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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

When Work Attacks

I just returned from a meeting--one of many already, with more planned--in response to our state's budget crisis.  I use this term to describe the state of turmoil caused by our new governor's budget "repair" bill and proposed biennial budget, not to any real state of financial emergency, despite claims to the contrary. 

In any case, much of our meeting was taken up with discussion of a very real joblessness emergency in large portions of our community. 

So I am somewhat chagrined by this post I began earlier today, on the subject of bad jobs and the people who are tortured by them.  In our current climate, many feel that anyone who is employed, more or less gainfully, should be happy just to have a job.  And I agree.

But that doesn't change the fact that I spent the morning and early afternoon today hearing tales of extreme job distress from two people I am close to.

It is probably passe to speak of the "alienation" of a worker from his or her work, at least in classical Marxist terms.  But, as Steven Greenhouse made plain in The Big Squeeze:  Tough Times for the American Worker, workers across the board in this country are losing ground.  The great armies of the unemployed and underemployed are ever present reminders of the dispensability of those who still have jobs.   Against that backdrop, unions are busted, workers become permanent "temporary" workers, work conditions can feature illegal lock-ins--and far too many of us just plain hate the jobs we have. 

I have written before about Jonathan Haidt's (The Happiness Hypothesis) elephant and rider metaphor, around which Chip Heath and Dan Heath organized their fascinating book Switch:  How to Change Things When Change is Hard.   Not being an employer, I considered the Heath brothers' ideas more in the context of personal change.  But listening to my friends today, I thought of the damage that is done to the elephantine heart and will of workers who are roughly treated by oblivious rider bosses and institutions.

Disrespect, arbitrary displays of power, undermining, underhandedness, and even deprivation of meaningful responsibility and initiative can all have devastating effects, though they might be preferred to the absence of employment and secure income altogether.  The worker who is subject to such conditions can lose the will to work.  In Haidt's schema, the mistreated elephant might sink to the ground, transformed into an immovable behemoth.  Or anger and frustration may turn to rage, in most cases stopping far short of the "going postal" variety, but nevertheless wreaking havoc on the individual's health and job security.

In such situations, procrastination may be a coping mechanism, born of torpor or of fury.  But it is unlikely to solve the problem.  For that, joining forces with others is probably necessary.

And the bumper sticker for this movement?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Just Say Later

So, I'm still experiencing this lag between me and the world.  The latest thing I missed--to my knowledge--was International Procrastination Day, which was apparently last Friday, March 26.

This morning, I came across a Daily Telegraph article which identifies David d'Equainville as its founder.  What caught my eye was d'Equainville's casting of  procrastination as "a political act."  And not just any political act, but "a crucial act of resistance" in an increasingly overwhelming and speeded up society.  This is right up my alley.

Author of "Manifesto for a Day Put Off," recently released in French and soon to be published in English, d'Equainville says
To procrastinate is to refuse to do what the context -- be it from bosses, administrative obligations or a culture of results -- asks us to do. We must absolutely take the time to think about the tasks we accept to execute, or we will lose all control over our lives.
So I'm not a laggard, I'm a time activist.  

d'Equainville (my new hero) advocates taking time, not just to escape the rat race, but to reflect on decisions and actions, about "the tasks we accept to execute." He gives the example of Shakespeare's Romeo, who could have benefitted from some thinking time.   
If Romeo had put his suicide off a bit on Juliet's tomb, the two lovebirds could have grown old together.

d'Equainville gives his blessing to a delayed celebration of the day he established, so I'm declaring today for my observance of International Procrastination Day.  For the next 24 hours, I will tackle no project before its time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Procrastinating 101--A Little Help From Our Friends

Seems like the weeks are rolling by in high gear just now.  And here it is, Tuesday again, and time for Procrastinating 101.  This week, Joseph R. Ferrari's Still Procrastinating?  The No-Regrets Guide to Getting it Done--Chapter 9, "Social Support:  Getting By with a Little Help from My Friends."

In this chapter, Dr. Ferrari talks to us about relying on the kindness of friends and family, strange or otherwise, to help us through the difficult transition from procrastinator to nonprocrastinator.  I find the notion of a more or less liminal state accompanying habit change intriguing.  It is one way to look at my experiences of the last year, as I have attempted to take myself in hand and leave behind the dalliances that have been my stock in trade for too long.  And I must admit that I have not given much thought to the wisdom of seeking support during the process.

Ferrari instructs the reader about the differences between the terms social support and mutual support, the latter being more of a two-way street.  He gives the example of a 12-step program as a mechanism of mutual support.  But either type is to be preferred to trying to go it alone, according to Ferrari.  

