Conquering The List

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Historically, lists have never worked for me. I tend to write down many things, check a couple off throughout the day, and then lose the list somewhere. Then I write out a new list, make another barely-there effort at crossing one or two off, and feel awfully proud of myself despite the glaring uncrossed-offness of the dozen other things I never got to. And then, the best part is that I would wake up at 2:30 a.m., suddenly totally aware of the one really important thing I needed to do by the next day (or worse, the day that had just passed) but had forgotten to even put on the list. No more sleep for me!

I got sick of playing that game with myself, so I ditched lists for many years. But now that I’ve started this blog and am obsessing over this procrastination issue I have, I find myself writing out more and more lists. Even if I dodge some of the items on the list, the theory is that I will at least accomplish a few important tasks as a means of avoiding the really scary things I don’t want to deal with.

Unfortunately, the lists I’ve been working through lately look something like this:

Wash dishes
File nails
Write thank you cards
Open mail
Throw away paper
Clean bathroom

Really?? Opening mail is an accomplishment these days? Filing the snaggle-edge of a broken fingernail is worthy of an hour-long gaming break?

Next, I’ll be rewarding myself for harvesting my crops on time in my Oregon Settler game.

No. This cannot be.

So now I have made a new rule for myself. Everyday tedium is no longer allowed on the list. Things like washing dishes, paying bills, and doing laundry are necessities that I can’t avoid anyway and should not count as accomplishments over the avoidable items that I snooze ad nauseum to my own peril. From now on, no back-pats for easy stuff.

We’ll see how long this lasts.

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Another Snow Day Leads To A Personal Revelation

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Yay, another snow day!

Not really. It is another snow day, but it is most definitely not a yay.

When you make less than one hundred dollars a day and can barely support yourself on that, it is truly infuriating (and scary) to lose three or four days of paid time in one pay period. I am NOT looking forward to next week’s check.

I haven’t done too poorly today, though. I planned well enough yesterday and brought work home with me last night so that I could still accomplish something rather than watching crappy daytime TV and wallowing in my unshowered patheticism.

After a late start, I made my coffee, ate a bowl of cereal, and powered through about three hours of billable productivity. Not as good as eight, but better than zero!

Then, as is the case with my kind, I decided I’d earned a break. So I poured a glass of wine (it’s 3:30 p.m. on a snow day, it’s not that bad), and something interesting happened.

Instead of relaxing in a cloud of easy-goingness, I got super motivated.

Now, to rewind for a moment: My parents, husband, and I have been toying with the idea that I may need to be medicated for a probable chemical imbalance. Apparently, calling in a pizza order shouldn’t make me break into a cold sweat with my heartbeat thundering in my ears. And a loved one suggesting I take some baby steps toward my dream of being a professional photographer should make me feel supported and happy, not leave me sobbing in a full-on panic attack, preferring regret to getting my hopes up and then disappointing and shaming my loved ones with my inevitable failure.

Sometimes, even though I see something I want to take a picture of, or the thought occurs to me to go outside and find something to take pictures of, I won’t. Not because I don’t want to, but because in that moment, that small, simple action feels like a crushing weight of “If you take that picture, it means you believe in yourself, and if you show them that, they’ll just keep pushing and pushing you into humiliating failure.” So I don’t take that picture. And it burns inside of me because those perfect moments can’t be recaptured. They’re lost forever. And it makes me sad and depressed, which just makes me not want to try even more, because look how I’ve already screwed up.

So, back to that glass of wine.

It’s been snowing for two weeks around here, and I haven’t snapped a single shot, for all the reasons just described. But after half of that glass of wine, it was like the bad thoughts got muffled for a few minutes and I got excited and hopeful and pounced on it really quickly. I ran to get my camera, threw on boots and a coat, and went outside and took pictures. They might not be the best, and I didn’t even stay out long because it was drizzling and I was worried about my camera, but I’m so stoked that my downer voices were quieted long enough for my hopeful side to get some air.

I’ve been very resistant to the idea of medication, as I think most people are. But maybe it’s not just my “personality” that makes me terrified of following through on the things I dream about. Maybe it’s not modesty that made me uncomfortable with how much attention was on me at my wedding. Maybe it’s not shyness that makes me initiate plans with friends for fear that they’ll say yes just because they can’t think of an excuse on the spot.

Okay, I’m gonna stop now because this is starting to get scary again. But my mind is more open now, which is half the battle. Now I’m going to back to work-work.

Is Productivity All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

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This weekend, I did some much-needed grocery shopping, visited the in-laws, and finally added my number to my husband’s cell account. It’s about time this married lady left her parents’ family plan!

I also paid bills, cleaned the kitchen from top to bottom, and watched 3 or 4 episodes of Shameless, which we’re currently binge-watching every day.

And yet…trickery! Here are things I managed to avoid by accomplishing lesser feats:

  • Canceling our pitifully unused gym memberships
  • Filing the mountain of paperwork that’s overtaken my husband’s studio
  • Hanging pictures on the walls (I figure that by the time we get around to do this, we’ll have all of 2 days to enjoy looking at them before we have to take them down and repaint for the next tenants)
  • Fixing the toilet handle (What? Sticking your hand inside the tank ten times a day to manually engage the flapper isn’t sooo bad)
  • Bringing the tub of Christmas decorations to the storage unit (It’s only been sitting in the back of our truck for 2 weeks)

I’m starting to recognize my textbook-procrastinator tendency to excuse the things I’ve not accomplished by patting myself on the back for “accomplishing” a laundry list of negligible chores.

