So I asked myself one question this morning. “What is procrastination?”. I’m often at it’s mercy apparently and I often play victim to it but do I really understand what it is? For me at least.
What it is for me
So I wrote, “Procrastination is the act of delaying an action or decision/choice to a point where it has a negative outcome”. And I felt a deep twinge as I wrote it. I recognised that there is something below the surface here, something to learn from. So I decided to write about what happens as it happens to see what happens.
Firstly, I identified the feeling of shame around this habit I have of procrastinating. It has led to a lot of disappointment, problems and frankly I don’t like to admit how often it happens. Literally, all of the time. And when I ‘sober up’ and take a long hard look at my pile of things to do, it is unpleasant to say the least. And very often sends me back under the blankets again waiting for that monster to go away.
So why do I do it then? The classic answer, I’ve often read, is all about instant gratifition and delayed reward. In other words, I can’t buckle down now and miss out on fun or pleasure right now for some pay off later on. For example; Checking Facebook or emails before rather than after I get the report started, or heaven forbid, finished.
Now that may seem a little lame but, as the saying goes “How you do one thing is how you do everything” It isn’t the single act or choice isn’t the problem, in the same way a single drink or cigarette is unlikely to casue lasting damage. It’s the accumualtion of the consequences over time. The dripping tap that fills the bath.
However, it is more fundamental than that, I feel. It becomes normal to delay, to put off any and all things that require effort. Add them to the Ayelgetroundtoit pile, the looming mountian stuff to be done that casts a long shadow. The metaphorical and actual pile of envelopes opened or unopened that require something of me. Even if it is only a moments time to make a decision or read and put away or bin.
So now what?
Well, that was depressing. And it’s patently obvious, everything I’ve read and done up to this moment has not worked. Not consistently and certainly not enough to overcome or stop it. Which leads me to a question.
How can I change?
I’m not sure why but almost immeadilty a new question arose. Why do I want to change? I can almost see the wry smile or hear the groan on your lips but bear with me. I believe you can only change things when you really want to change them. I won’t use the word motivation, even if that is what it might appear to be. I feel that the why is so important because change requires investment.
This investment, or delayed gratification, is the key. I’ll illustrate an example in one aspect of my life. Fitness.
Investing in my body
A few years ago I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes and then Type II. I was tired and achy all the time, frequently out of breath and perspiring. Overweight and getting old. At 50, I realised that I’d kind of given up on this body of mine. Everything I tried didn’t stick long enough for it to work.
But one day, and I don’t remember exactly how or when it changed, I realised that I had to get help. That alone I wasn’t capable of doing what was necessary, consistently, to get the results I needed. So I searched for a perosnal trainer or a gym to join. I emailed one or two and only go one prompt response. Martyn, who ws everyhting I was not. An Iron Man competitor about my age who looked like a wippet.
And so began my journey, one hour a week in his garage/studio/gym. And it was hard. It was painful in the sense that my body was being asked to go outside of its comfort zone. For days after I’d ache, I’d almost feel worse than I did before. I have to admit there were some days when I didn’t feel like it and cried off sick ~ genuine and pulled a ‘sicky’.
But something started to happen, over the weeks and then months, things got easier. A little bit at a time, almost imperceptibly so. I often joke with Martyn that I wish I had a video of my first few sessions just so I could see before and after.
For example, when I started walking more, faster and further, my calf muscles would cramp up or I’d get lower back pain. Nothing lasting but for a while it felt like I’d never get beyond it. Sometimes I had to ease back a little for a week or two and then try again. And throughout all of this Martyn gently pushed me but never too hard.