Ferrari maintains that procrastinators tend to be "buck-passers," letting others do the work.  But as I read his scenario of two people dealing with getting the dinner dishes done--one a procrastinator and one not--I was struck with the thought that the situation may be more complex than that.  Both people may be procrastinators.  Or each person may procrastinate in some settings and not others, and on some tasks and not others.  And perhaps there is some interaction between housemates, co-workers, song-writing teams, and Girl Scout troops, so that the procrastinating or nonprocrastinating behavior that we display affects and is affected by that of others.

I, for one, am not a chronic buck-passer.  The household-chore-procrastinators that I live with can nearly always depend on my household-chore-procrastination withering before theirs.  And at work, I am generally reliable and timely.  Where I have difficulty is in putting off the things that matter to me personally.  In these areas, I don't have anyone to pass the buck to.

I found interesting the research Ferrari reported on, showing that procrastinators are more likely to turn to casual friends than to family and close friends for support, as compared to nonprocrastinators; and that procrastinators experience more conflict in their close relationships.  Ferrari holds that this is because procrastinators have, in my words, worn out their close relationships because of their inconsiderate behavior.  But it occurs to me that it is just as likely that people whose close relationships are difficult or dysfunctional may be experiencing the kind of chronic stress that reinforces their tendency to postpone tasks.  A correlational study such as Ferrari seems to resort to can leave us with this kind of chicken or egg quandary.  

I was interested, too, in Ferrari's finding that both procrastinators and nonprocrastinators are more likely to evaluate procrastinators negatively, and to wish to distance themselves from such persons.  Thus, we procrastinators may have difficulty putting together a support group, mutual or otherwise.  Ferrari suggests that making new, nonprocrastinating friends who can be our role models may strengthen the changes we are trying to make.  This seems a tad instrumental to me, but maybe that's an aspect of my heretofore dysfunctional, procrastinating self. 

Next week:  (bum-ba-bum-bum) Academic Procrastination.  (Oh, goodie!)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Done for the Week: Running to Catch Up

The time I spent on the politics of my state's governing disaster continued its decrescendo this past week.  Unfortunately--or fortunately, depending, I suppose, on how I look at it--I continue to be haunted by the backlog of previously postponed work.  I'm beginning to believe I would be better off abandoning the notion of catching up.

Here's the short, but dense list of what I got done last week.

Done for the Week:  Mar. 21-Mar.27
  1. Continued off-season race training, trying to get serious about race in 5 weeks; ran twice
  2. Finished Love Over Scotland, by Alexander McCall Smith
  3. Gave significant volunteer support to transitioning nonprofit; major, over-the-top (25 hours) I.T. contribution 
  4. Worked my two part-time jobs
  5. Published 5 blog posts
  6. Meditated 7 times
  7. Got my son to the gym with me once
  8. Watched our 2 teams play 2 basketball games, with my son and my husband 
  9. Attended anti-Walker rally with my husband
  10. Addressed religious leaders breakfast meeting on proposed state budget impacts
  11. Helped my son complete approval for classroom accommodations for summer enrollment in technical college
  12. Attended 2 yoga classes
  13. Saw my therapist
  14. Met with website client
  15. Got to bed "early" twice 
  16. Helped my son get his car problems checked out
In my opinion, the most important thing I did last week was to resolve some long-standing office computer problems (in red above).  I am hopeful that my substantial investment of time will pay off in fewer emergency troubleshooting calls, and give me some distance from the floundering organization I have given so much volunteer time to. 

Last week's focus goal was "making sure that I complete the required three training sessions for Week 5 of the Couch Potato to 5K program."  I fell short of meeting this goal, due to spending the last three days on computer and network overhaul, which used up the available time for my scheduled third training session.   

This week's focus goal will be to complete the remaining training session of Week 5, and the three training sessions of Week 6.  My intention had been to get the last Week 5 session in today, but I left it until too late, and ran out of energy.  But, as I read today in a Happiness Project interview that Gretchen Rubin did with Katy Wolk-Stanley, The Non-Consumer Advocate blogger, "Every day is a fresh start."  So tomorrow, I hit the track again.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Blogging in My Sleep

I came across an article this evening on "Navigating the Five Stages of Blogging Fatigue."  In case you're curious, and even if you're not, they are:  Excitement, Expectation, Frustration, Alienation, and Abandonment--a dead blog.

I'm fairly stubborn, and relatively indefatigable.  After more than a year, I am still pretty committed to continuing this endeavor.  I'm probably hovering somewhere between Excitement and Expectation, long after most bloggers have started to lose it.  But I am beginning to suffer from blogging while fatigued.

My husband keeps trying to convince me to relax my schedule, and to skip blogging on days when I get too late a start.  But the way things have been going lately, with work and family demands multiplying while my unpaid job as a citizen and activist explodes in intensity, I would skip more often than I'd blog.  

So tonight I'm making this small effort, instead of putting it off.  And I'm blogging about blogging.  

