Tag Archives: procrastination

The Demonization of “Try”

There is no try.
Go do the dishes.

I blame Yoda.

I was just having a little minipiphany (yeah, I just made that up because I have lots of these tiny epiphanies and they deserve a name).

I’m winning the war over the dishes. I was just finishing up and thinking about coming back to my laptop and my always-open chat window to Kait to tell her that I’ve really made a shift with this most-hated chore. I mean, I think I’m just about at the point where I appreciate having done them more than I dread doing them.

That’s huge for me. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t mind mess, and I can let a lot of things pile up before it bothers me. And dishes! I hate doing the dishes so much that I could dirty every dish in the house and would rather see them piled on the counters than wash them. Of course, I’m friends with enough normal people–and also crazy neat freaks like Kait– to know that a lot of you are cringing right now, just from that description. But I really hate doing the dishes.

It’s taken a long time to get to the point of appreciating an empty sink. I’ve been able to keep my sink empty before, establish good habits for weeks, and, very rarely, months at a time. But I always backslide because I always hate doing the dishes more than I like having them done.

So today I was thinking that I need to tell Kait that I feel like I’m turning a corner. It’s getting easier to do them right after dinner every night, and when they’re done, I really feel better now, and that’s new. And I thought:

It probably helps that I’ve changed my definition of “every.”

I have a feeling that the exactness thing I have with language causes me more problems than I realize.

It’s part of the all-or-nothing thinking plan I’ve bought into. “Every” means every. Each one. It doesn’t mean you get a night off when you’re really tired, have something else that has to be done, or even when you just really don’t wanna. “Every” night means that skipping a night is FAIL and fail is always an excuse to give up doing what’s hard.

In an attempt to work on the perfectionism that’s kicking my ass, I decided to redefine “every” for myself as “most of the time,” and even “more often than not” if necessary. With much better results.

If there is no try, there’s only do and fail.

I know that some people feel like other people need the Jedi Master Kick in the Pants. Maybe they do. What I know is that, over and over, I have tried to do my dishes every night, and then I failed to do them every night, and blowing them off felt hella better than actively failing all the time.

I actually think I need to tell Yoda to go piss up a rope (respectfully) and redefine “do” in my life as something a lot closer to try than the way I think about it now.  

 

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I, Antagonist, Part 2: The beatings will continue until morale improves

You know that story where there’s the hero who’s a decent guy, just trying to be decent. And there’s an antagonist who freaking HATES this guy. Because the hero did him wrong at some point. And it was totally an accident. Or it was when they were just kids, or something else we find excusable because this guy’s the hero and a decent guy.

But the antagonist, man, he can’t get over it. This dude is psycho. I mean, it’s obvious he should just get the fuck over it and not pick fights with this really decent, guy who helps old ladies and is finally about to win over that girl he’s been too shy to approach. Hey, we like this guy, he’s all right, don’t screw up his shit with your bullshit vendetta.

At the same time, we sometimes feel sorry for the antagonist, because this yahoo has legit screwed up his life because he can’t forgive and move on. He’s gone Dark Side. This hatred is who he is, hating the hero is his identity, and punishing the hero is his mission in life. He coulda been somebody. He coulda been a contender. But he’s let this obsessive hatred screw up his possibilities, burned bridges with it, and ignored opportunities to be something more. Instead, he’s  playing the part of the freaking psycho and it’s gonna end badly. (Unless this is horror, in which case he maybe wins…)

So I’m reading about procrastination, and over and over again I have to be confronted with this concept that many of us, band of brooders, have issues regarding self worth. We see our sense of self tied up in things outside ourselves, needing approval from others, needing accomplishments to make us feel worthy. And they say it not like that for everyone, but they don’t say where other people get it, this other way of being.

I have considered this issue before. But it’s like the motivation and organization stuff. I legit don’t get it. It’s not like I have it buried somewhere inside and just need to find it. To me that’s like saying the collective unconscious has buried the secrets of calculus within my mind, and I have only to pay attention in math class to awaken the knowledge. Oh hell no. I have no idea what you are talking about.

But okay, I accept that this is a serious problem that other people do not have. And if other people do not have it, it logically follows that I shouldn’t have to have it either. So back to Google to figure out how to get self worth.

Which leads me to effing Oprah who feeds me this blurb of an article in which the author basically has an epiphany that she should just forgive herself. So she starts doing that. And she lives happily ever after.

