Do you have something to do but do not have any details in mind beyond, “I need to get this done?” Does that vagueness leave you in a place where you don’t know what to do, much less where you can start?
That’s the exact place of fogginess I was in when I started this post.
In fact, I’ve been saying to myself for at least the past 7 days, ‘I am going to post a new article this weekend.’ And here we are, an hour and a half past midnight on Sunday and I haven’t posted anything, or even figured out what to post about.
This is not procrastination.
The proof that this isn’t procrastination is the fact that I’m writing anything at all. If I were procrastinating, I’d be doing something else right now while pushing the nagging thoughts about writing an article aside. I would have come up with a slew of different reasons for not writing right now. Frankly, they mostly would have been excuses.
Actually, if I were to give “this” which I’m actually doing a name at all I think it would be called a Meandering Climb.
During this climb, the inability to center interferes with the smooth execution of the journey. (In the non-metaphorical sense, the journey is the to-do list.) Imagine walking up a hill toward the summit, and reaching the summit is your ultimate goal. Now picture wishing to be able to take a nice straight path up the hill but having to choose a winding path with a few stops on the way instead.
These smaller stops may be necessary to get to the summit at all, or they may be unrelated to your ultimate goal but necessary for other reasons. You may want to make the stops because it’s practical to do so while you’re passing by, and by doing so you’ll also avoid climbing to the summit then having to ascend again. Maybe there are small but urgent matters to be addressed at those stops. And then sometimes, just deciding which stop to make first – if at all- can take a staggering amount of energy.
I don’t have any excuses for putting off the things I need to do. But I don’t feel I have been wasting a lot of time lately, for the most part. I’d be lying to you if I said there is nothing else I could do to be more efficient. And so, I’ve come to the conclusion that a big part of what is plaguing me is impatience.
Yes, impatience. Because my desire to do everything NOW makes it hard for me to think clearly and focus.
Identifying The Culprit
As we attempt to figure out the real root cause(s) are and resolve the issue, I dare to say that this happens to most people, whether it seems justifiable that they feel they have too much to do or not. Everyone has different circumstances and limitations. The sooner we recognize that fact, the better.
The idea to behold is this: What happens to busy people that prevents them from getting things done is having too much to do in the first place.
It’s taken me reading a book on computer science to realize that being limited is perfectly normal. If computers, which seem to be made to perform more powerful functions every day, are limited, then wouldn’t I be?
And what’s the way to get a computer or any machine to perform optimally? To understand how it’s designed to work. Then, to use it properly and how it was intended.
This is the same way I can optimize my own performance: By first understanding how I was made to function, then by knowing my individual quirks, then to sync my plans with my capabilities. This helps me to adjust my expectations and then, I can avoid getting down on myself when I haven’t completed my to-do list, and avoid feeling like I’m not good/fast/focused enough.
Do you ever feel this way?
I want everything done now and so do the people I support. This includes people at work and at home. When everything is urgent, then nothing gets done. Or it gets done, but the quality of my work is lost.
I used to feel guilty about taking too long, and sometimes, this guilt is justifiable. But now I know when that guilt is unwarranted. Getting rid of this guilt alone significantly lightens my load and clears my head, allowing me to hone in on more important things.
How To Combat It
The worst part of being on a meandering climb is feeling frustrated by it.
As I mentioned before, there are some cases where this state isn’t avoidable because a certain sequence of events needs to happen before you can reach your goal. In other cases, multiple urgent issues may present themselves at once. Either way, the problem begins when the goal that weighs on your mind can’t be the one you take care of first.
So the first thing that can be done to help this issue is to stop everything and get your thoughts and emotions under control.
Stop and think: What is making me feel frustrated or anxious about what I’m doing and the order in which I’m doing it?
Once you realize what’s throwing you off emotionally, you can come up with a practical solution for it and establish priorities.
When you prioritize, you are going to agree with yourself what you will do and in what order.
This agreement will allow you to think clearly during the next phase.
The next phase is your action phase. This is where you’re going to do and not overthink.
If you find a better or quicker way of doing something during this phase than what you’d originally planned, that is OK. You can trust yourself to change things up. But you can only deliberate over changes for a brief period before the deliberation gets in the way of smoothly continuing.
Most of all, you’re going to Just Say NO to the D-Word.
You know what that “D” stands for — today’s worst drug that has most people hooked: Distractions.
That means stay off of your social media feeds when working, ignore clickbait stories about Donald Trump (whose name also happens to start with “D”), news about the economy, and updates on your favorite reality TV show, 90-Day Fiance.
Oh yes, that’s some of the nonsense that distracts Yours Truly. I admit it when I’m doing something wrong. That in itself is a win, and I’m claiming wins. Even though I indulge in those things during my free time, is it a good use of it?
I could use my free time to do something a lot better.
Distractions from legitimate sources should also be avoided.
Co-workers, family members, and any requests from anyone that aren’t urgent should politely be placed on hold. As much as you love to help, you have to set boundaries or you will never be organized in your mind or in actuality.
The Moral of The Story
As I finish up this article a week later (it’s now Tuesday night of the following week) I’m summing it up by saying that just because you’re taking longer than you’d like to reach your goals does not mean you’re procrastinating. In the case of this article, I had other things to finish first with more urgent deadlines. I didn’t finish the article when I wanted to, but I finished other things that I had to, and I’m OK with that.
I’m not saying to be in denial about it when you are procrastinating, I’m just saying to think about it before you accuse yourself of doing so.
Why? Because thinking or saying “I am always procrastinating” is kind of demeaning. And there’s a chance that it might not be true. You might just have more on your plate than you think.
There could be a good reason for your delayed attainments, and the best way to shorten the delays or not let them overwhelm you is to analyze them, accept them where they can’t be helped, and make adjustments where they can.
So, what do you think? What are some things that seem like procrastination but actually aren’t? How do you tell the difference? I’d love to hear your ideas!