As a poet, I have (mostly) resisted the poet's self-indulgence of writing poetry about writing poetry.  I aspire to maintain a similar standard with respect to blogging.  So I vow to keep such dissipation to a minimum.

For tonight, though my pillow is lovely, soft and deep, I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.  (With apologies to Robert Frost.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Time (Mis)Management Types: Another Perspective

Another day.  Another way to look at procrastination.  

And now that I've made it my business to immerse myself in all-things-procrastinational, even procrastinating is work-related.  (And tax deductible?  Except that I have yet to make a dime in this pursuit.  But maybe my procrastination losses can offset the minimal profits of my other, more lucrative occupations?)

Anyway, today I found yet another typology of procrastination in Cheryl Clausen's Time Management Tip for Procrastinators on Ezine@rticles. 

According to Ms. Clausen, getting a handle on our time challenges can be facilitated by figuring out which of the following six types fits our postponement profile:
  • Time management foilers
  • Time management exaggerators
  • Time management fretters
  • Time management stargazers
  • Time management perfectionists
  • Time management creatures of habit
Here is my translation/interpretation--the quick and dirty version:

Time management foilers are just plain stubborn.  They don't want to do things on others' schedules.  Time management exaggerators make everything way too complicated, and thus way too overwhelming.  Time management fretters worry and catastrophize about an undertaking to the point of paralysis.  Time management stargazers are dreamy and unfocused.  Time management perfectionists raise the bar on nonvital projects beyond what can be accomplished.  Time management creatures of habit are so used to procrastinating on everything that they automatically delay.

The fixes?  Foilers should "just do it," if it's something that should be done.  Exaggerators should break things down into manageable parts, and get moving.  Fretters should realize that any real difficulties are unlikely to be as painful as all that worrying.  Stargazers should come down to earth and get real.  Perfectionists should let go and realize that, with most things, done is good enough.  Creatures of habit should commit to habit change, and get on with it.

Clausen tells us to
Evaluate the rewards that behavior is giving you, and identify the rewards you could get if you let go of that behavior. Doing so will enable you to refocus your energies so you can do the right things, in the right way, for the right reason, at the right time.

My difficulty in implementing this eminently practical advice is kin to the affliction that had my Dad self-diagnosing every disease, syndrome, malady and condition he studied in medical school.  I see myself in every category.  Perhaps this means I am exaggerating my procrastination problem, which in my case leads to fretting, and inevitably to perfectionism.  As a creature of habit, my knee-jerk response is to stargaze.  And then, of course, I have to fight through my stubborn foiler reaction to all the "shoulds" above. 

But given what's at stake, I'll stay in the struggle.  And keep looking for a way to make it pay off.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Outfitting the Compleat Procrastinator

I am constantly amazed at the scope of the cottage industry that is procrastination.  Those of us whose personal "branding" embraces delay as a key feature--and who wish to celebrate and display this identity--can find an endless supply of products designed just for this purpose.

For example, there is the"Department of Continual Procrastination" Teddy Bear, available from Cafe Press--a small stuffed white bear sporting a t-shirt printed with this fictional department's impress.  Or the button bearing this inspiring saying:  "Yeah, yeah.  Carpe Whenever."  Or for those concerned with a legacy of putting things off, baby blankets (!) printed with slogans ranging from "Born to be Late," to "I'm So Far Behind, I Thought I Was First!," to "Let the Procrastination Begin. . . (Tomorrow)."

On the somewhat gruesome side, we find a clock with hands but no numbers, which float over the legend "As a chronically depressed procrastinator, I frequently consider suicide, but  luckily, I never get around to it."  A more optimistic option:  a clock which makes a virtue of our vice with the motto "The sooner you fall behind, the more time you have to catch up."

And how about an irresistible mouse pad which advertises "Procrastination?  It's CRACK for Writers"?  Or dinner party invitations emblazoned with the imperative "Impeach Lincoln," and purporting to come from the "Southern Society of Political Procrastinators"?  Of course, these might save the day for the serious procrastinator who feels duty bound to throw a party, but isn't any more likely to pull that off than to complete other life projects.  Such a dubious invite would surely discourage guests from actually accepting.

For those of us who want other drivers to be aware of our distinguished slacker status, there are bumper stickers.  Like the one that announces "I Put 'Pro' in Procrastinator."  Alternatively, we can put those sharing the road with us on notice that  "I Never Finish Anyth. . . "   Or we can brag that "Procrastinators do it . . . . . . . . . . . . Eventually."

With throw pillows ("I'm Pro Crastination"), aprons ("I'm not wasting time, I'm a structured procrastinator"), coasters ("I don't procrastinate.  I just have different priorities.") and Christmas ornaments ("This is the earliest I've ever been late!"), our home decor can declare our laggard status.

