Tag Archives: procrastination

99 Problems (Minus 96 or So)

Generally speaking, my inability to make progress in life boils down to three chronic problems, all of which I have written about on this blog before:

Problem 1:  I spend money I don’t have. (See “Woe Is Money”, 11/3/16, and others.)  My current financial situation is dire because I was lazy all summer, and if I don’t put in the hours, I don’t make any money.  It’s as simple as that.  I’m always hounding Darian about making a budget and sticking to it, but clearly I need to follow my own advice.  Yes, I’m not an extravagant person, and I don’t usually go around willy-nilly buying unnecessary items I can’t afford, but I certainly don’t deny myself or my daughter anything.  I need to go on an austerity budget.  And while this problem is especially acute now, it is something I have struggled with all my life, even when I was making a healthy salary as a full-time (but thoroughly miserable) lawyer.

Problem 2:  Another lifelong problem of mine is that I eat what I should not eat, and way too much of it. (See “Weighty Management”, 3/1/17, among others).  The corollary to that problem is that I don’t move enough.  In recently months I have engaged in no substantive exercise whatsoever.  I take in too many calories and I don’t burn any, so I’m fat and staying that way.  It has health effects beyond just making me feel bloated and balloony.  The overeating and the lack of activity create a vicious cycle, because lethargy just feeds more lethargy.  Yes, there have been plenty of times in my life when I have been dedicated to movement – power-walking, yoga, even going to the gym when I had money and a gift certificate for six months of a personal trainer.  But the longer I go without exercise, the harder it is to get back on track.  Of course, even if I start exercising (and I will, I swear!  I honestly enjoy working up a sweat – when I can manage to get off my ass to do it!), I still need to make major changes in my eating habits.  I can’t help that I prefer sweet things like cookies and ice cream to, say, vegetables of any kind.  Thus it feels like I have to deprive myself of something I enjoy and force myself to endure something I find unpleasant.  Why does it have to be so difficult?  Why does taking care of my body feel like torture?  I have to boil it down to a pro-and-con situation:  Pro – I have a few moments of joy and deliciousness.  Con – I’m doing damage to my body, which needs to last a lifetime.

Problem 3:  My worst problem of all – the one that ties in to everything else – is my overwhelming tendency to procrastinate, in every sphere of my life, for big items and small. (See “Procrastination Station”, 10/14/15.)  I put off tasks and action items in the deluded hope that they will go away or miraculously resolve themselves.  But by procrastinating, I also potentially deprive myself of personal development, forward movement and perhaps even the chance to achieve something wonderful.  My procrastination has its roots in my utter lack of ambition, which (with few exceptions) has been a lifelong affliction.  No drive, no motivation, no PASSION.  This contributes to the procrastination in a major way because, if I could find something that I felt passionate about, I wouldn’t procrastinate.  Right?  For instance, I love hockey, so I never miss a hockey game.  If I must, I record it and watch it on delay but I will ALWAYS make time to watch it.  It’s the same with all my favorite shows.  I also make time for my pets (permanent and foster) and for volunteering at the shelter, even though every once in a while I just want to spend a lazy weekend holed up in my jammies and give the shelter a miss (but then I’d also miss out on spending quality cuddle time with my favorite “away” kitties).

Unfortunately, my procrastinating has gotten in the way of keeping up with my blog – hence, the lamentable three-week gap between posts – despite the fact that blogging is something I love to do.  I do blame work for some of that, because I’ve had to put in more billable hours in the past couple of months to make up for my “lazy grasshopper” summer.  If I didn’t have to worry so much about my next paycheck (which frankly is always already spent by the time it comes), I would write at great length every day, including more in-depth pieces for this blog rather than the quickie jobs I’ve been putting together just so I can keep up with my commitment (to myself) to post.

Where do I begin to fix this?  Well, for starters, I have to make a dent in the procrastination problem and “make it work”, like Tim Gunn says on Project Runway (which is one of my TV show passions that I never miss, especially this season with the adorable Brandon, who is destined to be a star; I only wish I’ll be able to afford his clothes when he becomes a famous designer).  I’ve just been to the doctor this week and, while she didn’t berate me for not losing any weight or bringing down my A1C, she easily could have.  I do enough berating for the both of us – often while I’m in the actual process of stuffing my face (“Nan, stop eating these candy corn!  Nan, don’t go back for another bowl of ice cream!  Nan, you will sorely regret eating this whole box of cookies as soon as the last one crosses your lips!”) – not that it does any good.  The doctor actually said something like “You’re not ready,” which is absolutely true, but also just another example of procrastination.  What am I waiting for??  A freakin’ heart attack?

On the money front, I should listen to my own advice and come up with a budget and then do my best to live within it.  I only have another six weeks or so to get my kid through college, and then she’ll come home and start earning her own money.  She is contemplating another field research program in Costa Rica for the summer and she has already been informed that, as much as the Board would like to support her higher education, the Bank of Mom is officially closed for business.  So that particular expense can be eliminated, although there will be a concomitant increase in the grocery and utility budgets now that she’ll be home full time.  I’m also going to have to increase my health insurance premiums because I’ll have to cover my kid as well as myself, and they’re discontinuing my current plan so I have to find a new (and inevitably more expensive) one in the limited 45-day window that the government has generously allotted for us to do so.  (I guess I should just be grateful that I still have the ability to buy insurance at all.)

