procrastinating on the project because of guilt feelings (as it’s been years since I’ve worked on this thing) and more than a little self-doubt (as the project involves writing for a legacy edition I haven’t played in years, and I’m unsure about my ability to design encounters using those rules).

Regardless of what motives are behind procrastination, the solution almost always comes down to time management, and dividing unpleasant tasks into smaller assignments that don’t loom as large as the entire project. This idea is probably best expressed by the gruff, old-school, no-nonsense publisher of the newspaper group for which I work as managing editor. He is fond of saying, “The best way to eat a [solid body waste] sandwich is the only way – one bite at a time.”

With that in mind, the path to finishing a project is paved with listing, prioritizing and scheduling those “bites,” in a way that allows the task to be done by deadline, whether the deadline is set for us or one we set for ourselves. Allow for extra time to account for unexpected delays and be realistic about how many bites of that symbolic sandwich you’re willing to eat at one sitting.

As more of the sub-tasks are completed, confidence in and motivation for the projects increase, making it much more likely that the project will be done. Heck, the sandwich may end up not tasting so bad, either.

That being said, I’ve got to start scheduling those tasks, or this thing will never get done…

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16 comments on “Stop procrastinating and get those D&D projects done

  1. Good luck! I understand how difficult it can be to get motivated. So, get to work and turn out a great product.

    I need to get to work on my Blood of Dragons, Blood of Mortals writeup. I am aiming for a Feb release date.

  2. max.elliott says:

    Guilty as charged.

    I keep a list of projects and their statuses, graded by cost and then complexity. I can than go down the list looking for things that are “do-able” and then I force myself to do them. Costly projects (“build a submarine”?!? WTF was I thinking?) get axed first and marked as ‘dropped due to funding’. In this way those things don’t sit in the back of my mind, weighing on my spirit. Then I go and knock out as many of the remaining projects as possible, from the bottom up. I find that once I have some intera built up, the larger things just get done. Today I did xmas things with the family and then solved a problem my wife had with a flash player she was trying to embed. Then I finished a book. Later I’ll learn a new RPG system. After that I might tackle one of those online tutorials I have bookmarked.

    Anyone else have a system that works for them?

  3. Johnn says:

    Do tomorrow what you can do today!

    Errr, wait, that’s not right.

  4. Procrastination (or dodging as my therapist used to call it) combined with Nerd projectitis is, IMHO, the chief reason why so much RPG design talent is squandered on blogs and forum posts instead of seeing the light as PDFs or, better yet, submissions in gaming magazines for all editions of D&D (except, strangely, 2e).

    I encourage people to battle the inner demons and see a project through. Heck, I battled depression and came out of it with a Goodman Games 4e adventure and a KQ article.

    Not bad for someone who was a no-name blogger back in the summer of 2007.

    Think about it.

    • Alric says:

      I am honored by your visit, Chatty One.

      My therapist called procrastination “aversion.” Do these folks earn their money by making up fancy names for stuff?

      Thank you for reading my blog.

      • Dude, I’m not royalty 🙂

        Yes Therapists make money by making up words. You should see how much I now get paid to do productivity seminars. 🙂

        I was highly interested by your post’s title. As for fighting procrastination, it’s now one of my mission to get RPG talent to fight their inner barriers and strut their stuff.

        I don’t fear the competition, I think we’re too few who’ve learned to do it properly and at a high enough quality. And I want to get more people at that point.

        Peace out friend.

  5. Jim says:

    I had the same problem this year. I wanted to get this Swords & Wizardry supplement completed but it’s not gonna happen. I hoping to have it completed by the end of January 2010.

  6. I hear you on procrastination. I recently kicked my own butt back into high gear on my RPG project at bySwarm, and it’s already manifesting well in my work. I’m with Chatty DM on trying to help other aspiring RPG writers to stop procrastinating and start creating.

    • Alric says:

      I concur with you and Chatty DM. There’s an awful lot of untapped talent out there.

      And bySwarm is a very interesting concept. A cool site, If I say so myself…

  7. […] post is inspired by tips on beating procrastination over at RPG Atheneum. Alric discusses four procrastination motivators and a few tips to overcome putting things […]

  8. Duddy says:

    Great article!
    What really puzzles me is that for serious or “clinical” procrastinators (20% of the population) the real way overcome the procrastination has been around for about 70 years in the behavioral science of motivation!

    It’s the same the 2 step strategy that “cures” clinical depression more effectively than CBT (see activation therapy). It’s also the same simple 2 step strategy that “cures” autism in so many cases (see BCBA and ABA).

    Not for highly productive people that claim to occasional procrastination, but for real life-interfering-procrastination, it’s all about harnessing or borrowing motivation from what we love to do, or what we do instead of our high-procrastination-task, and plugging that “motivation-juice” into what we should be doing but avoid like the plague!

    Please, click on my signature for how this evidence-based procrastination busting strategy really works. It actually gets faster and easier each time you apply. I’d love to get an exchange going with anyone who is seriously interested in overcoming the serious, harmful kind of procrastination.

  9. […] their life because it is likely not that unpleasant all the time! When DM finds a task appealing but is still delaying the completion of the tasks, these are suggestions to combat […]

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