Even Fido can get into the act, with a pet bowl ("Tomorrow I'll quit procrastinating").  And we can flaunt our procrastinating credo in yoga class with a "Procrastinate Now" yoga mat.  (Which would explain my too-frequent late arrivals.)

We can procrastinate in hats and pajamas, in t-shirts and while chugging caffeine.  We can sip from a procrastination water bottle as we run, belatedly or otherwise. 

Is it just me, or is this getting out of hand?

If you've been following along, we've just spent about  $357.64, + shipping, on the accoutrements of our trade.  We look either awful darn cute and clever, or eccentric, or pathetic and ludicrous, depending on one's tolerance level for endless slightly amusing takes on putting stuff off.  And we've now invested in this arguably dysfunctional way of life.

What's wrong with this picture?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Procrastinating 101--Reactance, Revenge, and Regret, Oh My!

We are presently spending our "Procrastinating 101" Tuesdays with Dr. Joseph R. Ferrari's Still Procrastinating?  The No-Regrets Guide to Getting it Done.  This week, the focus is on Chapter 8, "The Three R's of Procrastination:  Reactance, Revenge and Regret." 

Maybe it's just me, but I am having difficulty throughout this book accessing Dr. Ferrari's logical structure, or breaking his code.  This problem arises again in Chapter 8.  

I find the chapter a mixed bag, literally.  Ferrari speaks of the three r's as "three ways of dealing with anger," and as all being related to procrastination (hence their inclusion in the book, obviously).  The kind of anger he posits, specifically, is that which results from our feeling controlled--that someone else is telling us to do something.  

He begins with this umbrella statement:
Many procrastinators overreact and/or use revenge to deal with their anger, and others do nothing worthwhile with their anger and suffer through lives of regret.
He  continues:
Some psychologists label the tendency to overreact in a violent [sic] way reactance:  reacting against pressure to engage in a task.  Social psychologists report that reactance occurs when a person feels that his or her personal control and freedom are taken away.
Already, I'm getting tangled up in subtleties.  To start with, he mentions violence, but none of the examples he discusses subsequently involve anything more violent than arriving late to meetings.  And what is the significance of mentioning social psychologists separately? Are we to understand that "some psychologists" came up with the label, and that "social psychologists" discovered its cause?  And what, if any, difference does it make?

The next section entitled "'Sorry I'm Late':  Apology or Apathy?," deals with the aforementioned nonviolent meeting tardiness.  Ferrari suggests that some late arrivals at meetings can be a form of reactance, expressing anger at having to interrupt our work to attend yet another meeting.  But I begin to get confused again when he says that latecomers also may be "getting revenge against you and others at the meeting by arriving late."  

The distinction seems tremendously nuanced to me, almost beyond the point of being distinguishable.  If the straggler thinks in terms of 
How dare you ask for a meeting when I am so busy--imposing your need for discussion on me when I have more important things to do?  Well, I'm doing my projects first, before I go to your silly meeting,
we are looking at reactance.  But if said feet-dragger has 
perceived past meetings or interactions to be unfavorable to himself or herself. . . , felt hurt by something that occurred and, by being late for future meetings can get back at the group for not respecting him or her," 
then that's revenge rearing its ugly little procrastinating head.

Ferrari further confounds things for at least this reader by tacking on a paragraph concerning regret--which doesn't seem to mention anger.  He asserts that some "latecomers [may] feel regret from being late."  He ends the section by reiterating the "chapter purpose" of the first section:  "In this chapter, I'll talk about procrastination that is motivated by reactance, revenge, and regret."  But this time he leaves out anger.

Ferrari goes on to explore "Reactance:  'O, Yeah?  Just for That I Won't Do It!'" I have written here before about "reactance," without using the term--which I find a bit clumsy.  Dr. Neil Fiore speaks about resentment as it affects procrastination, and that seems to me to be quite similar to what Ferrari means by reactance.  He delineates three possible responses to feeling that our "personal freedom has been disregarded:"
1.  Go along with the "demand."
2.  React with open aggression, yelling and throwing things at the person.
3.  Use reactance.
Procrastination in this scheme is a type of reactance.

But here's where Ferrari loses me again.  He cites a 2009 study
titled "The Loyalty Deficit" report[ing] . . . that many British workers . . . voluntarily put in an extra six hours--almost a full day--her week of unpaid overtime. . . . Many of these British employees were so unhappy in their jobs that they hoped to find new jobs as soon as possible. . . . [T]he extra demands placed on the workers were causing a breakdown of trust and commitment between employers and emplyees.  Overworked and underpaid.  Underappreciated and overextended.  Reactance is brewing here.

Ferrari's solution?  Employers should provide "onsite day care centers, concierge services, and referrals for professional resources."  Like, maybe, therapy?  Massage?  Coronary care?  Coming as I do from the current brouhaha in my state over workers' rights, I can't help thinking that maybe these employees' anger, leading to "reactance," is in fact quite justified.  And unlikely to be mollified by palliative measures or tossed bones that do nothing to address the issue of basic human capacities being stretched to the breaking point.

Ferrari would have the worker be more of a "team player."
Instead of using procrastination, use your skills to talk to others in a friendly and approachable manner.  Try to understand why they need that task done now, and attempt to meet their needs.
I don't think the soon-to-be-defunct AFSCME union members are going to buy that approach.

Ferrari follows his discussion of reactance with a section entitled "Taking Revenge the Passive/Aggressive Way."  And this one I get.  It provides a straightforward description of how some of us drag our feet because we feel we've been unfairly dealt with.  And his admonitions, which basically amount to "grow up" and "get over it," seem reasonable to me.  An interesting wrinkle is his mention of research demonstrating a correlation between seeking revenge and procrastinating.  The study, however, does not reveal the nature of the relationship--just that the two behaviors coexist in some people.

And now we come to regret--"Are Your Regrets Too Few or Too Many to Mention?"  Ferrari details some interesting research findings concerning regret, including its near universality; the experiences that engender it; and differences and similarities in the types of regret reported by procrastinators and nonprocrastinators.  What he doesn't discuss, despite his "tell the readers what you're going to tell them" introduction, is anger, and its relationship to regret. 

As I read what Dr. Ferrari has written, it appears that reactance and revenge drive procrastination, and regret results from it.  I don't see how regret is a way of dealing with anger, as originally outlined.

Overall, not the most satisfying of chapters, or especially practicable.  But maybe I'm just showing reactance.  And maybe I'll live to regret it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Done for the Week: Yanking My Own Chain

The hectic pace of recent political action in Wisconsin slowed for me this past week.

Unfortunately, all the other life stuff I have been neglecting came burbling forth.  The list of broken things in our house grows daily, and my abortive efforts to orchestrate their repair have not kept pace.  Ditto with ongoing work responsibilities, financial affairs, extended family relationships, household upkeep, nutrition, personal maintenance, etc.

The trick, I believe, is to manage my perception of the situation so that the expanded time available to begin to deal with the backlog doesn't lead to feeling like I've been flattened by an avalanche.

Here's the list of what I got done last week--a lot less rallies, a few more chores.

Done for the Week:  Mar. 14-Mar.20
  1. Continued off-season race training, learning to live with state of political chaos in Wisconsin; biked once, ran twice
  2. Finished Rewrites:  A Memoir, by Neil Simon
  3. Gave significant volunteer support to transitioning nonprofit; major I.T. contribution 
  4. Continued to work on facilitating interviews for organizer position
  5. Worked my two part-time jobs
  6. Published 5 blog posts
  7. Meditated 7 times!  (the "carrots" worked!)
  8. Got my husband to the gym with me once; my son once
  9. Attended transitional jobs collaborative meeting
  10. Watched Treme episode with my husband
  11. Watched our 2 teams play 3 basketball games, with my son and my husband
  12. Began working on recall petitions
  13. Played a few games of chess with my son--lost all
  14. Attended 2 yoga classes
  15. Met with website client
  16. Celebrated St. Patrick's Day, one day late and two days late
  17. Took one daytime nap, and got to bed "early" twice 
  18. Helped my son get his car battery replaced
  19. Got bad news about new plumbing problem, post-battery-replacement electrical problem with son's car
  20. Cleaned, straightened and rearranged living room
  21. Took my blood pressure three times, after phobic avoidance since last summer
  22. Saw my doctor 
  23. Took Sunday off; made waffles for family, meditated, ran, watched The Odd Couple with one son, and read
  24. Paid the bills
  25. Caught up on some of the mountain of laundry in my basement
Last week's focus goal, for the third week running, was "to meditate daily, no matter what."  And the week's most important accomplishment, in red, is finally focusing on my focus goal--thus, the Christmas-y look of item #7 above.  Apparently, I can be made to comply with my own directives--for a price.  My doctor seems to have understood this about me, since she got me in for the dreaded blood pressure recheck by withholding my refill scrip.
So how should I use this power over myself to best advantage?  What new manipulation can I come up with?  

For this week, I am going to focus on making sure that I complete the required three training sessions for Week 5 of the Couch Potato to 5K program that I am following, once again.  I have a "race" scheduled for May 1, which will give me a week pre-race to "taper."  I will reward myself with a Mexican Spice latte from my local coffee shop for each training session, and will allow no additional fancy tea or coffee drinks to touch my lips.  

My new sign:  "Will Run for Lattes"

Friday, March 18, 2011

Procrasti-what? A Word-Game for the Productively Challenged

If one is tenacious, and has unfettered access to the internet, there are seemingly endless territories to explore.  For example, I unearthed this cache of procrastination lore today, on the Urban Dictionary site.  I don't even remember exactly how I ended up there, but once in, I was amazed to find a particularly deep linguistic elaboration of the basic concept.  

