5 Reasons I Procrastinate

To be honest, I typically don’t procrastinate. I am very alert to deadlines and have never operated well under last minute panic. I am often ahead of schedule, when there is a schedule, but in regards to tasks with nebulous or extended timelines and goals, like writing a novel, I find it difficult to stay ahead of the game.

I’ve observed the reasons why I procrastinate because the ways in which I procrastinate, like watching mindless YouTube videos or staring off into space like I’m searching for life’s answers, only add fuel to the anxiety around getting started on whatever it is I’m working on. The more I procrastinate, the less I want to get started. The less I want to get started, the more time I spend procrastinating.

“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.” – Mason Cooley

The five main reasons I seem to procrastinate are:

1.I’m afraid to face the emotional work

This reason for procrastination came up in the past week as I was applying for a job that I was genuinely excited about. My qualifications were a great match, and I was excited by the company’s values. As I started drafting my cover letter, however, I began clicking in and out of my web browser, scrolling through YouTube or checking my email. The rest of the week I’d been very focused in writing my documents for job applications, so I wondered – what was different with this one?

“Procrastination is your body telling you you need to back off a bit and think about what you are doing.” – James Altucher

I clicked out of my browser to explore what was happening and I realized – I didn’t like how excited I was getting about the job because I didn’t want to have to feel disappointed if it didn’t work out. That fear of disappointment, consequently, is another big reason why I procrastinate.

2. I’m afraid of being disappointed

As a reason for procrastination, this doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.

I’m always more disappointed when I allow the fear of disappointment to keep me from even trying.

Nevertheless, this fear still ensnares me in its gnarly teeth more often than I’d like. However, becoming aware that this is an issue makes it much easier to push through and get started, even if I’m worried about the emotional consequences.

It always seems counterproductive to me that acknowledging negative emotions is the key to moving past them, but it always works. When I faced the emotional baggage holding me back from putting my all into the cover letter for that job, I was able to buckle down and write a pretty damn good cover letter, if I do say so myself.

3. I think it’s going to be harder than it actually is

This one used to get me in college all the time when I had to write essays. I’d have an essay due on some obscure topic like the emotion of sound in a novel and I’d think, dear god, how am I ever going to argue that point, but then when I finally got started drafting my thesis, it would always come together with much more ease than I anticipated.

I still get hung up on this one today when I’m working on my novel. I’m in the revision stage right now and when I hit a particularly challenging spot, like if I need to reorder some chapters and I’m not sure how, or if the plot point is faulty, I doddle pretty hard.

When I finally get started, though, it’s always so much easier than the mountainous trek I had built it up to be.

4. I’m afraid it will never be good enough

(aka – the fear that I’ll never be good enough)

If I’m honest, this reason is probably at the core of all these reasons.

The fear that I’m going to fail, or that I already am a failure, haunts me from a dark place inside my mind.

It would be so easy to give in to that fear and never do anything again, and I think procrastination is a twisted way of testing myself.

Will I give in to my fears? Will I decide that I’m unworthy? Or will I decide that I’m good enough?

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Thankfully, I’ve learned that even if I procrastinate, it doesn’t mean I’ve already given into the beast of self-doubt. I can always still decide that I am, in fact, worthy of the effort.

5. I don’t have an action plan and I don’t know where to start

A lot of times when I sit down to work on my novel, I have no idea where to start. There are a million places I could start. How am I supposed to know which is the best place to start? If I start in chapter five and something changes in chapter 3, then all the work will be moot, anyway, right?

I can get caught in that loop of figuring out the best place to start for way longer than I care to admit. When I create a plan, or at least come to my writing with an intention, then I am able to jump right in and not even hesitate over clicking open my word document before anything else.

. . .

There are a lot of reasons why I procrastinate, and many of them are not nearly as profound or emotionally deep as the five reasons listed here. Compliment this blog post with my Medium article “The Real Reasons I Procrastinate: Internet, dogs, and coffee.”

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I’m curious to know, are you fueled by last minute panic, or do you generally operate ahead of schedule? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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I Like Working Toward Goals – 19 Before 2019

I like doing nothing. I like having no plans.

