The beginning of the end.
Hi Everyone... I've procrastinated ever since I can remember. It has caused me MASSIVE and NEEDLESS pain,despair and depression. Recently I've taken a good hard look at myself and made a decision that this will end... I've also made the realization just like others have here that chronic procrastination IS a life destroying addiction (In many ways worse, and harder to rehabilitate than any drug), therefore I'm now regarding it just as seriously as being addicted to heroin, instead of thinking that it's just "a bad habit" like I have in the past. Thinking of procrastination in this manner has changed my attitude alot, and I think it's a perspective that others who suffer from this problem should adopt immediately if they want to change.
I'm just going to share some observations that I believe to be true, many of you may have already heard these theories possibly from books or other sources, but it just feels good for me to get my thoughts out..
In my opinion chronic procrastination is not just a behavior, it is an unfortunate personality trait that was developed early on.. It's a part of your personality, just like having a sense of humor , it's part of you, it's ingrained, and that's why it's so hard for people to break away from it... Many of the self help books suggest that you can just immediately change if you want it bad enough or put enough leverage on yourself.. This is not true, you can't expect to alter your personality and adopt a new skill set overnight, Even the rare amount of people who are able to quit drugs or alcohol completely cold turkey still have a lifetime of recovery and coping ahead of them. The human body does not like change, it does not want to change, once the patterns are set they become hardened steel... This is a survival mechanism and changing it means fighting thousands of years of evolution.
I know what I'm saying is drastically different from the "you can do it" optimism usually heard regarding procrastination. The reality of it is that change is possible, however it is a HARD and LONG road to go down so don't kid yourself...
It is a hard road... BUT, a road that MUST be traveled if you want your life to be better if you want to stop the torture. The irony of this situation is that change takes hard WORK, and the avoidence of work is the nature of our addiction... It seems like a hopeless and frustrating catch 22, and I, just like many of you, have been trapped thousands of times in that paradox, but there is a way out, albeit a tough one.
I am going to walk down the long hard road to recovery, a road I have been on and off of countless times, but this time I'm armed with a completely new philosophy and set of techniques that I believe will keep me on the road, and I would like to share them with you.
1. This is an addiction like any other that must be stopped, or it can destroy your life. Treat procrastination with this degree of severity!
2. Stopping it means changing your personality. Changing who you are as a person.
3. Think of change as "learning to change", not procrastinating requires adopting a foriegn skill set. Learning to change is like learning a new language or learning to play a new instrument, it requires TIME and PRACTICE in order to master.
4. Relapses are INEVITABLE! You have to understand this so you don't feel hopeless when it happens, your body does not want you to change, and it will fight you every step of the way, eventually you will slide back into the pattern, and you might not even realize it. The key is to make the occurences of these relapses less and less and the duration of the relapses shorter and shorter... This is the absolute hardest part of this whole process snapping out of a relapse.
5. Think of time differently... I have been meditating on and internalizing the importance of time. I think of time now in terms of currency, the most important currency in the world, because it is currency that can never be recouped... Once you spend it it's gone.. and gone for ever, plus you have a very limited supply to begin with. So what have you spent your time currency on?
6. Organization... Organization is part of the skill set of change... It is an essential skill that needs to be developed, you can't stop procrastination with out it.
7. Routines... Routines are also part of the skill set of change... Routines are a delicate matter, I've made the mistake of going overboard on routines, trying to automate every aspect of my life, attempting way to many routines at once. This doesn't work. Try one routine that will help you change and stick with it for at least a month before attempting another.
8. Practice stomping out rationalizations... Rationalizations are what fuels the fires of procrastination... It's what causes relapses. It gives us the warm and fuzzy feeling when we decide to blow something off, they feel great at the time because they offer justification for our self defeating behavior. It takes practice to even realize when you are doing it because it feels so natural to do...
9. Support... Unfortunately procrastination is not treated as seriously as it should be. We are labeled as lazy or even losers. Often times friends and family don't understand that it's a physiological and psychological compulsion and we are left feeling alone and ashamed having to deal with this on our own. That's' why we need places like this.
Ok, so these are just my opinions and thoughts... I'm going to post this in the bookending also, where I will document my journey day by day.
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Re: beginning of the end
James, you really have made so many good points. It's fantastic to hear the strength of your understanding and committment. You've mentioned some of the things that have been very heavy for me, things I have discovered too, things I've made various degrees of progress on. One of my favorites is the metaphor of time as currency. It bears contemplation. There is very little in our culture that emphasizes the dwindling account we all face every day -- our time here to experience joy, health and love. Hardly anything to tell us that those minutes are valuable and we need to be cognizant of them. Meanwhile, we are bombarded with messages about our money and how to handle our inventory of stuff, or about how we can spend our time on this that or the other thing. I think your metaphor can help tear up the advertising paradigm that makes us not feel the WORTH OF OUR OWN TIME.
Re: beginning of the end
Gwen, thanks for the reply... The time/currency analogy is what really made me realize how much of a problem procrastination is... and the more you realize how valuable time is, and I mean REALLY realize it, it will become a powerfull asset of change. and it takes practice just to think in this way. I frequently try to use the importance of time as a "rationalization stomper" to try and snap me out of task avoidence...
For instance, think about this: How fast does a month go by?
pretty fast right?,
they go by like nothing...
ok, now let's say hypothetically in the next 30 years, you are given only $360 dollars to spend and not a penny more... Well $360 dollars is extremely easy to spend, however if it's the only amount of money you will be given for the next 30 years, chances are you would spend it with an ungodly degree of frugality and selectivity, every last penny would be spent with rigorous decision making so that you would make the absolute most out of that $360 dollars, You would not waste ANYTHING...
Well guess what...? In the next 30 years you have only 360 months..
Only 360 of those measly little months that we all agree go by so fast, will be given to you in the next 30 years... Well...., how are you going to spend them?