Here are some examples of the hundreds of inventive terms to be found there:

(noun) A series of procrastination for multiple events all strung together.  For example, you have homework for 4 classes all due the same day, but instead of doing a couple and procrastinating on the others, you procrastinate on all of them at the same time.
Jimmy:  "Hey dude, you finish that stuff for your sociology and your physics classes?"
Tim:  "Nah man, I ran a procrastathon this weekend."

(noun) A cheap whore of dalliance and delay.
Instead of paying his electricity bill, Jonathan pissed away the afternoon playing two games of ATTACK, taking a personality test on facebook and writing a few inane definitions on  What a procrastitute!

(verb) To procrastinate for such a period of time that you get hungry and head to the fridge for a snack.
"I'm such a procrastisnacker that I gained five pounds and still haven't finished the report for tomorrow."

(noun) 1.  Software made to facilitate procrastination.
             2.  Software made while procrastinating.
             3.  All of the above [sic].
Facebook is really sweet procrastiware.

(gerund) working on a paper for school in small segments but continually getting distracted whether intentionally or unintentionally.
"I really can't come out tonight.  I've been procrastiwriting this paper all day and it's time to get it done."

 1.  (verb)To write or comment on blog entries as a means of avoiding other activities.
 2.  (noun) An overly long blog entry that takes up so much time to read or write that work is neglected by the reader or author.  
"No, I didn't do my homework. I was up all night procrastiblogging."
Ah.  Something else to do instead of doing what we're supposed to be doing--make up a whole new lexicon of slackery.  

Visit the site if you've nothing better to do.  I defy you to coin a word that hasn't already been entered.  You get the gist. . . "procrasti_ _ _ _ _ _  [fill in the blanks]:  [(part of speech)] [ridiculous, time-wasting definition].  [Doofy sounding sentence using the new "word," as an example.]

For now, I'm procrastioutahere! 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Procrastinator's Guide to the Galaxy--Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You

Procrastination has become a household word.  A buzzword.  Ubiquitous.  Trendy, even?

If I needed convincing, I have only to observe that even St. Patrick's Day has a procrastination angle.  As in these two articles I found this morning: 

The procrastinator's guide to St. Patrick's Day: Green beer & Lucky Charms at 7 a.m.?  


Wait Out Procrastination Week the Fun Way While Also Celebrating St. Patrick's Day, What do you guys Do!?

the latter of which features this memorable suggestion--

If nothing else, we always have St Patrick’s Day—the day where everyone is Irish and no one is really sure why they’re celebrating. This year it lies dangerously close to National Procrastination Week (the week after!), so it’s up to you, casual procrastinator, to rise above and beyond the call of duty to make St. Patrick’s day your masterpiece. Like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, paint the day with absolute zero effort to get things done. Turn your cell phones off and your procrastination potential on to full max.

In the process of learning that we procrastinators have our very own special experience of St. Paddy's Day, I also discovered Procrastinator's Guides to Thanksgiving, Year End Fund-Raising, Oscar Voting, Valentine's Day, Father's Day, Success, PC Maintenance, YouTube, Investing, a Green Halloween, Ocean Acidification. . .
and the list goes on.  

The permutations are seemingly endless.  You name it, we'll screw it up, and thus require post-delay rescue.

Who knew?

And ever the poster child for postponement, I'll be celebrating my Irish heritage tomorrow. . . since I ran out of time today.  I don't even need a guide, I've been doing this so long.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Liquid Carrot: A Motivational Investigation

A couple of weeks ago, I bumped into this little sliver of wisdom buried in a guest post on Procrastinating Writers: 

In a break down of the procrastination equation, which was "Greek to me" on my first pass through last March, I found this advice for dealing with the impulsivity that makes toast of so many of our good intentions.  
[M]ake it feel really, really bad to do something else. 
And one way of doing that is to
[f]ind something you can’t live without, and take it away if you don’t do the work.
The author, David Kassin Fried, gave this example from his own life. 
This past summer, my wife and I started a 60-day workout program, the sort of thing that, if past performance was any indicator, we had about a negative three percent chance of actually finishing.

But this time, we said that if we missed even one day, then we couldn’t watch the season premier of Grey’s Anatomyever! Turns out, that was the thing that got us out of bed in the morning. . . .
In thinking about how I might apply this strategy, I realized that I am not currently having much difficulty getting work done.  But my personal goals related to self-care--the maintenance piece that's going to keep the whole machine running--are getting shoved further and further down the list these days, and some aren't being addressed at all.  Even this blog--part work, part labor of love--has been pushed from its early morning spot, and is too often getting published long after the sun has gone down.