My favorite weekends are the ones where I stay home and do whatever I want whenever I want.

On the other hand, I like feeling accomplished. I like knowing that I’ve completed something.

I’m incredibly task-oriented and I feel exhilarated by crossing something of a to-do list.

But, I am a very inconsistent person.

Having goals and plans also causes me anxiety.

Realistically, it’s a normal level of anxiety. It’s completely manageable, but sometimes the pressure of having something to do keeps me from setting goals.

The more I learn to manage that anxiety that comes with having goals, though, the more I want to set goals. The more I want to accomplish something worthwhile, or truly, just anything at all.

When I worked at the library, one of my jobs was to shelf read, which was exactly what it sounds like. Each month, I’d be assigned a section of the library to keep in order. This wasn’t my favorite job, but I became motivated to do it as I learned to appreciate the beauty of a freshly read shelf. All the books pushed forward. All the spines in line. Mmmm. Such a beautiful sight.

I’ve learned that I am happiest when I’m working toward something.

It doesn’t have to be huge or earth- shattering, having a freshly organized row of books on a shelf certainly isn’t changing anybody’s life, but I like that feeling of making progress on a project or task.  I like that feeling of stepping back when it’s all done and seeing the results of my hard work.

I don’t use to-do lists to get that exhilarating feeling of accomplishment much anymore, because of the aforementioned anxiety, but I have begun the practice of setting intentions before I go to bed at night. It might seem like this practice in it of itself could cause anxiety, but I limit myself to only choosing three things I’d like to do the next day, and it is  a helpful practice because it ceases any worries I have about tomorrow and knowing that I have a plan allows me to rest my mind before sleep. It’s also helpful for waking up in the morning because I’m motivated by the intentions I set.

For the next 3 and a half months of this year, I’m motivating myself beyond daily intentions with the mega to-do list – 19 before 2019.

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My intention with this to-do list is not to panic over getting these things done. Most of the tasks I’ve put on here are simple tasks that can be completed in an afternoon or less (3 and a half months isn’t really that much time, anyway), and the ones that aren’t quick to complete are tasks I had intended to do anyway, like finish my novel and send out 5 queries! Now, I simply have the added bonus of being able to check that box when I finish it.

I’ve done a strange thing all my life, which is to resist my desire to be organized and accomplished. I attribute that to paralyzing perfectionism, but I’m learning to fail without it completely stunting me from ever trying again. I may not finish all these 19 tasks, and that will be okay. The point is to give myself something to work toward.

The point is to learn and grow.

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What are some goals that you’ve set out to accomplish before the new year? Or, are you waiting around for that fresh-start feeling that comes with January? Or, have you transcended the temporal and markers of time mean nothing to you? (Please tell me your secret).

I Really Like Being Alone

A friend of mine recently told me that I’m really good at being alone. If that sounds harsh, let me assure you, she meant it as a compliment, and I took it as one.

I absolutely love to be alone.

Of course, I still struggle with it in certain circumstances, but for the most part, if I’m choosing between a social event or being alone, I’d rather be alone.

When I’m alone, I can watch whatever I want on TV. Listen to whatever music I want. Watch YouTube videos that meet my daily quota for mindless entertainment. I can read without distraction. I can journal. I can write.

Solitude is precious because I can decide exactly what I want to do, and I can go at my own pace.

If introvert is defined as a person who recharges by being alone, then I definitely fall into that category. It’s exhausting to be around people. There are maybe only three people in the world who actually give me energy when I’m with them, and that’s my husband and two best friends. Everyone else tires me out.

Solitude is precious because my energy isn’t being drained by navigating social relationships.

I have learned, though, that being an introvert doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy spending time with others.

While socializing is draining, I still crave it. I still need it because I’m human.

I’ve come to view socializing and cultivating meaningful friendships as a part of my self-care practice. I have to make a conscious effort to do it though, otherwise I won’t. I’ll settle into my routine of being alone by telling myself that I’m happy with my family and the friends I’ve sustained over the years, which is true, but they don’t live where I do and I don’t get to see them as often as I would like – as often as I need to in order to tend to my social need.

Solitude is precious because it reminds me that I do need to see people, and more importantly, I do need meaningful relationships in my life.

