I would have written this earlier, but honestly I was too busy.
About 1/5 of people have tendencies toward chronic procrastination, and I am one of them. This is an issue that has haunted me almost my entire life. It probably started when I was 7 and occasionally had to miss recess or sit in the hallway during a movie because my homework wasn’t done.
Isn’t that nuts? To take a tiny little kid who barely weighs 50 pounds and put that kind of pressure on those bitty little shoulders? Rather than *teach* a child whose brain is not fully developed, who can’t yet write in cursive or do long division, to *punish* and *withhold* and publicly shame and pelt with sarcastic remarks?
Of course, I’m 45 now, and I could easily have a grandchild that age. Can’t use it as an excuse today.
Last year I made it a resolution to work on my procrastination issues with one specific thing, which was responding to text messages. I also made it a ten-year plan to stop procrastinating entirely, or at least to quit feeling like it was an issue.
Lately I’ve been feeling like maybe I’m actually... there. Maybe I’m on top of it after all?
I took a new job last year, right after my... call it “transformative”... near-death experience with COVID-19. The pace has been referred to, more than once, as “frenetic” and as “hair on fire.”
We work long days in exchange for long weekends, a schedule that is known as 9/80. It means we work 80 hours in nine days instead of ten. It’s great, and more people should probably be allowed to do it. It also means, effectively, ten-hour days.
What I’ve found is that I have to run a pretty tight ship to be able to do the things I want to do, as well as work at this job.
My job itself is wildly fascinating. I work with really cool people and I learn new things every day. I recently got a great performance review and an unexpectedly satisfying merit increase, all things that are nice for morale. My boss literally said, “I’m behind you 100%, keep doing what you’re doing.”
It is tricky to get all my stuff done in between meetings, though.
When I first started, I admit, I probably wasn’t really recovered enough from coronavirus to be working a full schedule at such a busy place. It was hard. Then it got worse when I got bacterial pneumonia for my birthday and took a month to really get better.
I often felt low-energy and overwhelmed and like I was messing up.
Gradually, as I really started to get well again, I started to realize that my feelings of despair and dread were... symptoms! I was just anxious because I had been so ill, and that is one of the lasting effects of the virus. I read an article about post-viral syndrome, and as soon as I had that in my head, something clicked into place.
I was doing fine - I had direct testimony to that effect from the people whose opinions matter - and I was freaking myself out because my biology insisted on it.
This is the kind of thing I can talk myself out of.
Suddenly it felt as though I really had plenty of time to do everything at work, as long as I used a planner. I started doing a separate bullet journal for my job, and it was like rainbows started shooting out of my desk.
When I clocked out for the day, everything that lay before me in the evening was something I wanted to do. Eat dinner, obviously. Order groceries, same. Take care of my little parrot, who has been ludicrously well behaved during the pandemic and deserves so many smooches. Lay out clothes for the next day, a nice favor for Morning Me. Italian lesson, a reward.
But what about the aversive stuff? The annoying tasks that nobody wants to do?
There are still things I don’t really want to do, such as fill out forms or schedule appointments. I’ve learned to do two things about those.
I still have as many chores as anyone else who lives in a dinky apartment. Still have to put away laundry, which I still despise and probably always will. Still have to unpack groceries and scrub the bathtub and dust the ceiling fan and scrape pulped fruit off the window.
(What, don’t you have to scrape fruit off the windows at your house?)
The secret there was to choose. Would I rather cram these tasks into the day during the week, or put them off for the weekend?
Because I know that if I work with focus and strategy, I can lounge around on the weekend and do nothing, I choose to fit the housework into my busy, busy weekdays. A little in the morning while making breakfast. A little during my lunch break. A little while making dinner. Perhaps something while I’m dialed in to a long meeting that I don’t have to transcribe. Somehow, it all seems to get done.
Living in a small apartment makes it stand out if anything is not done. A single dish out on the stove or the counter really looks terrible and gets in the way. With a dusty, fluffy parrot and dark floorboards, the floors can look absolutely shambolic the very day after mopping. The punishment for skimping on something is to have to live with the aftereffects.
How quickly we forget, when we commute to a workplace, that somebody else is probably cleaning it! Polishing the tiles, washing the windows, hauling out the trash. It’s a curiously orderly environment that seems to put itself to rights, every night, by magic.
Not so much how it happens when you work from home.
What I’ve been finding is that when I am doing something that I might formerly have put off, I am thinking, “Good, I finally have time to get this out of the way.”
The truth is that procrastinating feels emotionally horrible. It is not rewarding in any way.
Finishing stuff and no longer having it weigh on your conscience, that’s a huge improvement.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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