So I thought it would make sense to test the approach on my week's focus goal.  Last week, I decided that I would not allow myself the one glass of wine at day's end that is my ritual reward for making it through, unless I had made time to meditate. 

The result?  Three wineless evenings. 

I'm not sure if Buddhists would approve of this seemingly contradictory pairing.  But I do know that I am more determined this week to meditate each day. 

It remains to be seen whether this little trick will really work.  And I should say that regardless of the outcome of my motivational experiment, I don't plan to use alcohol to induce all desired behaviors.  

Now, if you'll excuse me, my cushion is calling. . .

Procrastinating 101--Wait Wait. . . Don't Tell Me!

In Chapter 7 of his book Still Procrastinating? The No-Regrets Guide to Getting it Done, Dr. Joseph Ferrari tackles the issue of "Why the Time of Day and the Tasks Matter."  He begins by debunking the notion that procrastinators can't get things done because we "don't have enough time," as some of us claim--and, I would argue, experience.  Dr. Ferrari points out, and cites scholars who agree with him, that procrastinators "have the same amount of time as everyone else."  

But do we?  He seems not to have inquired into whether or not some of us in fact have more claims on our time--and thus, perhaps, real time deficits.

He adds his voice to those who rail against meetings as "one of the largest time suckers that exists in business settings."  I am inclined to agree with him (see my post from last year, Let's Schedule a Meeting About All These *(&*$@%~ Meetings), though we part company over what to do about it, Ferrari recommending fining people for being late.  The way my schedule has been lately, I cannot afford this solution, or the alternative, which is investment in some sort of teleporter.

Ferrari goes on to consider waiting--and argues that we should not confuse procrastination with waiting, or with delaying.  Both waiting and delaying can be productive, he says, if we use the time to prepare or to gather more information.  The problem--where procrastination comes in--is in "not starting or not finishing when it makes sense to finish."

I found interesting Ferrari's report of research he conducted with various students and colleagues, showing that:
  • procrastinators are more likely to ruminate on negative events than to savor positive events
  • procrastinators do not focus on the future--and aren't so great at dealing with the present either.  They are more apt to be stuck in reruns of past occurrences.
  • procrastinators can either hold a hopeless perspective on the future, or if focused on the present, approach it from a hedonistic and risk-taking approach
  • procrastinators tend to be "night people"  
We asked procrastinators to record in a daily diary all of the activities they worked on--including the time of day--during a six-day period. . . . We recorded hundreds of tasks, but there was no significant difference between procrastinators and nonprocrastinators in the number or the quality of the tasks.  Procrastinators, however (even those in international samples), were more likely to list their tasks as started or completed at night. . . . Procrastinators started at the last minute (at night) and reported failing to complete many of their tasks. 
Additionally, Ferrari discusses research finding that procrastinators preferred easy tasks that did not reveal their skill level, when given a choice between such tasks and three other task conditions:  easy, but indicative of a person's skills; difficult, but not indicative of skill level; and difficult, and indicative of skill level.  This was especially true when these research participants were told they would receive feedback upon completing the task.  
Another study of visitors showed that people were more likely to delay difficult undertakings such as weight loss, exercise programs, and planning for retirement.  Ferrari concludes that procrastinators "prefer to avoid knowing where [we] stand in life.  This avoidance prevents [us] from confirming [our] knowledge about [our] skills."

This finding was reinforced by another of his own studies which found that procrastinators, but not nonprocrastinators, were more likely to choose tasks related to their social skills over those supposedly revealing something about their cognitive abilities.  Ferrari interprets this finding in this way:  "In short, as a procrastinator you don't want feedback about your thinking (cognitive) abilities."  He advises those of us who struggle with procrastination to move beyond this reluctance, beyond the concern with "deficits."  Rather, he says, we should think of negative feedback "as a way that you can increase and strengthen the skills you do have.  Build on the positives instead of focusing on the negatives."

I was intrigued with Ferrari's discovery that procrastinators do not seem to have particular patterns with regard to the types of tasks they choose to delay--delaying "many tasks in every area of their lives."  But "the tasks that procrastinators prefer to delay reveal that they want to avoid knowing what their weaknesses and strengths are."  Procrastinators 
more often described past tasks they'd delayed as difficult, requiring effort, and unpleasant--even when the completion of the tasks would have had a positive impact on the situation at the time. 
And elaborating further:
What we see is avoidance--of the self.  Procrastinators don't want to learn that they are not as capable as they think they are; they don't want others to learn that they lack certain abilities. 
I can't say I was elated to confront this view of my behavior (typical, given my procrastinator status), but this description resonates with my experience.  And this knowledge is more valuable than Ferrari's fairly standard list of suggestions for dealing with the problem. 

