Maybe I Shouldn’t Wait Until 10 To Write These – Day 25

Actually, it’s well past 10 at this point. More like 11. It’ll probably be 12 by the time I’m all done for the night.

There are two major things that contribute to the tardiness of my posts at present. The first of these is being a night owl. I really enjoy staying up late; I made it my mission during my last year in graduate school to stay up past midnight every night. With my schedule, staying up late and getting 8 hours of sleep worked for me – no 8 o’clock classes for me that year. When you have to be at work at 7 or 8, though (or at least have to be up by then to get to work), going to bed after midnight doesn’t work so well. Not getting enough sleep multiple nights in a row gives my a head cold, and since I would rather not deal with that every two weeks, I’m working on my sleep schedule.

The second things that contributes to how late these posts go up is procrastination. Even when I have something I want to get done, watching that next YouTube video of Ichiro Suzuki highlights or funny TV clips seems like a task I’d rather complete (both types of videos may seem random, but I literally watched both of those things tonight). On one level, I’m hoping that some magnificent idea will just come to me as the night goes on; on another, I’ve been procrastinating my whole life. I once wrote a scholarship essay about procrastination, and procrastinated to write the essay. I’ve been turning homework in late since 5th grade, just because I’d rather do something else.

Author Maureen Johnson once said in a video that, to be a writer, you need to know how to properly procrastinate (paraphrased). I don’t know whether I know how to properly procrastinate or not; I’ve missed my fair share of deadlines in my day (or due dates…but they’re essentially the same thing). I do typically know, however, how much time I really need to just regurgitate something onto a page that I can turn in (or post).

Tim Urban gave a TED Talk last year about procrastination last year that summed up the life of a procrastinator. While his thesis covered procrastination at its broadest sense, his discussion of procrastination with deadlines was spot on. To describe this, he used the example that, in a procrastinator’s mind, there are three actors; the rational decision-maker,  the instant gratification monkey, and the panic monster. The instant gratification monkey is most concerned with what is fun and easy, and will essentially overpower the rational decision-maker until a deadline is approaching. Once the deadline gets too close, the panic monster wakes up and scares the instant gratification monkey away so that the rational decision-maker can get to work.

Procrastination in and of itself is frustrating to me, because it often means my work is rushed as a deadline approaches and I experience more stress than I need to. The part that is even more frustrating, though, is the number of times that I am able to pull of my assignment or my task at a high level even after procrastinating. I somehow figured out how to write A- papers in two nights. The frustration here is not completely tied to the act of finishing the project well – it is tied more closely to the fact that I know I could do an even better job if I’d given myself more time. I could have done more research or any editing on a paper, or in some way come up with better ideas or processes for whatever project I may have been working on.

Unfortunately, at this point, I’ve trained myself for over a decade to procrastinate. I am able to do it in such a way as to generate fairly high quality results, but I would like to grow to procrastinate less. This is even more important since I’ve graduated, because the area now where procrastination is becoming more prevalent is in the non-deadline area of my life. How many times have I thought, “I should really work on my Spanish,” or, “I should practice guitar,” or, “I should start writing more?” The answer is multiple times a day, every day.

I did recently purchase a time-management type book, Getting Things Done, though I haven’t come close to finishing it in the several months I’ve had it (another of my non-deadline procrastination moves). I have taken some lessons from what I’ve read so far, most notably in attempting to do things when they need to be done (a novel concept) or writing things down that need to be done (though not yet in a formal system). Additionally, I have found CGP Grey and Myke Hurley’s podcast Cortex to be an interesting resource, listening to these two discuss their productivity habits and strategies.

All this to say; at some point, something will improve in this aspect of my life. The fun part is that I have to continually make the decision to actively combat procrastination. Since I would like to expand more creatively and in some other areas in my life without deadlines, I am focusing more on that portion than the deadline-driven side of myself, though hopefully that will also be adjusted as time moves on.

My final frustration is the amount of time it takes to change these systems. The way I currently function may not seem like a system, but it does have all of the attributes of a system, and it is the way I normally function on a day-to-day basis. These are all things that would be much more beneficial (and easier) if they could just change overnight. Unfortunately, these changes will take time to manifest and even more time to begin showing results. Since I’m writing every day with a large amount of brainpower dedicated to how I function, I’m sure that there will continue to be regular updates here as to the progress of this (and many other) part(s) of my life.

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