Our thumbscrews are our weaknesses. In Robert Greene’s 48 Law’s of Power, Law 33 states:
“Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew. Everyone has a weakness, a gap in the castle wall. That weakness [...], once found, is a thumbscrew you can turn to your advantage.”
I often review where I am in my life, and specific strengths and weaknesses I have. Many of my articles come out of weaknesses that I have overcome, or that I am still struggling with.
With that, here are some of the specific items that I have to keep in check – ways in which I procrastinate, thumbscrews that hold me back from being my best.
If I have solutions to specific items on the list, I will list those as well – but I know that not all my solutions are ideal, so I could use some help. Feel free to jump in if you have any ideas.
My Procrastination Thumbscrews
- Wasting Time Online. Facebook, Twitter, email and general RSS reading are to blame here. Solution: I do use RescueTime to shame myself into not wasting as much time online, but I know that I can get these activities done faster every day – and when I go days without them, I don’t miss them. The only solution I have so far is limiting my time on them – that seems to be sufficient to not allow these activities to take over my day. I use my start pages to focus myself as well.
- Cleaning my room. The grand daddy of all procrastination techniques. I lump clearing my desk in with this one as well. Solution: I do not have a good solution to this, other than to clean my room (or hire someone to do it) and unclutter as often as I can, so the excuse is not available to me during times I really need to be productive. I like my room clean, so leaving it messy is not really an option.
- Playing Video Games. I’ve never wasted weeks or months playing video games, but I have wasted more hours than I would like. Solution: I’ve been limiting myself to only playing video games when I am playing with a friend or a roommate, in the same room. This is working pretty well, but I have to keep in mind that this is one of my weaknesses – and not let it get out of hand.
- Playing Guitar. Practicing guitar is a gray area for me – is it really productive? It’s leisure, but perhaps it’s useful since I am developing a skill, even if I am not a rock star. I know I’m procrastinating though if I am practicing a lot on days I need to get “real work” done. Solution: I have set hours for guitar practice, and allow short 15 minute breaks (with a timer) to practice if I am in the middle of something.
- Blaming External Circumstances, but not changing them. Solution: I’ve been dealing with things more actively lately, and this is not as much of an issue anymore. The only long term solution I can think of is not accepting anything as non-negotiable. One specific thing I do now is, as soon as I hit a wall I ask myself – how can I fix this, or who can I contact for help and advice? I don’t let things just sit unresolved anymore.
- Overloading Myself With Commitments. When I take on too many things, if often leads to a complete stop in all my goals as progress slows to a crawl across the board. If I’m taking on too much, it’s usually a sure sign that I am no longer as motivated or passionate about the activities I already have. Solution: This past year, I have been paring down my commitments and responsibilities, and saying no much more frequently when asked for help. I’m also dumping many of the commitments that I dread keeping.
- Metawork. I often undertake excessive amounts of reading, research and planning rather than just doing it. As someone who likes to be extremely prepared, this is one of the hardest habits for me to break. Solution: Setting a deadline for ending research and settling for good versus perfect are ways I control the amount of metawork I do for tasks.
- Watching Television. This was one of my weaknesses when I was young (12 years old or so). I remember my father hooked up a contraption to our TV that allowed us only 8 hours of television watching per week. In retrospect, this may have stopped us from watching TV, but the scarcity made us value watching TV even more. Solution: The main way I stopped watching so much television was taking up additional hobbies, sports and especially playing guitar.
Any advice or thoughts? Or do you have any procrastination thumbscrews of your own you would like to add?
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