Which led me directly to this whole idea that I am not only my own antagonist, but I’m the absolute psycho antagonist who can’t forgive. Objectively, on the outside looking into the story, it is sometimes clear that the shero didn’t mean to be fuck-up. That she tried, that she has some decent qualities. And I’m like, damn, dude, give the kid a break. But then I go back into the antagonist character and have nothing but contempt. Meanwhile, settling into the shero character, I know I have my faults, I feel bad about the things I did wrong, guilty. But I’m bewildered by the antagonist. Why does she hate me so much? Why can’t she cut me some slack?

Is it supposed to be that easy? Are you supposed to be able to just flip the self worth switch and let the self esteem flow in and make you a happy, productive member of society?

That’d be a fine kettle of fish, wouldn’t it? Every single Talent I’ve got is dealing with some issue of not understanding how awesome they are. If we all got right in the head, what would we have to talk about?

 

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I, Antagonist, part 1: The Procrastination

Yesterday I said we were going to talk more about this procrastination issue.

Here’s how I got here. I can’t get anything done. I feel like I’m busy, but nothing gets done. I’m constantly stressed. I must be disorganized. I need to learn how to buckle down and get things down.

I’ve read Eat That Frog! Twice. Makes sense, I guess. But I can’t prioritize. I go to make a list and I can’t discern what the important things are. No matter what I decide to call the “important” things, I feel tremendous guilt over what was labeled “less important” thereby.

And yes, I know I think like a crackheaded idgit.

So I read Brian Tracy, David Allen, Julie Morgenstern, and somewhere in the quest to organize my shit to get it done, I realized–wait, I don’t think I’m really trying to get this done.

Because I’m not actually mentally impaired. If I had been trying to get stuff done, stuff would be a hell of a lot doner than it is. I’m flat not doing the stuff. I mean, I’m stressed out all the time like I was when I had jobs and was busy, I feel busy, I’m doing something, but I’m not really doing anything. If you follow. I’m doing a lot of purposely avoiding that which I mean to be doing.

So I go to Amazon and I put in “overcoming laziness.” And out pops “procrastination,” because Amazon loves me and doesn’t want to agree with me about the laziness to my face.

Now I don’t know why I keep wanting to reassure you that I’m not actually stupid, but it’s what I keep feeling like saying here. I’m not stupid. I know I procrastinate. I know it’s a problem. A big one. I lack discipline, I lack motivation, I lack organization.

I am the biggest lacker this side of Mississppi.

And I read and read about discipline, motivation, organization, and it’s like…I keep missing something. I don’t understand how to do what they’re telling me to do. I try, but I don’t get it. And, I repeat, not stupid. Pretty sure. Have test scores. But I feel stupid because I don’t get it. It’s like the books are written for people who somehow, somewhere, have discipline, motivation, and organization, and just need this book to bring it out. But I look and I don’t have it. Does. Not. Compute.

So on this particular day I grabbed the sample for Procrastination: Why You Do It, What To Do About It Now, and then I bought the book.

Ho-lee Shit. How fucked over am I by this procrastination crap?

Very.

You know, it’s like you think you’ve got a cold and you go to the doctor and find out you have some kind cancer that’s been there for freaking ever and it’s grown into all your parts. This avoidance crap is everywhere! I do it all the time!

Aaah! Make it stop! Well, the book just goes on and on and on. Lots of psychology. Very interesting. And lots of new stuff since I was in school.

And the reason the productivity books don’t work for me is apparently that if I’m disorganized, it’s at least partly on purpose. Because what I really am is afraid of failure, afraid of judgment, afraid of putting forth quality effort and having it not be enough, afraid of doing well and having that lead to more pressure and responsibility and losing my choices…and a whole host of other things that are much harder to ignore when someone spells them out at you for a couple hundred pages.

So I procrastinate to avoid all these things that I’m afraid of. And I’m afraid of a lot. It’s been my way of life. I hardly realize when I’m doing it. I stress about the things that are scary, so I don’t do them, and then I stress about how they’re not done. And I can’t think for all the stress-headedness.

In the writing, I’ve done a lot waiting for the inspiration. Waiting until I’m “in the right place” when I can really think. But honestly, that “right place” is usually just the state at which I can’t stand the pressure and guilt of not having done what I ought to be doing anymore and I have to do something so that my head doesn’t explode. And then I feel marginally better, having righteously accomplished something, and then start to stress about having moved forward toward judgment, and then have to avoid it again.

Anyway, it sucks. I’m working on the problem. If what I’ve said sounds familiar, check out the book’s sample, see if you want to read more.

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What’s that, Universe? You want me to journal?

Lately I’ve become attuned to signs. This might sound a little kooky to you–and maybe you think, hey, it’s Susan, who’s surprised? I get that. There was a time I would have thought so too.

But right now? Totally into the signage.

