I read an article a while back about procrastination. The article’s title was something like “Is procrastination laziness?” and the answer was a resounding “no.” Apologies to anyone wanting to find the article: I saw it on Facebook on a friend’s feed. Don’t remember which friend. Looked for about 15 minutes scrolling down the pages of likely suspects, and I can’t find the article again. Isn’t that the way with articles on Facebook? Sigh. [PS: AHA! Found it: New York Times “Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing To Do With Self-Control)” by Charlotte Lieberman, March 25, 2019]
The point is the article said procrastination isn’t a time-management problem; it’s an emotion-management problem. In other words, I’m not lazy, I’m unable to regulate my emotions and therefore use alternative activities (usually just as demanding as the one I’m avoiding) to distract me from dealing with how I feel about the original project. Trouble is, the distraction only compounds the problem because now I add the new layer of shame/guilt for not making progress on the undone project onto the already present distress that causes me to choose the alternate activity in the first place. Yeah, I know it sounds depressing and I don’t like to think of myself as having emotional problems (or anything I can’t handle), but it was actually comforting to read this – probably because I knew it was true. Perhaps it’s just because someone is saying, “hey, you’re not crazy. …well, maybe a little, but you’re not the only one.”
If nothing else, it has been interesting to watch myself make choices recently. I’m working on self awareness (in another post, I’ll talk about the fabulous Enneagram training I recently completed). I’m the person who collapses because I can’t seem to be able to stop going before the burning candle ends meet in the middle. I’m also the one who has to convince me that it’s ok to take time for myself, even when I can barely function – and then I feel guilty because I didn’t show up for someone else. I looked at my calendar this morning and saw that for the first time in probably three years, I have a whole month with both Saturday and Sunday entirely free. Two whole days every week with nothing in them? That is unreal and I am extremely thankful because it feels really, really good to anticipate the ability to breathe (some spiritual practitioners would call it “margin”). I noticed that “feels” cue in there; it tipped me off to wonder if there was something to feel regarding the larger picture too. Comparing the tension of the full calendar to the release of the empty space brought me some awareness of my own resentment, anger, and anxiety. If that’s what’s bubbling under the surface, no wonder I’m reluctant to engage the really fabulous important work. I’m exhausted!
I think that’s the moment I said, “yeah, it IS an emotion-management problem.”
Now what do I do about it?