December 27 – Procrastination: Step One

Procrastination from the fatigue of doing too much for too long is something I am well-acquainted with, particularly in my professional life. It happens at least once every couple of months and always results in a vicious cycle: I feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work I have and attempt to handle it by attacking my to-do list at a relentless pace, which leads me to burn out and procrastinate, only to later panic and overcompensate by working harder in an attempt to make up for the lost time I spent procrastinating. Is it any wonder I am not happy at work? I do this to myself.

snow capped mountains under the cloudy skies

On the topic of procrastination, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:

Contrary to popular belief, we workaholics are not women who are constantly doing something. We are often too busy and overworked, so that many times we just collapse into a morass of procrastination. We know that we have things that need to be done, and the more we think about them, the more leaden we feel. Sometimes it seems that we just cannot get our bodies out of bed, lift our arms, or hold a pen. We just cannot make ourselves do any more. Of course, when this lethargy takes over, we can sink into black periods of self-castigation.

At such times, it is important to remember that procrastinating is part of our disease and that we are powerless over this disease. It is only when we admit this powerlessness, acknowledge that we become insane with our procrastination, see that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity, and turn our life and will over to that power that we may, indeed, see that we have made a decision and can admit this decision to ourselves.

The decision to which Anne refers at the end of the meditation is based on the quote from Judith M. Knowlton: “When I keep putting something off, it may not be procrastination, but a decision I’ve already made and not yet admitted to myself.” I realized this once when my manager questioned why I had not finished an assignment and, unsatisfied with my answer, pressed me further. I do good work and adhere to deadlines, so surely there was a reason I did not accomplish this particular task. Did I not see value in the assignment? Was there something better we could do? Eventually we got around to the fact that I made a judgement call based on the amount of time it took to complete compared to other tasks. In the same amount of time it took to do that one assignment, I could complete five higher-quality assignments of a different type. Now when I realize I am putting something off, I am more apt to ask myself why that is in order to identify the potential decision that lies behind my procrastination. 

Also this idea that workaholism is a disease seems so obvious now, but when I first read today’s passage, it was a revelation for me. What a relief it is to know that it is a sickness that is beyond my control! I cannot help it; I am powerless when it comes to my workaholism. Admitting my powerlessness and seeking help from a higher authority is the key to healing. It is so freeing, and of course, this lesson follows perfectly the previous day’s meditation on letting go of that which we cannot control. The more I work on this project, the lighter I feel. I am becoming a more mindful, balanced person as I wished. I am so grateful to have set this ambitious goal for myself and stuck to it thus far.

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