See, whether or not you care to believe that there’s a force out there that tries to work with you, try to deny that there’s a force within you that has thoughts, desires, and ideas that you don’t even know about. Look, if you’ll just admit that, I won’t ask you to tell the class about that hinky dream your subconscious sent you last week. “…undigested bit of beef”* my ass. That place that makes those thoughts (the ideas that become stories) can’t seem to find a way to contact you, so it’s is reaching out, making you notice things outside that pertain to inside. You dig?

So anyway, when this happens, when I manage to notice a bunch of random things linking up on the outside, I pay attention to corresponding thoughts on the inside.

Today’s outside linkup: journaling.

It all started with procrastination. Which is a WHOLE ‘nother festering cauldron that we shall surely visit another day. I’ve been reading about procrastination, and to fight the procrastination, we need to maintain a procrastination log for a few days to see not only how we procrastinate, but what we do instead and how we feel about it, and a whole bunch of other stuff that we do up in the playhouse of my brain.

Naturally, given that perfectionism is part of the procrastination CONDITION, I needed to find the right tool to log this shit. Is there an app for that? Off to the app store. Well, I’ll probably have to write something myself, which I’ll put in Evernote, because I have a sick and twisted devoted love and obsession regarding Evernote, as some of my peeps will tell you. Hey, maybe someone’s already made this thing and made it a public notebook. Off to Google. Which led me to a forum post on using Evernote for journalling, which was very interesting–esp. if you’re an obsessive Evernote fangeek.

And I was thinking about journalling, and, you know, I don’t journal anymore, but I loved it whenever I did, and this guy on the forum had, like, 40 years of journals he was moving to Evernote, and other people thought this was really nice. And I thought it was kind of nice, but I can’t move my junior high and high school journals to Evernote, because I burned them in a fits of shame over various imperfections.

Oh well.

Hey, it’s my birthday. One of my besties from those days, the one who’s still speaking to me, only we rarely speak at all because, you know, life stuff and etc.–she sent me an email this morning and we had a bit of back forth in which she told me that her dad just gave her a bunch of boxes for which he got tired of paying storage, and inside were her junior high momentos. And when she has time to go through them, she’s going to tell me what she finds. “You figure prominently,” she says.

A bit scary, that. But maybe it will be nice for her to go through and remember some of that stuff, and maybe it will be nice for me to hear about it, and to gain some perspective, and maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to have those journals I burned and be able to look back at what I said and how I saw things. Maybe it would be cool to read those stories of wish fulfillment and Mary Sue mania. Maybe I’d see a spark of talent there or the beginnings of my love of snarky dialog.

But whatever.

So I’m reading the forum about the journaling, and I’m making a mental note to consider passing this along to A, who is looking for his voice, because I remember that this is how I found mine. And maybe not only how I got comfortable hearing myself talk and understanding what sound like as opposed to what a book should sound like, but blogging–which was really journaling, every day, all the time–was when I got comfortable dumping how I feel on the page. So, yes, journaling, important for writer growth. Make a note to mention it.

Wait. My friend’s dad just happens to dump boxes in which I “figure prominently,” and she just happens to write me about it when we never talk, getting me thinking about my burned journals and lack of mementos, on a day when I’m reading about procrastination and looking for the right logging tool, which leads me to information on using Evernote for journaling, which makes me remember how invaluable that experience was for me as a writer (and perhaps as a person?) which I should note for–

Myself.

Dear Susan,
We think you might find a return to journaling beneficial in your quest for personal growth and getting your far flung shit together. Why don’t you give it a try? (before we have to send mementos of you to someone else to get your attention again.)
Hugs,
The Universe
You might think this is the natural conclusion to this post. You wish. But no. There’s one more thing we needs to address.
I journaled in middle and high school. Every paper attempt since then has failed, partly because I’m not good keeping up with paper when I’m not in school, and partly because of my tendency to destroy my imperfections in that format.
Over a decade later, I kept a LiveJournal very actively for some time when I first moved here (to TN) and had my daughter and all that. (I don’t look at it.)
And now, at 41, I’m going to start again? I mean, what’s the point? That guy on the forum is 54 and has 40 years of ticket stubs and crap. I don’t have that stuff. I’m just going to start it up again and ignore that my life is half over and I’ve hardly recorded any of it and what’s the point now??
Dear Susan,
This would be the perfectionism issue. We have sent you numerous memos on this topic. We’re just going to go ahead and get you copies of those memos. Meanwhile, we’re going to have to ask that you come in on Saturday to work on the perfectionism issue.**
Kisses,
The Universe
:recalcitrant eye-roll: This is one of those journey is the destination things, isn’t it?
Yes. Yes it is.
*Ebeneezer Scrooge, A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens.
**in which the Universe is sinister and amused by its Office Space parody

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