February 22, 2020

How to Accomplish Getting Nothing Done

“Procrastination always gives you something to look forward to.”

I’ve always bought self-help books, or should I say “shelf-help” books. The first self-help book I remember buying was about speed reading, by Evelyn Wood. The book teaches you how to read a novel as long as “Moby-Dick” in an hour. I bought Wood’s book in 1970 and I’ve yet to finish it. In fact, trying to read the speed-reading book kept me from reading other books I wanted to read. Plus, it made me aware of what a slow reader I am. Buying the book and not finishing it, I believe, lowered my self-esteem. 

I also bought “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.” Reading that book took me over a year because I was afraid to feel the fear. Eventually, I finished it and it’s an excellent book. Author Susan Jeffers said that, with a few exceptions, most people are capable of breaking through their fears. I was afraid I was one of those exceptions. I’ve been afraid to reread it. 

A few years ago, I purchased “The Memory Book” by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas. If my memory serves me, I think Lucas was a basketball player. My entire life, people have questioned my memory. My mother said, “I must have told you 10 times to get your feet off the chair.” “Do you not remember that I asked you to clean up your room and take out the garbage?” “When was the last time you did what I asked you to do?” I never had an answer for that one. 

My teachers also questioned my memory: “How can someone forget to bring in their homework three days in a row?” 

“When my wife threw Munoz’s book into the barbecue pit, I knew it wasn’t the right one for us.”

My wife says I’m a procrastinator, so I bought Steve Scott’s “How to Stop Procrastinating.” But I found, rather than reading the book, I was wasting a lot of time doing other things. When my wife saw the book just sitting unopened for weeks, we’d fight about it. So, I bought Alicia Munoz’s “No More Fighting,” a self-help book for married couples to learn to stop fighting. But when my wife threw Munoz’s book into the barbecue pit, I knew it wasn’t the right one for us. 

One of my wife’s biggest complaints is that I’m messy and my stuff is strewn all over the place. So I got “How to Be Organized in Spite of Yourself.” You guessed it; I can’t seem to find the book. 

The book that changed my life and did help me organize is “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. Her thesis is — and it works — if you don’t love it, give it away or throw it away. Do this by taking whatever objects are causing you clutter and getting in your way and gathering them in one area. You then pick up each item individually, look at it and if you don’t feel the love for it, you toss it. (Don’t try this with your in-laws.)

So, I gathered every self-help book I owned. I put them all on my dining room table. There were 158 of them. I then picked up each book, one at a time, looked at them and if I didn’t feel the love for them, I got rid of them.

I ended up tossing every one of them except for Evelyn Wood’s speed reading book. The only reason I kept good, old Wood was because, if one day I learn to speed read and by chance I buy another self-help book, I can read it then get rid of it an hour after I buy it.

I have yet to read a single word of Evelyn Wood’s book. But it’s not a total loss. It’s an old, hardbound book that holds a cup of hot coffee on top of it very nicely. 

By the way, I’m thinking of writing a book called “How to Not Buy Self Help Books.” I hope to see you at my book signing.

Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer.