I’ve been doing it again: procrastinating madly. The way it seems to happen without my awareness is completely unnerving, and I’m really starting to feel the urge to make it stop. But how? I seem to be addicted to being happy-go-lucky, paying no attention to what I’m doing, just existing and not thinking about it. Except, I do think about it. I think a lot.
Unfortunately for me, thinking is just another way I procrastinate. I get all analytical, and feel like I come up with some kind of answer that I try to convince myself I’m satisfied with — but the procrastination is not magically cured, strangely enough. There is no magic pill, as they say.
This week, though, the urge to quit procrastinating has gotten really intense. I think it’s been building up over the past few weeks or even months, at least at the subconscious level, or so my dreams are telling me. I’ll discuss them in more detail, below, and I’ll also share and discuss a mindmap I drew last weekend about my procrastination.
I don’t know why I keep ignoring the subconscious urgings, and I definitely don’t know why I keep procrastinating despite the urgency I’m starting to feel, but I do know that I’m writing about it so I can start documenting the transition I’m making to actually making conscious effort to overcome it.
Messages from Dreams
I don’t remember all my dreams, but most nights lately I have had dreams that really strongly seem as if they are messages from my subconscious. Even the most basic of analysis seems to hint that my subconscious is getting annoyed with me.
Unfortunately, I don’t really remember the stories in much detail, only vague scenes, like snapshots from the dreams. Before I get into the analysis, here’s some of those snapshots:
- I’m taking stuff out of my backpack, trying to rearrange it so I can fit more stuff into it.
- I’ve got bags and bags of stuff, and I’m trying to figure out how to carry them all: should I take everything out of the bags and put everything into the biggest bag, including the bags themselves? should I spread stuff out into several of the backpacks and duffel bags and carry them that way?
- I’m shopping for something and don’t know what it is (other than “more stuff” I guess).
- I almost buy something, and then realize I won’t have room for it, so I put it back and keep shopping.
- Someone or some people are waiting for me, but I’m holding them up because I’m:
- fighting to carry too much stuff and I’m moving too slowly;
- in the midst of organizing stuff, with it all sprawled around me, and I’m hoping to be able to carry it all;
- trying to decide what to buy, and they’re done shopping already and outside the store.
- My teeth are crumbling and I’m spitting the pieces out. (This one may be unrelated to the other themes, but maybe not, so I figure I may as well include it. It happens fairly often, and has been for many many years, and in many different settings, so maybe it will give some insight into my situation… or maybe the other dreams can give insight into this one.)
- And of the usual cliché dream scenarios:
- I do occasionally get the falling ones. They usually wake me up, and I find myself feeling like I’ve been thrown forward. I actually find the sensation fairly enjoyable, because it’s interesting to analyze.
- I fairly often get the “late for class” or “late for an exam I didn’t study for, for a class I didn’t even realize I had” types of scenes. These invariably seem to be set in highschool. Often the class is Spanish class, and the teacher is disappointed in me, as I am in myself, and there’s no chance to redeem myself. It just ends there, in bitterness.
So I think the dreams seem to center around the ideas of “stuff”, and excesses, and wasting of time, and disappointment in myself. I think I’ve had anywhere between 10 and 20 dreams that I can remember having various parts of these themes (not including the teeth thing, as there has surely been 10 to 20 of these alone), often interlinked.
The other people in the dreams have ranged throughout my husband’s family and my own, as well as current or old friends or acquaintances, and occasionally people change into other people partway through scenes (an odd fact that I don’t find odd until I awaken). I’m pretty sure the dreams are not actually about those specific people, but that they represent a reflection in which I can see myself, or people whose perspective I can imagine. I don’t generally worry about what other people think of me, except to the extent that I hope that I am the person that people see me to be, and that people see me as the person I am. (I don’t know if that clarified anything, but I’ve read through the sentence thrice and I think it says it right. Try reading it again? :P)
What I think is key to understanding the dreams (except maybe the teeth one, which I have no idea about) is that the “stuff” is not just physical stuff, like the boxes of unpacked books from two moves ago or the folders of school notes that would surely help me in my current work. I mean, yes, those things are contributing, but there’s more “stuff” than just those.
The real kicker, to me, is thinking that the dreams may be all about “stuff I want to do” as well. I’m so bogged down with things I really, really want to do, that nothing gets done; it gets procrastinated. I mean, I meant to say that sentence in the past tense, because after saying something so clearly, how could such behaviour continue? ;)
The dreams were already well-established before the morning of the mindmap:
That was exactly one week ago today, minus about six hours. Yes, I woke up early on a Saturday to sketch out the thoughts I was having about my tendancy to procrastinate.
I do love mindmapping, because it really does help the brainstorming process chew through some great ideas and turn them into useful things. I feel a little awkward commentating on the thought progression of how the map was developed, so I’d rather just let you check it out and see for yourself if you can make any sense of it. :)
I will say two things about it, actually:
- The first thing I wrote were the words “My Procrastination” with a box drawn around it.
- The last thing I wrote was the answer to the question, “is this who I want to be?”
I’m sure it can be explored in any order, however, including (but not limited to) top left to bottom right. There is a psychological tendency to read things that way, of course, and chances are, I would have tendency to put the more introductory concepts near the top left. Hmm! I always find it interesting to contemplate how the mind (especially my mind) might work!
The Kick in the Pants
Two days ago, on Wednesday, I had a doctor’s appointment. The doctor and I have gotten to talking a few times about my procrastination, even to the point of investigating whether my bouts of listlessness may be something physical. (Nothing was found.) She has given me good advice in the past, like choosing to describe my tasks with “will do” instead of “plan to do” or “should do”.
This day, we talked for almost 45 minutes about my procrastination, starting with me talking about some conclusions I had from the mindmap above:
- I said to her that I must be determined in order to overcome the procrastination. She said that’s true, but she pointed out that being something isn’t the same thing as doing something about it!
- “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Neither of us actually quoted Yoda, but the concept was there, and I was definitely thinking it. “Try not! Do!” It reminded me of something I read recently saying something like, “When it’s time to go, will you try to go out the door, or will you go out the door?” (Sorry, I can’t find it again, or else I’d link to it!)
- Breaking the habit: the only way to start, is to start! It will take time to totally break myself of it, and so I must just keep practicing. (This is pretty much how I explained my thoughts on it to her.)
- She figured it would be helpful for me to hear all these “obvious things” (my words) from someone else’s perspective. I said yeah, I definitely do need a kick in the pants, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who can give it to myself. She agreed.
Today, I finally had an opportunity to describe to my husband why it was that the doctor made me cry on Wednesday. (He knew that much of the story already, but a lot had happened on Wednesday and we had a lot of other things to talk about that evening instead. And yesterday was band night.)
I’d had two days to think about what was discussed on Wednesday, and six days since the mindmap, and so the thoughts had become concrete enough that I could talk about them out loud. (I suppose that preparedness extended to this blog easily enough as well!)
He listened very well to what I was describing about myself, and asked some very good questions too. Most importantly: have I actually done any better since realizing any of the above things? I went for the cop-out answer: “Yes and no.”
Yes, I’ve become more consistent in doing things that need to be done. Part of this is because I’m making an effort to avoid saying I’m “not procrastinating” stuff, but rather, saying I am “following through on my intentions.” Not only does this enforce the notion of following through, but it reminds me that these things I am doing are things I, myself, intend to do. My own intentions must be important to me!
But no, I haven’t really made huge progress on my thesis. I have made some progress every day though, and that is something, even if it’s only a smidge more than nothing. It is helping me practice being consistent, and helping me practice returning my train of thought to my thesis frequently.
So, I know I’m kinda procrastinating on my thesis by doing other things that I’ve been procrastinating for too long, but I’m trying to strike a balance. At very least, I don’t want to catch myself flat-out procrastinating doing anything but being productive, because it always sucks to snap out of such a phase and get hit with a wave of guilt. I’m trying to cultivate waves of pride in my accomplishments instead!
Today, I get to be proud of starting and finishing a blog post that has been on the tip of my brain for days, and that really needed to come out. And I wrote this all after hours, so it isn’t really taking away from my thesis-writing time. I am up past midnight though, which might affect tomorrow’s work, but the relief I’ll feel about finishing this train of thought will be well worth it. In fact, I just might be completely done with the topic of procrastination entirely, since I am now focused on discussing how I will follow through on my intentions rather than pro… I mean, uh, the ‘p’-word. ;)
Please, I welcome any and all comments, except if they’re spam. ;)