We all come up with a reason not to do something, pretty much convincing ourselves that we do not have enough time. In my years so far on this planet, I have come to wholeheartedly believe there are two kinds of procrastination…and I have been doing one of the two currently as I am writing this blog considering that I started this 20 minutes ago and I am three sentences in.
That would be called generic procrastination. Which is more what I do when I am putting off things I think I will not enjoy – like packing, laundry, the “unnecessary” paperwork for each of my projects at work or, to relate to you students out there…some heavy-duty, highly obscure statistical research for some boring article you have to write on some obscure, boring subject. This is when we of course wait till the very very very last minute to actually complete the task, all the while stressing out every minute before actually starting, worrying that you have probably already put it off too long and should have really started it earlier.
In order to distract myself (ourselves) from the discomfort of these concerns, I obsessively check Facebook, text messaging, news headlines, my e-mail inbox(es) and…..exchange rates (?). Then finally when I start the thing that is so very boring, it is a massive struggle not to stop every few minutes to again check Facebook, news headlines, e-mail…or in my case right now, check on the rice cooker and text with Amber – and anything else that is slightly less boring than that thing I’m supposed to be doing.
The Art of “Generic Procrastination”
1:46PM: click hotmail – inbox: 5063 unread messages; 1:47 PM: click Facebook, “that person I haven’t seen in 6 years is going out to lunch, cool”; 1:48PM – text from Amber, “Cool! Are we decided then?”; click xe.com, the exchange rates change ever so slightly; 1:49PM – 2:19PM: Watching last minute drives by various teams; 2:24 PM: click Facebook, “I think every girl on my friend’s list has seen Twilight this weekend”; 2:25PM: checked text messages, two girls messaging me but not the one I want; 2:26PM – 2:36PM: talked shit to my Chicago Bears friend about my Chargers going to beat them…I will most likely lose this argument in the end
A much more insidious and neurotic strain of procrastination in the perfectionist, which happens in the following way. (2:42 PM: Hey she texted me! This falls under generic procrastination though) When I get a fresh exciting idea, all I want to do is drop everything else and delve into it – forget work, not buy groceries, no t make dinner, etc etc in order to get started and write. But usually I don’t drop anything, instead waiting for some “free time” to write, a time when I am relatively unburdened by other more pressing responsibilities. As I wait, the idea starts to expand and multiply, like a bacterial culture, growing organically and linking up with other themes or ideas. Suddenly an idea that I thought was going to just be a few anecdotal paragraphs becomes a complex, many tiered essay-ish idea that will require a lot of time and effort, and maybe some research and fancy formatting to get it on Final Draft/Word in the way I imagine it.
At this point, there is not turning back from an immense idea, no going back to the nice simple, fresh, innocent initial thought – it’s all or nothing . So – at least lately – more often than not it means I do nothing.
The longer I wait to write a new idea the harder it becomes – the more I feel indebted to it, like I owe it a chance or something. And there is also a pecking order – I owe more to the older ideas because they’ve been waiting longer. So all the newer new ideas get put on the backburner until I find some time to write the older new ideas (which ultimately shrivel into old, unwieldy ideas).
It is true I am short on time at the moment, on top of my job and everything else I usually have going on here. Been working at least 60 hours a week for the past month and I’m condensing my belongings in preparation for moving out on my own, free of roommate(s). So finding the time for complex writing is kind of impossible. Even when I do have a free day, the hypothetical unwritten script/writings will have to compete with all the chores I should have done, errands I should have ran, books I should have read and other miscellaneous tasks I should have accomplished.
But it’s the perfectionism that keeps getting in the way. I procrastinate from doing the things I love because I want to do these things better than I realistically am able to do with the time I actually have. A heady cocktail of perfectionism and procrastination and guilt can almost entirely immobilize me for days on end. It effects not only something like writing, or blogging in this case, but many other things – like for example, calling an out-of-state friend.