I liken my cycle of self-destructive inactivity to the situation being experienced by the 2017-18 New York Rangers, ten games into the season.  They have been distinctly awful in spurts on defense and every mistake has cost them a goal.  On the offensive side of the puck, they do many good things but don’t get rewarded.  (Prime example:  Rick Nash alone has more shots on goal than almost everyone else in the league, with only one goal to show for it.)  So the frustration sets in and they try to do too much and end up doing themselves more harm than good.  It’s a vicious cycle that has resulted in a 2-6-2 record.  Eventually they will have to pull themselves out of this slump.  According to their coach, Alain Vigneault (who might be feeling a bit in the hot seat these days), the boys just have to take it one shift at a time, do the things they know they need to do, and trust that their efforts will pay off.  Then they can build on that.

That is certainly advice that I should take to heart.  One step in the right direction will lead to another, and so on and so on, and just keep on plowing forward till I get where I need to be.  Evidently, I get my best life counsel from Tim Gunn and AV:  Focus on doing the right things one shift at a time, and just make it work.  Ha!  That should be my actualization mantra!

P.S.  My permanent family has increased by one:  I have officially adopted Polly Wobbles as the newest member of the squad.  My foster kitten Gigi was adopted last weekend, and my other foster dog, the adorable Penny, blew up the Posh Pets website with applications for her adoption, so it is only a matter of time before we find the right fit for her.  After that, then maybe I’ll take a break from fostering – until the next one comes along, of course!

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Procrastination Station

What is the root cause of procrastination? According to Wikipedia, procrastination is “the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones”. I think of it as avoiding something I don’t want to do, and I’ve been known to do ANYTHING other than the thing I should be doing (regardless of its pleasurableness), but I even procrastinate when it comes to activities I enjoy, like writing my blog posts.

I make lists, I plan, I do research – all to keep from actually performing the designated task. It’s frustrating, infuriating and embarrassing. Even my horoscope today is on my case: “You may have to make up for lost time later in the evening if your laziness gets the best of you early on.”

[For a brilliant, hilariously illustrated analysis of procrastination, check out the three-part series written by Tim Urban on the website Wait But Why (http://waitbutwhy.com):  Part 1 (“Why Procrastinators Procrastinate”, October 2013, http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/10/why-procrastinators-procrastinate.html); Part 2 (“How to Beat Procrastination”, November 2013, http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/11/how-to-beat-procrastination.html); and Part 3 (“The Procrastination Matrix”, March 2015, http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/03/procrastination-matrix.html).  Urban’s serious and yet uproarious (and accurate!) articles feature a primary cast of characters called the Rational Decision-Maker, the Instant Gratification Monkey and the Panic Monster. Reading all three pieces would be an ideal excuse for procrastinating!]

Every once in a while, it strikes me that I am an extremely lazy and entitled person, someone who believes she shouldn’t have to “work” for a living.  Ah, if that were only the case!  Sadly, I was not born independently wealthy. Even though I have managed to trim a lot of my expenses since cutting back on my workload, I am still awash in bills. I’m not interested in making money for the sake of having money; I just need to make ENOUGH. I’ve complained at length elsewhere in my blog posts about this disconnect in my life, starting way back in the early days (“Some Thoughts about Money and Music,” 3/10/15).

My greatest wish is that I could figure out what kind of job (or career) would pay me what I need to keep up with my bills while not making me miserable. At its core, this wish does not seem unreasonable. There’s just one problem: You may have noticed a distinct lack of specificity in the prior statement. This is because I have no idea what job (or career) that might be. It’s definitely not being a finance attorney, even though the income is substantial (too substantial to give up, frankly). In fact, I can identify a lot of jobs that it ISN’T. I just don’t know what it IS.

I’m afraid to try anything new because I don’t have the requisite experience – even as a lawyer – so I would need hands-on training, which would mean starting back at square one. Working for 10-plus years in my narrow specialty has created a situation where being an aviation finance attorney is all I know how to do in the legal world (and even at that, my knowledge is limited by my lack of background – and interest – in finance). I’m too far removed from my law school days to call upon the more generalized experience one gets while immersed in ongoing education.

I need to focus on job-seeking again and actually make some use of those books (What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles (Ten Speed Press, 2013) and The Encore Career Handbook by Marci Alboher (Workman Publishing, 2013)) I bought and subsequently abandoned when it came time to complete the extensive self-assessment exercises they pose to help the reader get focused and figure out next steps to fulfillment in his or her career (and, by extension, life, since we spend so much of our lives at work). Fulfillment is sorely lacking in my current situation, even though it pays well and gives me extreme flexibility. It’s just missing that third vital component, which is being able to experience personal satisfaction from the work. (Although I might be somewhat more accepting of my current position if I could legitimately turn it off at 7 p.m. or so, guilt-free, and not have to check emails vigilantly in order to be maximally responsive to our clients.)  And don’t even get me started on my dread of networking and interviewing.  Just thinking about those things makes me feel a little nauseous.

I’m 56 years old, for goodness sake! I should have found myself by now. And while I’ve earned some money over the past dozen years at the law firm while being miserable, I haven’t managed to squirrel enough away to have made the loss of my time worthwhile. Waa-waa-waa. I’m such a sorry-ass whiner. It’s got to stop. I can’t be so quick to fall into these doldrums. I need to FORCE myself to feel okay with my life. (It’s not even “good” – I’m willing to settle for just okay!)

I read a pithy quote today from the actor Hugh Laurie posted on the Facebook page of the blog Intellectual Takeout (intellectualtakeout.org):

“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”

Of course, if I won the lottery, all my problems would be solved. I could help out more often at the animal shelter, and volunteer for Meals on Wheels, and God’s Love We Deliver, and wherever else I could be useful, doing work that satisfies me without having to worry about where the next paycheck was coming from. In fact, I’d be able to actually GIVE money to causes I care about. I wouldn’t be selfish or greedy or piggish; that’s just not in my nature. I would be a deserving recipient of the millions and would pay it all forward. And I could finally be happy – now, not at some future time when I’m “ready”. I’m ready NOW!