As I said in my last post, I am a world class procrastinator. Along with acknowledging that I have a problem, I promised myself that I would do something to combat it and so here we go.
I have done some random google searches and sporadic attempts to seek out a “cure” for my procrastination in the past four days. The obvious conclusion I came to is that there is no cure for all procrastination. it very much depends on why you procrastinate, how you procrastinate, when you procrastinate and a variety of other factors.
For me, I have realised that I may have undiagnosed ADD, and that in conjunction with a fear of failure and an inability to make achievable goals leads to a giant mess of procrastination and a cycle of failure so big it feels inescapable.
It’s very easy for me to realise I have a problem or a behaviour that needs to be changed and go at it like a bull at a gate, doing 10 different things to “cure” the problem, and realising very quickly that 10 different things all at once isn’t conducive to solving the problem and giving up, because if 10 different things can’t solve a simple problem surely one thing can’t? But I am slowly learning that if I want to modify my behaviour or make a lasting change in my life, I am going to have to dedicate a decent amount of time to giving one technique a good chance at making a difference before I give up on it. This is the hardest thing for me, I am by nature very impatient and if something isn’t almost instant I get frustrated and impatient.
This constant cycle of trying and failing is disheartening and also self perpetuating. If I start doing something, knowing that it won’t work or that I will quit, I am much more likely to quit. It’s so much more about mental attitude than I realised at first and it’s disappointing to realise that my failures are all on my shoulders, but that is the truth. Every time I have failed at something, it’s not because I wasn’t given an adequate opportunity to do it right or smart, it was that I half assed it because I procrastinated so hard and so long that by the time the knowledge that the due date was looming hit me, it was so anxiety inducing that I rushed through the task just to feel that sense of accomplishment.
This cycle of “fear of failure” induced procrastination followed by actual failure is again, a self perpetuating cycle that has in the past left me with the mentality that “If I’m going to fail anyway, I might as well do something else instead and worry about that task later.”
In an effort to combat this cycle, I have downloaded an app that follows the Pomodoro technique which is basically a timer set for 25 minutes to start and preferably finish a task, but if it’s not achievable in that time, simply starting and working on it for 25 minutes is a start.
My first thought is that 25 minutes is way too long for me to sit and focus on a designated task, and I may be right about that. In just 15 minutes, I have messaged 3 people on Facebook, tagged friends in some memes and gotten back to writing this. This complete inability to focus on one thing is the biggest thing I have to cope with when I write or read for long periods, and since I love writing and want to have a book published one day it’s quite an inconvenient behaviour. Just now, I switched tabs to Facebook to answer a very unimportant message about the weather. This is the norm for me, looking for things to do, anything else than what I should be doing.
No one is forcing me to write this blog but me, and I am writing it because I want this blog to be successful one day and to have my writing shared with others. This motivation is good, but it definitely doesn’t trump my habit of procrastinating and fidgeting. So, if I can’t even stay on task when it’s a task I actually enjoy, what hope do I have for a task that I dislike? I don’t like my chances when it comes to cleaning, or filing taxes, or any number of things.
Today I did declutter my email inbox, which surprisingly wasn’t a complete mess. I am actually pretty good at reading and replying to emails, I’m also pretty good at paying bills on time as long as I have the dates they’re due written in my bullet journal. Being good at those things is a blessed relief, because at the very least, my internet isn’t going to get cut off because I procrastinated or straight up forgot to pay the bill. I may use the internet to procrastinate but at least my credit rating isn’t totally trashed from avoiding debt collectors or something grim.
You might be reading this and rolling your eyes, I am 26, and should absolutely be paying my bills on time and decluttering my email inbox. But trust me when I say, if you’re a professional, experienced procrastinator things like that can easily pile up and make you wish to sleep for an entire day and wake up with them magically done for you.
So, I just got to the end of the first cycle of the pomodoro technique, 25 minutes of work and a 5 minute break. The 25 minutes of work was pretty difficult and if I’m honest I was definitely distracted by Facebook etc, but the 5 minute break worked well, as soon as it was over I got straight back to writing this. So while the Pomodoro Technique may not stop my penchant for multi-tasking it certainly motivated me to get right back to work and do what I should be doing to a greater extent than usual. I think if I can master the single mindedness of focusing on one single task at a time, I will be so much more productive and feel more accomplished.
Another technique I am trying in order to increase productivity and minimise time wasting is having a designated “productivity playlist” on Spotify (here it is if you’re interested). The goal with this technique is to only listen to this playlist when I’m doing something productive like writing a blog post, and thus when I listen to it in the future my brain will make the connection between this playlist and working/being productive. I have used this playlist every time I have written a blog post/checked emails/checked social media for the past month and it has actually worked quite well. The only issue I have is that I get quite bored of the songs quickly so I have to add new songs and edit the list semi-regularly, which in itself could be a tool of procrastination.
The last thing I am trying this week is attempting to fix my sleep pattern. My sleep pattern is whacky for sure. Last night I slept from 2am until 11am, so I’m certainly getting enough sleep, but I constantly feel tired and fatigued and I attribute this to the time at which I go to bed and wake up. There’s a reason we have internal clocks and circadian rhythms to guide us through life. It’s because the body works best when these internal clocks and rhythms are respected. Getting enough sleep at the right time is linked to better health (both mental and physical), better mental acuity, and overall a higher quality of life. As much as I rebelled against this and ignored the scientific data because it didn’t align with what I wanted to hear it’s time I acknowledge that a good sleep pattern is a gateway to a better life.
This last one is so challenging for me. For one thing, I love sleep. If I can wake up at 11am and nap at 3pm I will, but if I do this I can’t sleep that night until 2am, and the cycle continues again, leading to constant fatigue, and dissatisfaction.
I even went through a phase where I thought I had chronic fatigue syndrome because I was sleeping 14 hours a day in split shifts and wondering why I was so tired. It’s because I slept from 2am-11am and 3pm-6pm. Which sounds absolutely crazy when I say it because who needs that much sleep? Certainly not me. When I fixed my sleep pattern for a while and was sleeping consistently 8 hours a night from 11pm-7am, I felt phenomenal. But all it took was getting out of the habit for one night and I was back at square one. So for the next 2 weeks I am going to keep a sleep log using an app on my phone, to see where I’m really at with sleeping and then for the next 2 weeks I will implement measures to combat my bad habits.
This is going to be a long journey of self improvement but I’m optimistic and determined. I hope you’ll stay around to see how I fare.
Please let me know if you have some amazing tools for beating procrastination, I’m always open to new techniques.