I do it. You do it. It seems like an innocent delay: not doing what you should do, want to do, don’t want to do, have to do and inevitably delay the inevitable by avoiding it. We have a fancy word for it. It’s called procrastinating or the state of procrastination. Geez, it takes time to even pronounce it.
Procrastination: such a tepid and ubiquitous word for that insidious, creepy THING we do that robs the day, robs our energy and prolongs the road to joy. To accomplishment. To (at its most pedestrian level) relief.
I’ve been reading a lot about procrastination lately, probably in service to, well, procrastination. There’s a theory that procrastination is on the spectrum of addiction: not as bad as OCD or alcoholism or gambling but something we can’t seem to stop. The experts postulate that procrastination has to do with low self-esteem or a problem with commitment. Or maybe for some of us (count me in) the minute you give me a task and a time element, I balk. I go rogue. Even if it’s something that I ultimately want to do.
They also say you find time to do what’s important to you. But I can’t say that playing another round of Quiz Up is that important to me and yet I do in and avoid something that is visceral to my inner balance like meditation or journaling (which I also love and procrastinate before I get down to it)
Before there was Facebook, Google, Etsy and EBay to waylay you from stuff (like LIFE), before there was Angry Birds, Quiz Up and Whatnot (everything else), there was coupon clipping (apparently still a thing), TV guide, crosswords and cleaning out a drawer (not a bad thing but when you’re facing a deadline such as finishing that Pulitzer novel, maybe not what you should be prioritizing).
Procrastination is equal opportunity enslavement. Children are professional at it as in: ask a kid to do a task and the answer is: Later. I will do it ….later. Or the curter: Not now.
I look at things I like to do as a writer. One of them (no surprise) is write. So why do I clean the fridge, make three phone calls, answer email and rearrange my perfumes each time I have a deadline? Not to mention: when in fact, that deadline honored also means revenue is a given and the revenue is not a whimsical thing, it pays my rent.
Why do I delay when in DOING things I SHOULD do or WANT to do, when I feel such relief that I am euphoric and energized for hours afterward? Why do I habitually put off things because when I don’t, i.e. I just stay with the program, I feel such pride and accomplishment that my serotonin levels, naturally achieved, soar to a wonderful high?
I don’t get it. Is this about addiction? And if so, what’s the addiction?
I have my own theory. It’s quite simple. I think we delay because instead of stalling, doing means we are not ‘on our way’ but actually will be….arriving. We will get somewhere. Probably to more happy or a state of presence. Being with ourselves without the tension that comes of avoiding things (like our lives, ourselves). Maybe if we don’t procrastinate and we do what we say when we say then we actually would have to BE with ourselves. In a stillness. Alone and yet replete. Maybe that is about self-esteem and deservedness. Maybe that is a foreign state of being whereas the default software running in the background in so many of us is the whir of this low key, insidious anxiety that says: striving is easier than ….being. Beingness might feel weird. Because there’s no push/pull. There’s also no blame of having been ‘bad’ or lazy. Or maybe we need the tension of last minute doing-ness as the taskmaster that makes us do the doing.
What if we’re frankly terrified to finish the Pulitzer Prize winning/worthy novel? What if we only want to succeed in little bits? What if we prefer clawing to get happier versus being at happy?
What if: avoidance IS the main event. It’s not exalted but maybe it’s more copable than joy?
What if in the time it took me to write this piece on procrastination I’d finished a chapter of my tango memoir, baked the hamantashen (the dough has been in the fridge for 3 days) or folded the laundry or read Hamilton.
Tomorrow I am going to start over. I will make THE LIST and stick to it. Anything off course (EBay, text messages, researching the calories of quinoa pasta) will be termed leakage and will be avoided. No more time and energy leakage.
I am going to do this as a science experiment. I’ll take a walk on the wild side of being an adult and commit to doing my life as if it was the best job in the world and one I wanted to excel at. If I do all this and find that joy and it feels a bit weird, I promise — I will get used to it.
Because this procrastination thing? It might be all-so-typically human but it’s devouring my potential for AMAZING THINGS ON A MORE CONSTANT LEVEL. I think if I gird myself for this journey of doing and beat this procrastination addiction, I can even get used to that. What that? The joy thing.
Why not? I deserve it.