Thursday, August 25, 2011

Introduction to Procrastination, Part I

Procrastination manifests everywhere, most of the time, in every
aspect or part of your life. You wait until the last minute to do
things, buy Christmas or birthday presents, visit the chiropractor or
dentist or file your taxes. You forget to make that hair or other
appointments or register to vote. The car needs an oil change.
The house is a mess but you haven't picked up the clothes or done the
dishes. The messes grow but you don't do much about them. Shouldn't
you do some of these things now so you don't have to waste a weekend or
vacation day cleaning or repairing everything you own? Sure, but do you?
The conflicts are about choices, which have different valences,
considering for the moment only the conscious ones. These can be relative to time or value. If the choice is between going to the gym or watching a video, you might choose the movie. You might make this choice because of the activity or whether it takes less time. At a restaurant, you choose a fatty entree over a lean one, perhaps because of taste, but perhaps because of price. The delays and poor choices continue, probably becoming more frequent, but you keep saying you'll "get around to" these things. Maybe you'll think about these things later, like next week. How about Tuesday? But next Tuesday turns into two Tuesdays from now, or even the week after you get back from vacation. Your intentions are good but your behavior suggests something else is going on.
The misconception about procrastinators is that we are lazy and can't
well manage our time. By definition, procrastination exist and functions
relative to time. You should do something now, but in reality, you will
approach it later, and probably not do it then, either. What we are not
managing causes conflict, bred by indecision, later anxiety. Our behavior is how we manage this chain of events at the end of the process, which is what distinguishes whether we are procrastinating, or whether we simply feel indecisive, or worse, guilty.
Procrastinators often have great difficulty in seeking help, or finding an understanding source of support, due to the stigma and profound
misunderstanding surrounding extreme forms of procrastination. In reality, procrastinators are neither lazy nor time-incompetent. But, we are told we are, so we "compensate." How? We fight back. We surround ourselves with instruments to make life more efficient. We buy a daily planner and a to-do list application for our phone. We write ourselves notes and fill out schedules. We buy books on procrastination. However, these tools add to the problem, because now they need to be managed, in addition to the things we should actually be doing. (You have to actually use the daily planner or open the phone application. You have to read your own notes and follow your own schedules.) There's a growing list of things to do, and now a growing
army of tools to do them. We think the tools will compensate our internal failures. Yes, we are bad managers of our time, but not because we are bad people. It turns out we are bad tacticians in the war inside our brains. Our tools reflect our feeble attempts to overcome the conflicts, but in the end, the tools also fail. Like the saying goes, we succumb to a "death by a thousand cuts."
-Dr. Griggs

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