Procrastination Is Not Laziness
I was going to tackle my procrastination problem last weekend but I never got around to it.
By Sunday at 5:48 p.m. I realized I had blown it again. Throughout the week I feel like I barely have enough time to cook, eat, tidy up, write an article and do the odd errand. I lean towards the weekend, when I have two whole days to finally get some work done. To improve my blog, to catch up on my correspondence, to get some monkeys off my back like fixing things that need fixing, organizing things that need organizing, tackling things that need tackling.
But the weekends go by and I never catch up. I don’t use the time well. Time is not what I’m short on, even though that’s what I tell myself all week.
Sometimes I do sit down early in the day and pound something out, but then I give myself a well-deserved break and that’s usually the end of any productivity. I end up clicking around on the internet, then clean up, then cook something, then watch a bit of a documentary online, then try to work again, then get distracted. Then I decide to wait until after supper to do some work, then I start reading something after supper, then if I’m still home, it’s already after 9:00 so I decide I’ll get an early start the next day.
I avoid taking on the real important stuff. I create work of secondary importance so that I never have to confront the really worthwhile things. When I get on a roll, I back off and stay backed off. I take breaks that turn into written-off days. I am addicted to hanging it up for the night, to letting myself off the hook.
The important stuff doesn’t get done, at least not before my procrastinatory tendencies have created an obvious, impending consequence of not doing it, like incurring a fine, really letting someone down, or getting fired.
So much of what I want to do isn’t terribly difficult and wouldn’t take a lot of time to get done. Looking at my projects list now I have items like: book an appointment for X, send in that change of address form, phone so-and-so about Y, write a short piece for Z. And many of them have been sitting there for weeks or months. I have the most bizarre aversion to tackling things.
Reaching critical levels
To some of you this is already sounding familiar.
I have lived with this sort of “productivity lag” most of my life, but it only recently hit me that it’s not just run-of-the-mill human busyness. Some alarming patterns have emerged in the past few months. I’ve been feeling chronic stress for the first time in years. I have been waking up angry on a fairly regular basis, and that’s not okay.
After a bit of poking around at the library, it’s become clear to me that I have a pretty serious procrastination issue. I also learned that procrastination is not caused by laziness or disorganization, but by deeper psychological issues, which I’ll touch on a bit later in this post.
As I said, it’s always been a feature of my life but it’s reached a critical point this year. The catalyst has been a change in my job. At the end of January I was dropped into a new role that I neither like nor feel prepared for. My protests were met with, “You’ll figure it out as you go along, it’s like this for everyone at first.” I have since worked it through, mostly, but not before it set off a pretty bad stress cycle that brought some ugly stuff to the surface.
Honestly, it probably would have been a much easier adjustment for most people to make than it has been for me, but my initial uncertainty combined in very ugly ways with my lifelong phobias of asking for help, admitting ignorance, and talking to people I don’t know on the phone. Paralysis set in. Stress, which has been a mostly-dormant force in my life for the last five years or so, became prominent again.
Once you lose track of the specific items that are causing you stress, you tend to regard it all as one big ugly entity that you want to avoid. My unaddressed duties and grey areas at work became mixed with my unaddressed duties and grey areas outside of work, to create a stifling mutant stressor that only leaves me alone while I’m sleeping. All the work I’ve done towards learning to effect the quality of the day can be easily short-circuited by my procrastination habit, and that’s what’s happening right now. It’s gone way too far and I am determined to address the bad habits that let it get this way.
My last few experiments have created huge changes in the way I operate and the environment I live in. Well I’m doing a bigger one this time. I’m taking on a problem that has probably taken more from me than any other behavior. I’ve lost so many opportunities, relationships, advantages, sources of income and growth. There is certainly nothing that has caused more suffering in my life than my propensity to avoid achievement or competition.
For what I’m capable of, I have been a resoundingly unproductive person. Almost every Sunday night I mourn another blown opportunity to catch up, and throughout every week I am leaning towards the next weekend. The weeks fly by, and if weeks are flying by, so are months. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives, and I’ve had enough of this.
Monday I’ll formally announce Experiment No. 11. While preparing for it I did some research on where procrastination comes from, which was frankly quite alarming to me and shed a sorely-needed light on why I have had such confounding, persistent trouble with getting ordinary things done. This post is quite a bit longer than usual but if you’ve had similar trouble, it might just shake loose something that’s been stuck for a very long time.
