Breaking the Procrastination Curse: Part 1

Breaking the Procrastination Curse: Part 1

posted in: Blog | 13

I’m used to being cursed.

It started in varsity. I would get an assignment and instantly plan out how quickly I would do it. I’d make lists, I’d check out library books, and book off space in my calendar.

And then I’d DO FUCKING NOTHING.

Soon enough, it’d be midnight on the night before the assignment was due. I remember this feeling so well – sitting at my computer under a dim yellow lightbulb, everyone else in the house asleep, promising myself one more game of Bejeweled before I really got down to business.

I was a miserable and average student, but you should’ve seen my Bejeweled score.

Usually around 1 or 2 in the morning, the fear of not getting the assignment done at all was finally screeching at a higher volume than my denial and resistance. I would bash out a draft, proofread it as the sun was coming up, and submit it on deadline.

This was around the time people started saying “You look how I feel” to me a lot.

I promised myself that next time, I would be more disciplined. I wouldn’t let laziness get the best of me. But the further I got into my studies, the worse it got. As the pressures got more intense and the work got harder, I kept expecting myself to snap out of it and start taking my work seriously. I kept expecting myself to act rationally.

But procrastination had a different idea.

By Honours, I was missing every deadline, as well as missing my face when attempting to drink coffee. I felt like I was in a constant swirl of anxiety, depression, and guilt.

That’s the end of the story. My life is shit. LOL.

^Well, not really. That line is when I had to take a break from this blog post. It’s a day later, it’s sunny outside, and I have the strength to continue.

Procrastination, in many ways, has messed up my life. People have always told me I have so much potential – but potential is not value. Potential is a promise, and promises are broken all the time.

I passed Honours – I’m still not sure how. I didn’t go to my graduation. I felt like I had nothing to celebrate. I spent a year blogging and trying to be a writer, and it was probably one of the darkest years of my life. I was stuck in a cycle of guilt for not writing enough, and procrastination fueled by the guilt, which led to less writing, and more guilt. My mom was supporting me because she wanted me to be happy, but I was desperately unhappy. I had so little structure in my life that I would go to bed at 5 in the morning, brain fried from wandering around the internet all night while telling myself I was about to start writing. I realised I couldn’t make it work, that I didn’t have the discipline.

After that year, I got a job – ironically, the strength of my blog got me the gig. My mental health improved as I started “having a life”, whatever that means. I made more friends, I learned to drive and bought a car, and I started roller derby as a hobby. But procrastination seeped into every area of my life.

I wanted to exercise more to be better at skating, but I never quite found the motivation. I wanted to write more fiction as my days writing marketing copy could be mind numbing, but binge-watching series was easier. I wanted to impress my bosses, but I kept giving in rushed work just before the deadline. I started feeling like I was haunted by a malevolent, judgmental ghost – but the ghost was a huge to-do list that I could never conquer, one that promised a whole new Dasia once I checked the last box. Potential Das was the person I was meant to be, if only I could get started.

But I could never get started.

As I climbed my career (step) ladder, procrastination climbed with me. I started defining myself as someone who works well under pressure because fear was the only motivator that could get me to produce work. I could only work on my own creative projects when I was (collective eye roll) inspired, which means I produced almost nothing under my own name in my five years as a professional writer.  No matter how great my intentions were, or how many time management systems I tried, procrastination was my constant companion.

This year, I had an aha moment about this curse of mine.

Procrastination is anxiety.

That may seem obvious or inconsequential to you. But realising this – on a gut-deep, visceral level – changed so much for me.

I had been to therapy and spent time learning different techniques for controlling my anxiety – but procrastination always seemed like this hounding force that sabotaged my life from the outside. Linking the two opened up ways I could manage my procrastination – not cure, of course. But manage.

I realised that seeing myself as lazy and undisciplined wasn’t helping, but actively hurting my attempts at productivity. The obsession with lists, time management systems, and check-ins were just another way to put off doing actual work. Seeing myself as lazy just added guilt to the mix, sapping my energy even more.

I learned the key to dealing with procrastination is not discipline, but self care.

Self care is, in a nutshell, being nice to yourself. Taking care of yourself with the same readiness that you take care of others. Acts of self care can be as big as leaving a career path, or as small as getting a glass of water.

I tried being tough on myself for years, and I never saw results. In fact, trying to ‘discipline’ myself just made me feel like I was going crazy. I decided to let go and see what happened. I never expected this new approach to affect me the way it did – I’m getting more work done in a day than I used to in a week. But that’s not entirely the point – I’m doing it while being healthy, happy, and caring for myself.

This story isn’t over – my next post will be focused on 5 techniques for dealing with procrastination that have personally helped me.

 

 

13 Responses

  1. Magda Jansen van Vuuren

    THANK YOU for writing this. My current battle. I appreciate your perspective on it. Really looking forward to the next post.

    • I’m so glad it resonated! Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’ll let you know when the next post is up, it’s scheduled for Thursday 🙂

  2. Yas, Dasia. I might as well have been me writing this post. (Except I can’t write for shit, and I never got round to doing my honours.)
    Looking forward to your next post!

  3. Thanks Dasia!! Geez, life is hard and a lot of the time as human beings, we put so much pressure n ourselves because of what is happening around us. I’m the opposite… I have anxiety that alone makes me want to accomplish every single box on my to-do list. I strive for over achieving for fear of failing, fear of “If I don’t do this NOW, i’ll be seen as incompetent”. Looking forward t your next blog post:)

    • Thanks for the comment Mbals! It’s fascinating to me that anxiety can make us either super productive or super unproductive, and society’s focus is on getting things done so there is no stigma to anxiety-fueled productivity. But you know that saying – we’re human beings not human doings, and you have to take care of yourself in the process.

  4. I love this, thank you.

  5. Wow, can’t wait to see the next post! Story of my life.

  6. Thank you for this amazing post! Looks like we were living parallel lives. I didn’t realise the link it plays with anxiety and self loathing, so this was a great epiphany on the road of healing 🙂 excited for your next blog!

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