Category Archives: Procrastinator Diaries (Pat)

A Shorter Tale of the Tape (Nonfiction Version?)

Here is another variation on how procrastination can be manifested. Remember yesterday when I wrote about a practical joke played at work to provide some levity to lighten up the air a bit? Now, let me turn that on its head and be absolutely serious.

In my idealistic, almost romantic version, I obviously left a lot of important details out. Is that another danger of procrastination? We write and purposely put off describing the difficult aspects? We do everything, elaborate ad nauseum, within the comfort zone, and stop right before we get to truth?

I don’t mean to say that what I described yesterday wasn’t truthful. It just wasn’t the whole story. To refresh our memories of what happened yesterday, a quick summary of my ‘easy’ story goes like this: Someone asked to borrow the tape; I told them to look it up in the computer and search the online catalogue; those who played along searched for a book I referenced, and found the tape I placed beside the book; I then asked a staff member to please put the roll of tape in the catalogue, so people can search for it directly. All who played along got some laughs out of this.

I guess, in yesterday’s more vivid and fuller description of the story, I may have gone overboard with the potential health benefits for all. I also conveniently left out parts of the story that involved those people who didn’t play along too kindly. What about them?

While most customers played along with polite amusement, there was one patron who just shook his head. There were others who, even though silent, I can read from their faces and body language these messages: “I just want the tape! How hard could that be?” And “Stop wasting my time.”  Actually, you can kind of tell as a patron approaches who is in a rush, who is in a mood to play, and who just wants no nonsense.

The games we play in the process of procrastination, even though the delay was intended to instill a sense of mystery and curiosity rather than always providing the same old same old dry answers right away, these games can pop someone’ blood vessels if used inappropriately.

The tape is over there, beside the photocopier.

-Pat

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Procrastination’s Weak Rebuttal?

It may be time to toughen up the exterior a bit, so it reflects more ideally the fires burning within. I can’t say that many of the posts here have been very much of the aggressive nature, but is it now time? Rage, rage, rage.

It started with innocent chatting over warm drinks that must include honey, but then it somehow it came around to some heated debate about the merits of a blog with procrastination as its title theme. I was urged to changed the title because it automatically predisposes readers to have a certain expectation when they visit, and usually those impressions are not overly positive. And if the focus is on the writing, on a variety of creative and current event topics, then it all gets consumed under that overhanging shadow of procrastination. Writing that has nothing to do with procrastination would get unfairly interpreted under that rubric.

Furthermore, they say, we would waste too much time trying to pigeon hole or slot writing into some relation with procrastination when the topic had no business even being in the vicinity. In addition, we would have our hands tied and be forced to write about procrastination every odd post even though there is no reason to. (I guess they wouldn’t approve of this current post I’m crapping out right now) And this would take valuable time away from other more important writing. Then they went on a psychological bent: It’s as if even when there are no procrastination issues, we purposely seek them out and create procrastination problems for ourselves!

By this time, I was the only one finished my drink with honey because the others were too occupied expressing their views. If the drink wasn’t warm enough to begin with, I am sure I was easily able to reheat it to the boiling point within my intestines. However, by the time the steam was able to make its way back up my system towards my mouth, it all dissipated into the form of mild voice that asked weakly, ‘So what is wrong with this procrastination rubric?’

Oh, and then the chorus came! All together in tremendous chorus! The chorus came raining down in unison! They said people often don’t go too close to the actual writing because they are turned away by the monstrous label. They fear being bombarded by a big group of postings in high pitched voices lamenting and commiserating about how so and so didn’t do what, and how such and such didn’t get what done, and a whole bunch of it’s okay, it’s okay, you’re okay, I’m okay, it’s all okay, you’re human kind of discourse.

Finally, I stood up. I stood up to them, or maybe just stood up in front of them. And said confidentally, “I have to go to the washroom.” Must have been the drink mixed with honey. Instead, I went home and browsed through all the posts to try to spot themes of ‘I’m okay, you’re okay…’

Maybe I should tone down my aggressiveness?

-pat

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Silence Does Not Mean Assumed ‘Procrastination’

I am sorry. Since starting this “Procrastination Post” blog, in its current form, this has been the longest lag in between writings. I guess with the up front, obvious title of the blog, it already contains a ready made excuse for the gaps. Maybe it sets up the dismal expectation to expect many intervals of stunted growth, regression, stops and starts, and in inordinate number of apologies.

Sorry, I am not going to apologize, and I cannot accept our ‘Procrastination’ title as a motive to provide a convenient reason and acceptance of failure that is inevitable. I cannot. It’s as if we purposely put this label in bold font right out front, carrying placards to set the bar real low in order to minimize the impact from the fall when we trip.