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A few ways that I have found to meet this social need are:

1.Bumble BFF

This is an app that helps you find friends in your area. I connected with a friend through the app that I’ve been texting with every week since we first met up.

2.Local events

Even if I don’t talk to a single person, like the time I went to a concert alone, it can still be enough for me to simply get out and participate in a local event to see people out in the world, participating in gentle humanity – to remind myself that not everyone is an idiot on the Internet.

It’s also a great way for me to challenge the possibility of connection, like the time I went to a poetry group at my local library and thought I might never go back because the guy sitting next to me was getting on my last nerve.

I have a tendency to discount experiences when one element isn’t quite right and thinking like that is a fast way to stay isolated.

Instead of making up my mind to never return, I wrote down my contact information to be reminded of the next group and, at the end, I thanked the group leader, who gave me a hug.

3.Connect with people online

A while back, I started using social media as a place to engage with others, rather than a place to passively exist. I have been 100% happier with my experience online since I started doing this. Sometimes, I leave a comment on someone’s post or ask a question at the end of my own posts, and they get lost in the void, but sometimes, I receive meaningful replies. It doesn’t matter if I get a response or not though, the point is that I’m engaging. I’m making an effort to make connections and that’s a hell of a lot more fulfilling than never even trying.

4.Be generous in working relationships

At the start of the summer, I began the process of getting hired with VIPKids to be an online English teacher. A woman in my community hosted an event to help new teachers get started. I ended up being the only person interested, but she still agreed to meet with me and be my mentor through the process. When I was hired, I treated her to coffee. We discovered that we have a lot in common, and though the job with VIPKids hasn’t panned out exactly as I had hoped, my mentor and I are now friends!

5.Express gratitude for the relationships I already have

I have a wealth of meaningful relationships in my life. I met my best friend when I was only five-years-old and we still see each other at least every month. I think that’s something to be incredibly grateful for, and I tell her often, in our own non-sentimental way, that I’m grateful for her friendship. When I reach that point where I’ve been alone a little too much and I get that wave of loneliness, I don’t need to rush out and make new friends, all I need to do is give my husband a hug, drive up to see my parents or make plans with my sisters, go for a walk with my granny, or text one of my long-time friends who will reply, without a doubt, in no less than a day.

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How do you make socialization a part of your self-care routine? Or, does socializing come easy to you?

Job Hunting and Self-esteem

A few weeks ago, I quit my part-time job so that I could put all my energy into finding a more stable, and to be honest better paying job that utilizes more of my skills. And yet, the first week I began expending this energy toward my job search, I only applied for low-paying jobs that I knew I could get, and a I got a few of them, but ended up turning them down because I realized I wasn’t doing what I set out to do.

I wanted more for myself, but I was scared.

When I graduated, I made a goal not to conflate my self-worth with my job, and in so doing, I set my sights very low. I was applying for the same kind of jobs I had before I graduated with my Master’s degree. Jobs with little autonomy and few responsibilities. Jobs where I could exercise competence, but have no chance at growing professionally. Jobs where I hadn’t been very happy in the past. I wobbled between convincing myself that these jobs would be good enough – I could learn to be happy, and knowing that I wouldn’t be happy long-term.

After going to a few interviews and thinking “I don’t want that job,” instead of “I hope they call me back,” I sat down and reworked my resume. I realized that I had been selling myself incredibly short. I started to see how the skills I gained through work experience and education could apply to positions that had seemed out of my league only a few days ago.

 

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I’m tempted to say that I lost an entire week to applying for jobs I didn’t even really want, but I know that I didn’t truly lose any time because I learned a valuable lesson.

I learned what I don’t want.

I learned that I can expand the breadth of my search, and doing so doesn’t mean that I am neglecting my goal to not conflate my self-worth with my job prospects, it simply means that I am recognizing and honoring my skills.

I am giving myself permission to search for something that could make me happy.

And, maybe I won’t get the job I really want. Maybe I’ll get my second, third, or tenth choice, but I have allowed myself to dream a little bigger.

I’m still scared, but fear is better than being complacent or resigned.

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Do you need to give yourself permission to do what you really want?