The real causes of procrastination
Let’s clear something up: I am not lazy. I have no shortage of energy, I have no interest in lounging on the couch, I don’t have TV service, I never wear pyjamas all day. Waking up after 7:30 is sleeping in for me, even on a Saturday. I actually like working.
Yet I exhibit a consistent failure to work through my day-to-day tasks, errands and projects in any manner than could be considered timely. Nearly everything must reach some sort of “scary point” for me to finally move on it. Like when I waited till the last possible day to submit my lease renewal, having had three months of lead time. In the end it took about fifteen minutes, but evidently I needed to be a day away from losing my home in order to do it.
I ended up reading one of the more highly-acclaimed books on procrastination, Neil Fiore’s The Now Habit. Reading the section on the psychological causes of procrastination really hit home.
It turns out procrastination is not typically a function of laziness, apathy or work ethic as it is often regarded to be. It’s a neurotic self-defense behavior that develops to protect a person’s sense of self-worth.
You see, procrastinators tend to be people who have, for whatever reason, developed to perceive an unusually strong association between their performance and their value as a person. This makes failure or criticism disproportionately painful, which leads naturally to hesitancy when it comes to the prospect of doing anything that reflects their ability — which is pretty much everything.
But in real life, you can’t avoid doing things. We have to earn a living, do our taxes, have difficult conversations sometimes. Human life requires confronting uncertainty and risk, so pressure mounts. Procrastination gives a person a temporary hit of relief from this pressure of “having to do” things, which is a self-rewarding behavior. So it continues and becomes the normal way to respond to these pressures.
Particularly prone to serious procrastination problems are children who grew up with unusually high expectations placed on them. Their older siblings may have been high achievers, leaving big shoes to fill, or their parents may have had neurotic and inhuman expectations of their own, or else they exhibited exceptional talents early on, and thereafter “average” performances were met with concern and suspicion from parents and teachers.
This was the part that made my heart sink when I read it. Not that anybody was trying to make things difficult for me, but I grew up feeling high expectations from the adults in my life and myself. For most of my schooling, I was always in advanced programs, always aced everything, and when I got anything less than an A, people asked me what was wrong.
I also noticed other kids didn’t get this treatment. They were congratulated for getting B’s and even C’s. So from the feedback I got, I learned that a report card (of mine) with five A’s and a B was indicative of a shortcoming somewhere, not success. I’ve written about this before so I won’t get into it here, but suffice it to say that I learned that the downsides of being imperfect are far greater than the upsides of being perfect.
Perfectionism breeds pessimism
It was a major revelation to me when I recognized a year ago that despite my preference for and sensitivity to the positive aspects of life, I am a pessimist — I have come to give potential downsides far more weight than potential upsides. This means that pushing projects ahead is — on the balance — a bad deal, because unless I’m pretty damn perfect there is much more pain to be had in doing that than pleasure.
This is obviously an inaccurate presumption, and I’m intellectually aware of that, but when it comes down to confronting it “in the field” it’s amazing how tricky the mind can be. I have a lifetime of habits routing me away from striving for prizes in life, and towards protecting myself.
For a procrastinator of my kind, perfection (or something negligibly close to it) thereby becomes the only result that allows one to be comfortable with himself. A procrastinator becomes disproportionately motivated by the pain of failure. So when you consider taking anything on, the promise of praise or benefit from doing something right are overshadowed by the (disproportionately greater) threat of getting something wrong. Growing up under such high expectations, people learn to associate imperfection or criticism with outright failure, and failure with personal inadequacy.
A person who does not have this neurosis might wish they didn’t make a mistake, whereas the neurotic procrastinator perceives the error as being a reflection of their character. In other words, most people suffer mainly the practical consequences of mistakes (such as finishing with a lower grade, or having to redo something) with only minor self-esteem implications, while neurotic procrastinators perceive every mistake they make as being a flaw in them.
So what they are motivated to do is to avoid finishing anything, because to complete and submit work is subject yourself (not just your work) to scrutiny. To move forward with any task is to subject yourself to risks that appear to the subconscious to be positively deadly because part of you is convinced that it is you that is at stake, not just your time, resources, patience, options or other secondary considerations. To the fear centre of your brain, by acting without guarantees of success (and there are none) you really are facing annihilation.
