Overcoming Procrastination

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Responding to my post about depression, John asks me to:

Write something about finding one’s motivations, passions and interests in order to maximize one’s ability to drive himself towards his goals.

That isn’t really my expertise, but it makes me think of overcoming procrastination, which I do know about. For me, there are two kinds of procrastination: Laziness and doubt. Laziness is relatively easy to handle, doubt is much harder, (for me, at least). Let’s talk about each.


This is what I normally think of as procrastination. Magick is hard, writing is hard, neither is as immediately rewarding as video games or eating or sex, so I don’t do the work. I think we all know how to handle laziness, but a couple of tips:

  • If the work I’m doing now has no immediate practical use, I like to focus on something awesome it will eventually let me do. I do this at the start of a practice session (to motivate myself) and at the end of one (to reward myself).
  • Sometimes, I need to sneak up on the work: Decide, “I won’t actually do a full practice session, but what if I just engage the right ethereal muscles, just so I know I could do a full practice session if I wanted to.” Then, once those muscles are engaged, I wind up doing some real practice, too.


Doubt is less common, but much harder. I first saw this type of doubt being explicitly explained over at Study Hacks:

Procrastination, in my experience, is not a character flaw, but instead evidence that you don’t have a believable plan for succeeding at what you’re trying to do.

(Here, I mean “doubt about your plan to learn magick,” not “doubt about magick in general,” though doubt about magick in general certainly would lead to this type of procrastination.)

I encountered doubt-procrastination earlier this year. The spirits I train with had a plan: I’d learn each domain of magick to a fairly high level, and only then learn how the domains interact. (Examples of domains: Communication, used for manifesting and training; effects, used for energy healing, influencing emotions, and erotic energy; mental activation, used for awakening ethereal muscles; and so on. There were around 10 domains on my list.)

I was happy with their plan for a while, learning a few domains to a high level, a few to a mid level, and starting on the rest. Then deep procrastination set in. I couldn’t bring myself to train more, or even to practice much. I’d use techniques I already knew to solve problems, but that was it.

I tried the tricks for laziness, and with effort I could do a single practice session, but I wasn’t learning much. The problem was simple: I didn’t really buy the plan.

See, to do anything useful, you need to combine domains. Example: For communication, you need to place the spirit’s message in your brain. The ethereal muscles for communication can do this, but the muscles for nerve effects are vastly better at it. You really want to use both sets of muscles, letting each set of muscles do what it’s best at, and letting them communicate with each other to make it all work. Once you do, it’s faster and clearer than using the muscles for communication alone. (I know because that’s how I do communication today.)

There are tons of situations like this, where one set of muscles can do a skill at a basic level, but you need 2-3 sets of muscles to do the skill well. Since I was only learning one muscle at a time, I wasn’t seeing much improvement in my results. Sure, I believed the spirits that I’d eventually learn what I wanted to learn, and that their plan was the fastest path to those advanced techniques. But it turns out, “eventually” is a long time to wait for the payoff.

(I also don’t like learning magick I don’t really understand. If I can’t see where I’m going, my curiosity doesn’t drive me, and I worry that I’m missing out on important connections between ideas that could be useful later.)

I explained all this to my mentor. My proposition was to focus on communication, and for each communication technique, learn whatever other domains I’d need to do that technique properly. He signed off, I became excited and I got back to work. Success… until that focused work lead to the brain fatigue and depression I wrote about last post.

But I did overcome the doubt-procrastination (doubtrastination?), and now that I know to exercise regularly (at least when I’m learning a lot of new magick techniques), I’ll hopefully be able to keep up that pace and stay healthy, too.

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