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A Cure for Procrastinating Mensans

By Marty Nemko

Last month, I started writing columns for the Mensa Bulletin on how we Mensans can be more productive. Last month, I offered career tips applicable to all Mensans, even the most driven. Here I focus just on the procrastinator.

Here’s a cure for those who are sick and tired of being told, “If only you applied yourself, you could accomplish so much:”

1. Make top-of-mind that you really are squandering your life. Your life’s meaning is significantly determined by how much you’ve given to the world. And as everyone’s been telling you ad nauseum, you have so much potential to do that. Decide, finally, that every time you opt to forgo productivity in favor of a brain teaser or party, you’re probably wasting life’s most precious resource: time.

2. Set a big goal. Goethe said, “Dream no small dreams because they have no power to move people’s hearts.” So, what’s the biggest, most exciting goal you could potentially achieve if you put your mind to it? Even if you’re not sure you could achieve it, might getting partway there is good enough?

Can’t think of a big, exciting goal? Here are common fantasy careers: owning a cool business, being a celebrity, being in the fashion, sports, computer games, or film industry, directing or starting a non-profit, holding political office, holding a status job like architect, lawyer, or executive.

Already in a career? What’s the biggest contribution you could make to your field? Most people don’t have the intellectual firepower to make a big contribution, but you’re a Mensan. You do.

3. Picture the benefits.of achieving your goal. Money? Fame? Self-esteem? A more meaningful life? Get your spouse off your back?

4. Is fear making you procrastinate? If so, what would your wiser twin say in response to your fear? For example, if you’re afraid of failing, your wiser twin might say, “If the goal is really too difficult, change it or get the skills you need so it’s not too difficult.” Or, “Is it wiser to not attempt your goal at all, which guarantees failure? Would the price of failure be so great as to justify your not trying it?”

5. Consider getting a collaborator. Procrastinators often feel guilty about slacking if they have a partner to be accountable to.

6. Be aware of the moment of truth: that moment, when you, usually unconsciously decide whether you should take that next baby step toward your goal or see what Mensa event you should next attend? By making the choice consciously, you’ll more often choose the productive activity.

7. Break the project into baby steps. Don’t know how? Get help.

8. When you’re stuck, struggle for no more than one minute. Generally, if you haven’t made progress is a minute, chances are that additional struggling won’t help. It will merely make you want to procrastinate more.

Now put down this Mensa Bulletin and do something productive. All right, five more minutes with the bulletin.

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