A backlog of avoided tasks accumulates, and each one represents another series of threats to your self-worth should you tackle them. So the fear mounts, knowing that there is a minefield of threats between you and the fulfillment of your responsibilities. You feel like you must do something and can’t do that thing simultaneously, which can only lead to a burning resentment of the people or forces that put you in that impossible place — your employer, your society, or yourself. A victim mentality emerges.
Because it is rewarding on the short term, procrastination eventually takes on the form of an addiction to the temporary relief from these deep-rooted fears. Procrastinators get an extremely gratifying “hit” whenever they decide to let themselves off the hook for the rest of the day, only to wake up to a more tightly squeezed day with even less confidence.
Once a pattern of procrastination is established, it can be perpetuated for reasons other than the fear of failure. For example, if you know you have a track record of taking weeks to finally do something that might only take two hours if you weren’t averse to it, you begin to see every non-simple task as a potentially endless struggle. So a modest list of 10-12 medium-complexity to-do’s might represent to you an insurmountable amount of work, so it feels hopeless just to start one little part of one task. This hones a hair-trigger overwhelm response, and life gets really difficult really easily.
All I want
As I mentioned, on Monday I will begin Experiment 11, which is direct attack on my procrastination problem. I’ll give you the details then about how I’m going to go about it.
All my experiments must have a clear aim. “Dealing with my procrastination problem” is too vague a goal here. I have to define what specific change I want to make.
What I want to get out of it is very simple. I want to be able to do something many (most?) people do every day, and would never consider it a problem:
I want to write down what I’m going to do the next day, and actually do it.
I am really good at the first half of that. Planning is something I do very well. I have planned the next day (or week) thousands of times. I’ve taped it to my door or bathroom mirror. I’ve set alarms, made promises, left trails of instructional sticky notes all through my apartment. But I am not sure if I’ve ever executed one of these plans all the way through. Honestly, in my 30 years I cannot think of one time I ever did. I will do anything but the 5 to 10 items I thought would be smart ones to do.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why I’ll do anything but what I planned, but it’s not that they’re necessarily difficult tasks. Sometimes they’re so easy that I don’t feel any urge to do them right away, and therefore can justifiably do something even easier, like check my email, watch online documentaries, or try a new recipe.
My adversary is the unconscious reactive part of my mind, and by now it’s a world-class expert at manipulating me. It’s like being a prison guard for Hannibal Lecter. Sure he’s locked up, but he’s Hannibal Lecter.
So that’s my simple, humble dream in life: to list a few things I’d like to get done and go ahead and do them. I could take over the world, if I could only learn to do that.
Do you have a problem with procrastination? Is it a career for you, or just a part-time hobby?
These two were supposedly based on a real couple, who said they wouldn’t board a life boat as long as there were younger people still aboard the ship. They both went below deck, presumably to their room, and that’s the last time they were seen.
Isador & Ida Straus
The couple had been married for 41 years at the time of the disaster. They raised six children together, and were almost inseparable. On the rare occasion that they were apart, they wrote each other every day. They even celebrated their birthdays on the same day, although they were well apart from one another. During the sinking, Titanic’s officers pleaded with the 63 year old Ida to board a lifeboat and escape the disaster, but she repeatedly refused to leave her husband. Instead, she placed her maid in a lifeboat, taking her fur coat off and handing it to the maid while saying, “I won’t need this anymore”. At one point, she was convinced to enter one of the last two lifeboats, but jumped out as her husband walked away to rejoin him.
When last seen by witnesses, they were standing on deck, holding each other in a tight embrace. Their funeral drew some 6,000 mourners at Carnegie Hall.
A monument to them still stands in a Bronx cemetery, it’s inscription reads: “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.
The Pros And Cons Of Being Single
Pro: When you’re hungover and vomiting on a Saturday morning, you can take solace in knowing that you’re all alone and won’t be seen and judged by anyone — except God, of course! Seriously though, when I wake up with even the slightest hangover, I’m thankful that I don’t have to deal with anyone touching me. I can ride out the misery in peace.
Con: Why were you drinking so much, babe? Is it because you’re secretly miserable about being ALL ALONE? I doubt you would’ve drank so much if you had someone who loved you by your side…
Pro: You can plan your entire life without putting anyone else’s thoughts and feelings into consideration. Want to go away for a month and, like, look at dolphins and drink margaritas or wanna rent a cabin in the woods and build your own Walden pond? Do it! You don’t have anyone’s private parts holding you back. Since you’re not doing anyone else at the moment, just do you!