No. I must insist that it is to the contrary of all these assumptions. It is to show, explore, consider what value can come out of digging ourselves out of the hideous hole we started with. And that we refuse to accept our predicament and struggle even more desperately to fight and climb. And that we will write to reflect light on another side of our world underneath. Our label is not something to trip over, step on, nor to foreshadow a message of upcoming weakness and disappointment.

And if I am, in fact, simply incriminating myself in this latest post and providing more evidence to fuel previous assumptions, then at least we can still be the prosecutors of our own guilt.

Thanks for your patience over past couple of weeks, knowing that even while we are silent, we are still writing and digging even more profusely than what can be sighted here.

-pat

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The Danger and Importance of Expectations

When stuck in my own vicious cycle of procrastination for a long time, sometimes I get so habituated into the comfort of delay and using rationalizations automatically that they do not seem unreasonable or give off any warning signals. I find that in these cases, watching others, and their various manifestations of procrastination can then help give reflection on what I do myself in other contexts.

When seeing another person put off doing something for the wrong reasons, and diluting life in the process, we obviously are aware how counterproductive these behaviours can be. Maybe this can stir within us the action to change these very same behaviours that we display ourselves but have chosen to ignore for so long.

I was talking with a diligent student about her portfolio assignment. Her first set of entries are due later this week and we were discussing ideas about how to present it creatively, emotionally, symbolically, and in a way that shows evidence of work and experience, as well as progression of improvement and reflection on what the student learned from her experiences.

Throughout our discussions, the student was very animated and showed emotion and depth when telling stories from her childhood that she thought worthwhile to include in the beginning part of her portfolio to show how they influenced her thinking of today. We then thought together about possibilities on how to present it on the pages. Various images, drawings, and photograph suggestions came up, and the student was enthused about the creative potential and how meaningful this project is.

However, her tone changed when talk started focusing on the specific deadline and answering some of the required questions given by the teacher. She decided to give up on themes of presentation and style, and creative story telling, and instead decided to give short answers to answer directly, or maybe just do a traditional essay format. I encouraged her to try combine some of her previous ideas of pictures and symbols along with the traditional writing method, but she was reluctant.

Her reasons knocked me back a bit, but also woke me up to some of the fears that people have. She admitted that the teacher encouraged creative thinking and use of other material to supplement answers for the portfolio project. The student, from our previous discussions, obviously enjoyed creative work and finding, and interpreting meaning from stories and using pictures as symbols and metaphors. Despite all this, she reasoned that “I can’t put in extra pictures and other materials for this first entry. If I do, then the teacher will expect that I will always put in extra, and what if I can’t in the future? I better just do it safe and directly, and just get it done.”

Suddenly I realized, if this student is saying something like this, then in classrooms all over the world, many students are thinking similar thoughts and a lot of potential is being stifled. The grip of fear and worry can be so strong that a student may avoid producing something that is meaningful by focusing on the future expectations of others. Attention is taken away from current content to hypothetical implications. Furthermore, maybe even more tragic, is that many of us see high expectations as negative and something to fear. If a teacher expects to see creative thought and critical thinking in unique forms, then that can push the student to keep pushing her thinking in future projects.

Unfortunately, for those who struggle with anxiety that may lead to procrastination and putting off tasks, we seek out safety to avoid expectations.  While there is a feeling of danger in others’ expecations, and our own, they are also places and new heights that we can reach within that are not possible without expectations.

-Pat

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Illusion of Flexibility?

The cat just doesn’t complain. She doesn’t look depressed. Year after year, the time spent by the humans in the home with the cat diminishes, yet you’ll never notice this slight if you ask the cat. As time increasingly becomes tight, and more and more things get put off, quality time with the cat seems to be always a top candidate for something that can be done tomorrow, or the next day, or the next next day, or whenever.

Litter not done nightly; her teeth not brushed daily; Felaxin not given frequently enough; brushing not regular; and research on the psychology of cats has not been consistent or up-to-date with the latest literature.

Yet, after all this, the cat has yet to ignore me, or conduct revenge, or dig her claws into my back and twist. Instead, she’s more enthusiastic and joyful around me than ever. Though I’ve reduced my physical contact time with her, I can hear her loud acrobatics in the basement while I’m working upstairs.

While I believe that my procrastination habits have led me to cut short cat time, the cat seems to have interpreted it differently, at least from what I could read from her behavior. It’s as if the cat thinks I’m purposely reducing our play time in order to benefit her. Instead of not spending enough time, she sees it as focusing our time together and making it more intense. Do you notice how cats think that every change around the home is made with them in mind? You move a location of a chair, and the cat will sit on it thinking that was your intention.

In my case, the cat thinks this time change means she has to put more value into the resulting minimal time that is chosen, and she shows this in her attitude, play, and purposeful strides.

It would be easy, a bit sappy, to just conclude with how I can learn so much from the cat and that I should be more like my cat. But, I can’t help but think, with my cat’s unequivocal forgiveness and flexibility, does this actually make me more complacent as I continue to lie in the tanning bed of procrastination procuring potential benefits?