Wash dishes? Big deal—tax season is coming up, so organizing that paperwork is much more important.

Moved my phone number to my husband’s account? It’s good, yes, but toilet flushing probably should have been a higher priority.

But my weaselly procrastinating psyche would much rather browse new phones than waste-removal accessories.

And it’s easier to deal with the dishes, all of which have a precise place in the kitchen. It’s a tedious but fairly mindless task. Filing paperwork, on the other hand? There’s always a couple pieces that don’t fit in my designated folders, and those throw me for a loop.

I put them to the side and continue on with the easy stuff: paycheck, credit card bill, bank statement, etc. No problem! But that notice from AAA that we can purchase cheap life insurance? That seems like something I ought to read carefully and discuss with my husband before I put it somewhere…but this time isn’t for thinking! It’s for finishing! So there it will sit for another two weeks until I either throw it away, pick a folder, or…nevermind, it will never reach the discussion phase. There is no third option. But I like to think there will be.

My life seems destined to be made up of only two options: Things completed right away and Things never completed. The dangerous part is that I kid myself into thinking there’s a third option: Things that will eventually be completed once I accomplish x number of other things. They always end up in the Things never completed pile in the end, but their presence up to that point impedes my ability to make more progress in the Things completed right away pile.

I’m trying not to get down on myself though. I feel like it’s a step in the right direction that I’m noticing these things about the way I think. Now I just need to learn to think with a two-option method and admit that some of those things I want to get to will never make my actual priority list.

Snow Day: 1, Kristin: 0

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Kristin Avoiding Stuff

Photo by Kristin Indorato

Is there any more perfect day for a procrastinator than a snow day?

There was quite the blizzard today, and my office was closed. Guess what I did with my free bonus day. Nothing!

It’s almost time for bed now, and there are still dirty dishes in the sink, unfiled papers, and unpaired socks.

I could have:

  • cleaned the house
  • read a book
  • updated my photography website
  • painted my nails
  • done a puzzle
  • played with makeup
  • scrapbooked
  • sorted magazine cutouts
  • or pretty much anything

Instead, I sat. I napped. I ate junk food and watched a whole lot of crummy television that I wasn’t interested in.

Now that my day has come to an end, I rushed to pay bills and update this blog so that I wouldn’t feel like all 13 hours were a waste (yes, I said I napped).

At least it’s something, right? I’m here admitting it instead of hiding under the covers.

And I did manage to do some last-minute stuff. I washed some of the dishes, put a few of the clean ones away, uploaded some photos to my computer…beginning to sense a pattern here. I did do some stuff today, but I didn’t complete a single thing I set out to do. Except publish this. Go me!

My Name Is Kristin, And I Am A Procrastinator

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Hi! My name is Kristin, and I am a longtime sufferer of procrastination.

My whole life, I assumed that my procrastinating nature was just one of the many personality traits that make me the unique snowflake I am—until I read these two articles by Tim Urban of waitbutwhy.com: Why Procrastinators Procrastinate and How to Beat Procrastination.

If you’re a procrastinator, I highly recommend you read them. I’d tell you to read them after you’re done doing what you were supposed to be doing when you landed here, but I know you won’t. After all, I stumbled across the first segment while avoiding writing an article that was due the following morning.

Anyway, when I got to the end of those two articles, I was floored. I felt like my true self had just revealed itself to me.

From the time I was in grammar school until about a week ago (we’re talking two decades), I wondered how I could be so achingly earnest in my desire to do well and make everyone proud, yet consistently set myself up to fail. Part one of Tim Urban’s article slapped me in the face with the reality that my particular brand of procrastination is not a bizarre oddity singular to me, but a psychological issue that lots of people face. And they face it in such a similar way that reading about others’ experiences sounds like I’m reading about my own. That idea had never occurred to me before. I kind of just thought I was crazy.

Since reading Urban’s shockingly familiar explanation of why I procrastinate, I started investigating other information on the procrastinator’s experience. And I uncovered even more shockingly familiar tales and traumas:

  • The excitement of starting new projects only to abandon them shortly thereafter for fear of failure.
  • Not following through on promises, obligations, or personal projects because of a crippling anxiety that if it’s not perfect, it won’t be met with much-craved approval.
  • Cruel, damaging self-talk.
  • Avoidance of people who you think you might have disappointed, overwhelmed by the thought of having your fear confirmed.

But I also found tips, advice, and comfort. And I am now obsessed with the idea that I can fix this about myself. The core issues that spur my procrastination will always be there, and I’ll need to work on them as well—my perfectionism, fear of failure and confrontation, etc.—but I can certainly work on combating my knee-jerk reaction to procrastinate. And that’s how this blog came to be.

Now that I’m starting to learn about my procrastination, I realize I need to hold myself accountable for following through on things. And what better way to keep up with my active “recovery” than to let the world in on it? So I hope you’ll join me on my journey to being a less-likely-to-procrastinate procrastinator. Let’s begin!

P.S. In true procrastinator fashion, I wrote this all last night and then looked up baby names for two hours instead of posting it. (Nope, not expecting a baby.)