Pulling myself back from the Brink
My procrastination habit
started when I was in school. Recently, I found out from my mother than during
my early school days I used to come back home and do my school work on time. I
almost cannot remember such a period. What I remember from my school days is
cramming last minute, panicking before the exam because I haven’t covered my
lessons and despite that doing well. I think that started off a loop of
negative feedback in the sense that I felt rewarded for my procrastination. I
almost paraded it off as an asset. The procrastinating guy who still does well
When I got into university,
this habit became more and more entrenched. I would hand in assignments last minute
and by the time I was in my final year, I was regularly handing them in late
but somehow I did not get penalised (in retrospect I wish I did). I did well in
all my written assignments though and finished mostly on top of my class. Again
my bad behavior was rewarded. I brought this work ethic to my first job. I
would put off writing stuff for my clients until the last minute. I would take
back work every day. I would never finish work on time. I would always have
work hanging over my head. I would have to stay to the office till 12am
sometimes because I would have wasted most of the day inevitably being on the
internet or doing something unproductive. I was able to juggle everything for
almost a year without too many consequences and then things started unraveling,
spiraling out of control. Too much work, too little time. Clients snapping on
heels. I quit my job just as it was going to blow up in my face. I had ceased
to enjoy my work. If I had stayed on at work for even another 3 months, my behavior
would have ensured that I would have gotten in deep trouble or even fired for
Then I took time off to
travel and then decided to pursue my PhD. I spent 7 months ‘working’ on my
research proposal which should have taken at the most 1 month. I was rewarded
for this wait and unproductive behavior with a coincidental scholarship which
opened up at the same time that I had finished my proposal.
I had no idea how much my
procrastination habit was going to affect me in the years to come. I was
supposed to finish my PhD in 3.5 years. It is now 5.5 years. I could get away
with my undergrad and my first job with the constant deadlines, but here I was
on my own with all the time in the world. I avoided starting work, I avoided
sticking with it. The thesis took on monstrous proportions in my mind. I
developed anxiety as I shot past deadline after deadline. Every day I was
running this procrastination ritual. I told myself tomorrow would be a new day.
But my future self was no different from my past self. Unsurprisingly. I
developed a phobia of my work, I developed anxiety. I got myself on ADHD
medication. I abused the medication and it just made me obsessively
procrastinate while on the ADHD medication. Months flew by. I felt like a failure
before everyone’s eyes. Even worse, after my scholarship ran out, I had to
start paying student fees and my wife had to support me in the last 1.5 years.
I had to pay at least $20,000 of my wife’s hard earned money to cover my tuition
fees in this time. I felt guilty, I felt panicky. I felt terrible and that made
me procrastinate more.
I got around to reading
heaps of procrastination books, watching motivation videos, but that itself
became a tool of procrastination. It helped a little bit but then I would go
back to my behavior. I was lying to everyone about where I was at with my
thesis. I was losing my sense of self-worth. I was starting to feel like a
total failure. Somehow I have crawled towards the home-stretch. I have now
written most of draft chapters of my thesis and starting work on my
introduction now. I am still panicking and procrastinating constantly. What
should be one month of fully productive work has now stretched over more than 3-4
months. It is taking a toll on me mentally, physically, emotionally,
financially and with regards to my relationship.
That’s where I am at now. I
know all the tricks. I know all the tools of productivity. I have used it in
bits and pieces but I havn’t (so far) been able to persist with and sustain it
over a period of time. I am NOW going to change that. I just read a book called
The Little Guide to Un-Procrastination. These are my plans below.
1 When I focus and get stuff
done, I am undoubtedly happier. This is the truth. When I choose to
procrastinate, I end up feeling terrible. Do what makes you happier.
2. Face my fears – Fear of
being overwhelmed; Fear of the unknown; Fear of deadlines and hence failure;
Fear of writing ‘silly things’. I will not hide from them. I will look them in
the eye. All of these fears are in the future or in the past. The present is
3. I will work for 10minutes
at a time. I will congratulate myself and rejoice at each success.
4. I will break down tasks,
I will cut it down and I will cut it again. Until it is a 10min task. Then I
will throw myself into it because nothing else matters.
5. I will enjoy the process
because I am building my will power and work ethic. I will feel more powerful
with every 10min slot of work.
6. I will kill choice by
totally eliminating distractions. TV is unplugged, internet disconnected.
7. I will believe in myself.
I intend to keep a log in the special projects and masterlists section everyday, updating my successes each day so that there is a community of people
that I am answerable to.
Thanks for reading in if you made it to the end. I
didn’t intend this to be this long. It has been almost 40mts. Who says I can’t