Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Procrastinating 101: Getting Even by Putting it Off

Since it has come to me that one of the ways I avoid finishing things is by flitting from one task to another, from one book to another, I have committed for the time being to making my way through one procrastination resource in this weekly Tuesday post.  The current volume in which I am immersed is  The Now Habit:  A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play, by Neil Fiore, Ph.D.

This morning, I am considering what Dr. Fiore has to say about procrastination as a way of coping with resentment.  In his chapter on "Why We Procrastinate," Fiore spends several pages on the role of resentment.  And I see that he is once again talking about me.  And, coincidentally about my children, and former students, and others for whom I have been, at times, an authority figure.  

Fiore describes a common situation in which we perceive a task as something we "have to" do,  rather than something we have chosen to do.  (Don't get me wrong.  I acknowledge that I am guilty of putting that other stuff off, too, but for different reasons.  One dysfunctional behavior at a time, here, however.)  We may be angry about our disenfranchisement in the assignment of the task, and/or about other aspects of our relationship with the individual or institution that has the power to compel us to do things.  Procrastination is one way we can express that anger in a relatively covert way.  Kind of like a partial strike, or a "slowdown," but without union support.   

Fiore points out that, when we use procrastination in this way, we are thinking like victims, and acting out of powerlessness.  And he advises us to "get over it," and to realize that procrastination is likely to increase our difficulties, and to diminish what power we have.  He suggests that we rephrase our self-admonishments, and having made the choice to keep our job, stay in a relationship, avoid lawsuits and incarceration, and stay solvent, that we accept and state that we choose to do what is therefore necessary.  

Today, since I choose to stay out of collections, I will make the time to pay the medical bills that will suck up a substantial portion of my husband's early pension distribution.  The resentment I feel about this will not lead me into further counterproductive stalling.  And I will experience my power to make the most reasonable choice under circumstances I do not control, and can't expect to.  And save my rebellion for something that's worth it.

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