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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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.)