At the other extreme, I could try making it all up to her, rather absurdly, by going jogging with the cat tomorrow morning.

-pat

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Pushing Against the Weight of Comfort

After reading electrongasman’s comments to a previous interview on procrastination, some images suddenly popped into my mind. Perhaps they are metaphors? Maybe pictorial representations of the procrastination themes and struggles? Of course it’s open to interpretation, and I’m not even sure myself, but I’ll give it a try even though words may fall short of what I’m seeing.

There’s a boulder out yonder. It’s a hot and humid day. Within the vicinity, many people are kind of wandering around aimlessly. Suddenly, a particular person approaches the boulder and starts to lean on it. Oh gosh, that looks so good.

Within minutes this posture starts to draw the attention of the wanderers. It looks so relaxing, so comforting. Then 2, 4, 7, a countless number, took up the leaning position with sighs of immense relief when reaching the most desirable degree of recline.

And so it goes like this as time passes. And the time did pass, as evident by the distant position change of the sun. Still no movement, no stirring, as if life is more than momentarily forgotten. Not true, not true, not true. Someone moves. Maybe not yet in body, but certainly in mind. Somebody thinks about the stiffness of it all and has a small inkling to push. Just a small one. This thought is quickly quashed when considering the immense weight of the boulder itself, combined with all these people leaning against it. The person decides against pushing.

Incredible stiffness. Somebody goes beyond an inkling and into a strong urge, desire, a constant pulling to push. No. The impossibility of the potential results in only a slight repositioning of the current pose, nothing of significance. In fact, more than a few people want to push, but dreams seem to die whenever one steals a glance at a neighbour.

Finally. Finally. Finally. Someone has the vocabulary ‘catatonic’ in mind and instantly ignores whatever else and, my gosh, pushes. Oh gosh! What heaviness! The excruciating pain on the pushing person’s face! The agony! The hopelessness as all the efforts did not even register to those still leaning. The boulder remains inert and, if anything, moves slightly backward against the pusher, as if rebelling or conforming…I don’t know which.

However, all that pain, despair, and oncoming feelings of regret, just as quickly brightens into epiphany when another person decides to join in on the pushing. The boulder does not move. Most of the others are still oblivious with their leaning. It does not matter. They push, push, push. And, during intervals of recovery, look at each other in the face and grin with such appreciation and understanding that surely moves something more than boulders.

Then, a few others notice and…well….it could go either way. What do you think?

-Pat

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Getting Tasks Done Before They Get On A List?

In previous diary entries, ‘lists’ have been a prominent topic in its relationship to procrastination. They tended to evaluate ‘lists’ negatively, as they seem to work against, instead of aiding, efficiency and productivity.

So far, many entries, and writing seem to emphasize a lot of details concerning experiences which are frustrating, though humorous, and methods that are not working. In an attempt to find some balance, and also give those visitors looking for ideas to overcome procrastination, I decided to reference another site/blog that gives some good tips.

The site is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/blogs/wschachter (Please copy and paste into another browser window because direct linking to this blog slowed down our site) and is titled: “Seven measures of productivity tips and tools.” You can look in the April 2008 archives (April 21) to find the post.

Harvey Schachter gives some concise, easy to understand points, that are optimistic in tone and encouraging to put into action. Having just come across the article earlier this week, I haven’t had a chance to put it into action much. However, already, I found one tip particular useful in attacking my initial procrastination.

It concerns acting right away especially on tasks that can be accomplished in under 5 minutes. That means these tasks I shouldn’t even let get to my official ‘to-do’ lists. It sounds simple, not radical, but effective in reducing my lists. Because they don’t make to any list, I don’t have to think about it, order, or debate it – they just get done before my thoughts start to interfere. Before long, after knocking off many of these mini-tasks, they start to add up, and I realize I already got some chunks accomplished before even getting to a list.

On a emotional, and psychological level, it provides a boost. The feeling is similar to having a productive warm up prior to a workout. The circulation is going, the mood is elevated, and the focus is right there. After a good warm up, it’s easier to get going on bigger and more time consuming items on a list or scheduler.

Before I get too excited at this slight hint of progress, Mr. Schachter warns that there should be a time limit on these mini-tasks that you do right away. I certainly can understand why as it’s quite easy to loose track of time and spend almost half the day on email!

To continue with the workout analogy, the main thing I’ve improved since reading the article is that instead of using my warm up time to plan all the intricate exercises in my main workout, I actually use the warm up time to directly warm up and do exercises that prepare me for the main workout.

Overall, I guess it’s a strange way to look at it, but I’m trying to do all I can to prevent tasks from even making it to my ‘to-do’ lists, by finishing them so I don’t have to write it down and remember to do it later. Of course this won’t always work, but this kind of reverse psychology results in some more explosiveness during the mornings.

-pat

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