Monday, January 30, 2017

Procrastination Tribulation

Yes, it is possible to get overextended in your Third Third. It is possible to fill up January until you don’t know how you’re ever going to face January. Except that January happens.

And then, rather than tackling your too-many projects and commitments, rather than chipping away at them one by one, you simply stop. Freeze. Become immobile. Paralyzed.

That’s why there were no blog posts the week of January 15. There was almost nothing the week of January 15. I was too busy procrastinating.

And then, just when I was analyzing my procrastination, NPR ran a story about Why We Procrastinate – And How We Can Stop. I was sitting in the car and Tim Pychyl was talking to me. It was like the voice of God. He said, “We have to recognize that procrastination is not a time management problem, it’s an emotion regulation problem.” While he said it’s a voluntary delay, it’s a self-defeating delay.

It’s true. Every day I put everything off, I felt worse. In researching this, I found Tim Urban’s very funny TED Talk. He said that procrastinators have an Instant Gratification Monkey who encourages them to do Easy and Fun Things. Hmm, paralysis didn’t mean I was doing Easy and Fun Things. It meant I’d entered the Dark Playground (his word). My Dark Playground is immobility.
So I made a list of my January ordeals: big party, fulfillment of resolutions (squats), coordinate interviews of high school students for my university, organize yarn bombing of more trees, do project for art group, prepare OlĂ© presentation, arrange rental/flights for my future month in London, straighten out finances, host book club, etc. That doesn’t even count my usual teaching or painting signs for protests. It doesn’t even count cooking dinner or shoveling snow.
Okay, you don’t need my list. You have your own.

But I looked at my list and tried to figure out why some things were SO HARD. You will be surprised what was THE HARDEST thing for me: logistics, as in arranging airline tickets. First I had to find my rental and select my dates for London. That meant another VRBO gauntlet, which turned out to be miraculously less traumatic and more magical than my first time. But then I had to find flights.

That meant I had to go upstairs and hyperventilate a little.

I think it’s hardest for me to do things I don’t understand. I have no idea why certain flights cost more, why a flight shows up on one schedule but not on another, why a price suddenly changes in the middle of my search. Inexplicable forces bat me around willy nilly, and they make me pay if I do something wrong. It seems so irrevocable.
I opened PowerPoint on my computer. Once I’d done that, it followed that I’d create the presentation on my list. And then it was done. I’d made a dent.

So I pulled out a jigsaw puzzle and spent a few days working on it because I just couldn’t face the financial transactions. I guess that’s the Dark Playground.

There are different theories about conquering procrastination. My sister said, “Just do one thing.” But do you do the hard thing or the easy thing? The thing with the nearest deadline or the thing with no actual deadline but still needing to get done? Because you could keep putting those things off forever.

Which is why I have done exactly one set of squats in a month. They could take two minutes so obviously, time is not the issue. There’s no deadline, but if I never do squats, I’ll be an old woman who can’t get up from her chair.

Tim Pychyl says to do the “next action.”

Pressed “publish.” Done.

1 comment:

  1. You've been brainwashed to feel guilty for not keeping productively busy. You're in your third third. There are some thing you have to do so they don't take your house back or so the pipes don't freeze, but I'd bet nothing terrible would happen if you never did most of the things on your list.
    You don't have a boss and you won't lose your job if you don't do them. You are doing the things you want to do. Relax. Enjoy being retired. It's when you don't have to do what's on the list.
    Yes it's emotional. Your emotions are saying, "Screw it, I'd rather goof around." Pay attention. They know what's best.


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