I've been putting off writing this blog for weeks now. I've come up with innumerable excuses (I'm too tired, I have nothing interesting to say) and manufactured crises (we're out of milk, the dog hasn't had a walk in days, etc. ).
The truth of the matter is that I've been really down lately, and nothing pushes my procrastination buttons as much as depression.
Unfortunately procrastination is itself depressing, so I'm caught in one of those endless circles of feeling bad, procrastinating, feeling bad I'm procrastinating, feeling bad I'm feeling bad I'm procrastinating, and so on and on and on.
It's like looking into one of those mirrors that shows you infinite images of yourself, and in every single image you're sitting there with your fingers on the keyboard and nothing at all on the screen.
See? Just describing it is depressing.
My favorite story about procrastination is from Samuel Johnson. Johnson was a great literary figure of the late 18th century, who among other things had the fortitude to write a dictionary. Nevertheless he was plagued by bouts of procrastination. (He also battled depression for most of his life.) In a famous article for a literary journal of the time, he says that he's been putting off writing the article for days, coming up with topics, rejecting each idea and moving on to another one, when a messenger from the journal shows up and tells him that they are about to go to print. At which point he sits down and writes an essay about procrastination:
Thus life is languished away in the gloom of anxiety, and consumed in collecting resolutions which the next morning dissipates; in forming purposes which we scarcely hope to keep, and reconciling ourselves to our own cowardice by excuses which, while we admit them, we know to be absurd.
OK, the language is a bit archaic, but basically he's saying that the more we put things off, the more anxious and miserable we feel. And that's a sad waste of the limited time we're allowed on the planet.
Johnson's advice for beating procrastination is more or less the same as the Nike trademark (Just do it!). And in the abstract, that is logical: once you realize how miserable your procrastinating makes you feel, you'll just do it.
Right? Well . . .unfortunately, for most of us, telling ourselves that procrastinating is making us unhappy and that getting it done will make us feel better doesn't really do the trick. Johnson knew that perfectly well, since he routinely put things off until the absolute last minute, case in point being the article he writes on procrastination while the messenger waits for it at the door.
So what can we do to break the procastination cycle?
That, Dear Reader (as Johnson would say), is such a big subject that it really needs its own blog. Stay tuned . . ..
Roberta E. Tovey