If writing is a summer priority and you’re not already writing, look for this lurking dangerous thought.

“I have plenty of time so I’ll begin writing in a few weeks.”

One Danger:

The danger of this seemly passive thought lies partially with the unstated assumption that time is abundant in the summer. Notice how thinking about adequate and even surplus time feels. Immediately the thought generates a dopamine hit as you anticipate the reward of what you might do in this unfamiliar state of adequate time. Quickly you imagine all the projects you’ll complete, the fun you’ll have, time with your friends, “getting organized,” and, of course, meeting your writing goals.

Who Wants to Plan?

Planning could erode your current high so you’re having none of that. You’re not ready to face tradeoffs and time constraints. You remember how anxiety and frustration emerge when you start “getting real” about time. You’re not interested. You’d rather enjoy the illusion.

Enjoy the Temporary Pleasure

Go ahead, bask in this fantasy. No harm when it’s short lived. Plus saturating your brain with these imagined accomplishments can fuel your motivation—at least temporarily.

Another Danger:

The implication that writing will be easier in a few weeks also makes this a dangerous thought. Most things seem easier to do later. Simply delaying a challenging, confusing, or tedious task creates pleasure as you quickly compare doing the dreaded activity to NOT doing it. Ah, you notice, look what I don’t need to do now! In the future you imagine having more energy, ideas, patience, and determination. Yet studies reveal we overestimate the willingness of our future self to act.

Procrastination Thought?

If these thoughts are familiar, then you’re strategically responding (consciously or unconsciously) to a pain sensation. Your survival-focused brain protects you from the pain associated with negative thoughts and feelings by quickly generating possible escapes. This process is known generally as procrastination. But don’t despair or feel ashamed. These are characteristics of being human 

Alternative Thoughts:

  • My summer schedule is very different so I need a plan that fits my priorities.
  • I’m planning to enjoy things I neglect in the academic year AND make significant progress on my writing project.
  • I love ramping up my summer pace slowly, but I’m scheduling my writing time into that early leisurely pace.
  • Writing is my top summer priority so I’m partnering with a friend to insure I have the accountability and support needed to make early and consistent progress.
  • This week’s review of my summer goals reveals I neglected to anticipate obstacles to achieving my writing goals—won’t happen again.
  • I’ve created my treat list and aligned small rewards with reaching various milestones. Plus, I’ve determined my big reward for reaching my major summer goal and decided how I’ll celebrate this achievement the week before the Fall semester begins! Can’t wait to toast my success. 

These alternative thoughts focus on best practices for goal achievement.

May the summer of 2018 be a productive and restorative one!

Aleksandr Eremin