Con: But, boy, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go on a vacation with a lover and have sex all day in a new bed? Sure, it feels great being selfish and doing whatever you want, but it would also feel nice planning big life moves with someone else. Also, you’re pretty sure that being single has turned you into an inflexible brat who doesn’t understand the art of compromise. If you were in a relationship, perhaps you could evolve? Hon?
Pro: YOU GET TO HAVE SEX WITH WHOEVER YOU WANT WHENEVER YOU WANT. People in relationships are jealous that you can just go up to someone and be like “Meet me in my ‘hidden place’ in five minutes!” Monogamous people want that! They are totes secretly bummed that they committed to one person’s genitalia for the rest of their life. Suckers!
Con: Wait, even though it feels good to bone in an unattached way, you miss the security of having guaranteed sex. Single people have to work in order to get laid. It requires some serious effort whereas people in relationships can just be like, “K, I’m ready.” You want that! You want to be able to get sex without leaving your apartment and, no, you won’t hire a hooker.
Pro: You get to dedicate more time to your AMAZING friends. Gosh, you’ve missed them. Your schedules have just gotten so cray cray lately but now you’ll be able to spend some much-needed bonding time.
Con: Oh shoot, all my friends got boyfriends when I wasn’t looking. Okay, I guess I’ll bond with myself then!
Pro: You can indulge all your gross behaviors. You don’t have to hold farts in. You don’t have to deal with poop anxiety. You don’t have to pretend you’re not hungry and order a salad at dinner. When you’re single, it’s always going to be “Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.”
Con: Sometimes it’s not good to be the most disgusting version of yourself. Just sayin’, babe!
Many people have told me over the course of my life that ““What other people think about you is none of your business.” Early in my life, and even in recent times, I had striven to be liked, to not upset people, to keep the peace, but I found all I managed to do was put myself in a twist trying to please everyone in all things.
When I was first told this quote, “What Other People Think of me is None of my Business”, it was one of those light bulb moments. You know the one when it all seems so clear and simple. I realized in an instant that what people think about me, truly isn’t about me. It is about them, not me. Their thoughts are not my business. It is theirs. I had been striving for the impossible. To always be thought of in the “right way” by other people. While it is “nice” to be highly thought of by others, I now understand that it is far more beneficial, and far more achievable to be highly thought of by myself.
Are you a people pleaser, but harbour deep felt resentment in doing so? It is impossible to make everyone happy with the choices we make. If you worry about getting everyone’s approval, you’d never get anywhere. If you let what others think of you become your business, it will consume all of your time and energy, draining you of the ability to move on in your life.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean being completely ignorant of others feelings, but rather their thoughts about you. You cannot change their mind by constantly worrying and stressing about what they think of you. What you can do, is be the person you are truly meant to be and feel comfortable with that. More than comfortable though, be the person that you want to spend your time with. Forget the thoughts about you from others and concentrate on the thoughts you have about yourself.
I have done a lot of soul searching in recent years and have finally learned to accept and love the person I am without having to put on any fronts. I no longer live my life based on what others might think of me, whether it be negative or positive. We all like to hear those positive thoughts from others, but remember that whatever the thoughts from others are, it “Is None of Our Business”. The words from others are useless unless we believe them to be true in our own hearts.
Enjoy, and remember “What Other People Think of Me is None of My Business” and in reality they probably have other things on their minds other than what you are doing. :)
“Few people ask from books what books can give us. Most commonly we come to books with blurred and divided minds, asking of fiction that it shall be true, of poetry that it shall be false, of biography that it shall be flattering, of history that it shall enforce our own prejudices. If we could banish all such preconceptions when we read, that would be an admirable beginning.”
― Virginia Woolf, The Second Common Reader
thats why Ive been sleeping a lot …
ganito ako sa office … palage xD
I’m talking to one of my colleague mark. he’s upset with my boss because shes giving her a lot of dts(disciplinary tracking sheet). hes telling that in the other center he had worked before, this was not a big deal. (I was rolling my eyes because In my head I was telling him fuck off)That got me thinking because I myself is guilty. not that Im a rule breaker but i just think that these things are for formality purposes only. But why do I keep on bending the rule? those are simple things that i cant follow? and I’ve noticed that most Filipinos simply cannot follow the “rule of law.”
