Hi, my name is Nathan and I am a habitual procrastinator. I spend more time wasting time than I do, doing something productive. While that’s not always bad, it does hinder my ability to thrive. This TED Talk on procrastination I just watched (instead of doing my job) explains this perfectly.
I have been like this all my life. I spend hours doing something that feels good now, but when it comes time to do something less fun, but needed, I end up hanging out with the monkey. This comes into clear relief many times in my life. Even this morning, I have a pile of stinky dishes to take care of, but I’d rather be here, writing about procrastination. Or, perhaps it was better expressed when I was looking for a job and spent almost 8 hours watching cut scenes from Metal Gear Solid.
Procrastination exacerbates my depression. I spend a fairly significant portion of my time worrying about deadlines and responses and the fact I haven’t done something I should have, than I do on actually doing those things. I worry to the point of being sick, or end up spending frantic, stress-filled hours trying to complete a task that I could have chunked up into smaller bits. Ironically, I usually have to tell my son “not to eat the elephant all in one bite” when he panics about his workload. I appear to need the same advice.
Procrastination vs. Grit
My wife calls her almost obsessive level of work ethic “grit”. That seems pretty accurate. She has the willpower to dig in and get things done, even if she hates them. If it needs to be done, it’s rare that she’s not holding the banner and leading the charge. I am often in awe of her power, but I seldom wish I had that much myself.
I know that I have concentration issues, with some topics. Things that don’t interest me are difficult to get traction on. Subjects like math or politics, history or social studies. If I’m not “in to it”, you’ll find it hard for me to get anything but the bare minimum done. Many of the tasks aren’t even hard. They’re just monotonous, or boring, or drudge work. I would rather spend time day dreaming than do much of that.
How to Fix it?
I’ve discussed this with my therapist a couple of times. Generally it’s a matter of getting started that makes the most difference. Just taking a few dishes out of the dishwasher, or picking up a few things around the house is enough to push the monkey off the wheel. While I may not entirely finish that task all in one attempt, at least I’ve made it easier for Future Nathan to pick it back up and have an easier time completing it.
Tim Urban, the man in the TED talk, also has some advice for procrastinators that I think I’ll be looking at as well. Much like depression, procrastination doesn’t seem like it’s a “curable” thing. You just have to know how to manage it for yourself.