“The distance isn’t important; it is only the first step that is difficult.”
– Marquise du Deffand
I’m a regular reader of the daily inspirations on the Chopra Center. I love it because it helps me think about my life and the way I choose to live each day – with intention. This is the quote I saw today, which brings me to something I’ve been struggling with as of late. Procrastination.
I wouldn’t say I’m a chronic procrastinator, or that procrastination is present in many aspects of my life. My house is fairly organized and clean; in fact, my husband and I make a conscious effort to not allow chores to pile up for more than a couple days at most. I also make an effort to not allow errands to pile up or drag itself out so dry cleaning is done on time, cars are serviced within schedule, bills are paid before they are due…etc. I am also hardly ever late for work, school, social engagements…and I have been able to meet my deadlines. This is except when it comes to my dissertation.
What’s going on here?
I find myself staring at my computer and not getting much done. I’ve been reading many books but none of them really related to the work I have to do. I would set goals for myself, but not able to reach them because I would choose coffee with a friend, browsing at Target, watching a TV show, reading an unrelated book, working out, cooking….basically you name it over writing and working on this damn dissertation! Someone once told me this process of screwing off is normal, but I feel absolutely awful and consumed by guilt after blowing off work.
In true procrastination fashion, I decided to read a book about procrastination (but I also want to know how to overcome it). I’m usually pretty good at self-diagnosing my psychological state and interpreting my own behavior. For example, I know the reason behind my procrastinator behavior in regards to the dissertation – it’s not because procrastination is my usual modus operandi but rather there is something specific about the dissertation that feeds my behavior. So I need ideas/guidance/tricks on how to correct such behaviors.
I found a short little book that’s an absolute gem. The Procrastinator’s Digest by Dr. Timothy Pychyl is a concise book about why people procrastinate and what can we do to overcome this behavior. It took me maybe two hours to go through it and understand what I can do to get myself back on track. I am also taken with this book because Dr. Pychyl is totally realistic in his advice and recognizes that procrastination is a habit that takes time and effort to correct. The idea is not that by reading his book we’ll suddenly have an epiphany and become non-procrastinating on adverse tasks. At least for me, the best part about this books is we learn to understand why we behave in certain ways and then acknowledge our behavior. Only through acknowledgment can we start to address our problems and use problem specific tools to overcome our behavioral tendencies. There are three quotes from the book that really spoke to me:
Procrastination is a problem with not getting on with life itself.
My current motivational state doesn’t need to match my intention in order to act.
Self-change is a journey I take daily, and I will persevere patiently as I take two steps forward and one step back.
Especially the last quote. It reminds me of why I go to yoga and what I try to work on while I’m on the mat. For too many years, I’ve been too harsh on myself – I’ve learned to forgive others a long time ago but I’m still working on forgiving myself. By acknowledging that my state of mind (and the cause of my inability to complete my work), I set the intention of self-forgiveness: I forgive myself for feeling scared and ambivalent; I forgive myself for feeling weak and vulnerable.