Simple rules and regulations whether on the work place or in the road are for the most part ignored. like on 6 am at quezon avenue at centris people are relentlessly crossing that hi-way and theres this big no jaywalking sign before you cross it, but thats just a mere display. (Im guilty with this as well haha) Ive live long enough and this is waht Ive noticed each individual has this baseless sense of being more important than everybody else. In other words, Filipinos in general tend to put their own interest first before other people.
Going back to my colleague mark I hate how he calls my boss names after she turned her back. she was moderate on confronting him but that does not even stop him from misbehaving instead of conforming to the guidelines (what an asshole). he just kept on ranting hes starting to look like idiot to me.
Ive been thinking of something smart or clever to say but this guys hopeless. I just listened to him hes probably venting out or seeking my approval but in the back my head if I can just write discipline on his forehead I could have done it! hoping it would melt on his head and his brain would absorbe it haha.
One things clear here you cannot have discipline simply because its not on our virtue. It’s hard to really make changes in a land where breaking the rules is the norm rather than the exception.
first day of work. after being absent for a week haha (I was just watching tv series) my day started with a coaching from a senior group leader. she was asking why Im absent (blah blah usual nonsense) but she had to go on a meeting so I was saved from been scrutinized haha. then my team lead talked to me. I laid down my cards I told her that I wanted to resign because my conscience is getting into me everything is getting filed up and Im starting to feel guilt. (actually I just need a fresh start and another opportunity to not screw things) I was telling her that I want to make things easier for her I dont want to be a burden with anybody. I was surprised because my boss knows what Im doing and Instead of agreeing with me. she asked me to work against with my self and not to leave the company until Im a fixed a person. I was amazed but then I started asking my self what are her reasons. I tried to make her uncomfortable by telling her that what shes doing Is really unusual. In the back of my head Im also thinking that shes just keeping me because shes trying to avoid this domino effect that once somebody leave’s. other’s would follow. Judging on my observation the account is currently in transition, To changes and improving the metrics and it would not be good if employees keep leaving (xD Im getting to analytic with things). Or she wanted to keep me on her team hoping I would do good because I have the potential (ehem Im somebody with good scores)these are my assumptions (sigh I always feel suspicious about peoples kindness
Anyhow my team lead actually made sense to me she even mentioned that she had been on the same predicament and were alike in most ways. I dont know how to react on what shes trying to get at. on the other hand Im thankful that shes trying to help me. because I got used to people letting me go.Its nothing new to me. So I guess Ill endure the workload, the bad management everything until things gets worse than worst. its ridiculous!Ill tell myself that this is good for me. (what’s good is good regardless of other factors) Stop trying to make things perfect This is the real world! it doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done.
Stop following the path of least resistance. Life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile. ” Don’t take the easy way out. Do something extraordinary.”
A director of bell talked to us. I was amazed how we was able to convey such blunt messages without making me frustrated (at least I was not thinking that hes a complete idiot about whats going on with bell 611) his bad news. what I noticed was his keenness on his choice of words and how positive the messages that he was trying to relay.
I dare challenged my self to answer first whenever he ask something and so I did. (I’m still not that good on speaking around group of people). that’s actually a part of my developmental plan. I was stuttering but thankfully I was able to put up with my words and to explain him how dreadful the management is.
In the end of the meeting I still couldn’t convince my self that changes will happen because on my observation he doesn’t have the acceptance and the first stage of changing is acceptance. he just brought up this cycle thing how absenteeism affects the service level and encouraged us to go to work because its the absenteeism result. why there were a high call volume. whats hes not aware is that is that there somebody like me (haha I hate myself I’m too smart) who knows that hes playing the blame game we started and thinking that no one would notice that hes influencing us to fall on his trap that would lead us to work on his temporary solution(one hell of a guy, this man didn’t become a director for nothing). dare I say Im not buying that bullshit ” I need a solution something that would put an end on this tormented account. I really doubt that changes would happen here and It would never be.
“And you never can tell how close you are,It may be near when it seems so far,”
dahil rest day ko maliligo na ko at hahanapin ko librong ito! xD naiinip na ako march pa and season 3 ng game of thrones! ;D