This exhortation is useful as well:
Although it is understandable that you may not want to know your limits, not knowing your strengths will negatively affect your self-perception.  If you know where you are, you can see where you need to go.
And on that note, I can see that I need to go to bed. . . .

Monday, March 14, 2011

Done for the Week: Still Marching

We're still at it in Wisconsin.  Week 5 and counting.  And anticipating counting for a long time to come.

This past week saw our legislature ram through a "non-fiscal" version of our Governor's proposed budget "repair" bill, which will have devastating impacts and multitudinous ripples throughout our state. Effects will officially begin to be felt as soon as our State's Secretary of State can be forced to publish it in the state's newspaper of record.  Already unprecedented numbers of public employees are rushing to retire before the law takes effect, seeking to abandon the sinking ship.  Lawsuits and investigations are multiplying, as every avenue is tried to block this package of measures, which will effectively neuter collective bargaining by state employees, cripple if not finish off public unions, undercut the Democratic party in this key state, put health care for the uninsured and medically underserved under the control of the executive branch of state government, and allow no-bid contracts for sale or lease of state-owned power plants by state administrators--among other distressing effects.

The process of passage of this bill was not a pretty sight.  It featured a Governor-orchestrated sneak attack which substituted a bill stripped of the fiscal items that would require a quorum--that quorum made impossible by the absence of 14 Democratic Senators.  In less than two hours, the bill had been announced, shoved through an abbreviated conference committee section over the vociferous objections of the Assembly minority leader, and passed by the Senate, too late to hit the evening news.  The Senate had voted unanimously not to print or read the bill before voting on it.  Only one Republican senator voted against it.  After it was passed, these trigger-happy Senators were escorted by police from the capitol building. 

The next day, the Assembly voted on the bill, in a similarly harried fashion.  Some Democratic representatives had to use windows to get into the building in order to vote, after being refused entrance by police attempting to keep people out.  Debate was cut short.  As it turned out, the no-bid contract feature was back in the Assembly version, having been omitted from the Senate version (who knew?  who could have found out, given the lack of a printed bill?).  This item was particularly abhorrent to those who were wise to the cronyism involved, and the fact that Koch industries already had job ads out for positions running these soon-to-be sold off state assets.

Needless to say, actions continue at fever pitch.

I keep hearing that we're going to be trading in our rally signs for clipboards, hitting the streets in recall efforts and focusing on key elections coming up on April 5.  And I keep answering the phone, and receiving calls to action in ongoing rallies. 

I continue to try to tend to my own life, with variable success. 

Done for the Week:  Mar. 7-Mar. 13
  1. Continued off-season race training, still challenged by state of political chaos in Wisconsin; biked once (supplemented by lots of walking in demonstrations)
  2. Finished The Return Journey, by Maeve Binchy
  3. Gave significant volunteer support to transitioning nonprofit; major I.T. contribution 
  4. Gave 1-1/2 days to facilitating interviews for organizer position
  5. Worked my two part-time jobs
  6. Published 5 blog posts
  7. Meditated 4 times
  8. Got my husband to the gym with me once
  9. Attended meeting of committee to hire new organizer, and convened subcommittee to finalize interview questions
  10. Had a movie date with my husband; saw The Adjustment Bureau
  11. Watched our 2 teams play 2 basketball games, with my son and my husband
  12. Attended 5 rallies, 4 locally and 1 in Madison--including two "homecoming" events for Fab 14 Senators; rubbed elbows with Jesse Jackson and Susan Sarandon
  13. Played several games of chess with my son--lost all
  14. Attended 1 yoga class
  15. Had long breakfast with friend
  16. Spent way too much time online, following unprecedented political events in my state, "working" Facebook, Twitter, and political sites, and updating my organization's website daily to reflect minute-by-minute scheduling 
  17. Took one daytime nap, and got to bed "early" twice
Again, I'm going to say that rest and recreation--in red, above--were the most important items of business this past week.  A friend of mine remarked when I met up with her in Madison on Saturday, describing her reaction on opening her empty refrigerator, "You can't fight a war on an empty stomach."  And I can't stay in the battle without adequate sleep, and occasional refreshing diversion.

And again, I had a hard time keeping meditation in my sights, though my focus goal for the week was "to meditate daily, no matter what." 

Next week's focus goal--for the third, "charmed" time, I hope--will be to meditate daily, no matter what.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Procrastination, ala Carly Simon

I'm not the song writer Carly Simon is.  If I were, I wouldn't be doing a Weird Al on her famous ketchup-selling song, Anticipation.   But I'm not, so I am.

It's late Friday night, after a brutal week.  I am pushing up against my post deadline, and this is what's in my head.  To the tune of Anticipation, I give you. . .


I can never get all the day’s tasks done
But I think about them anyway, yay
And I wonder if I’ll stop postponing stuff
Or keep chasin' after some finer day

Procrastination, procrastination
Is makin’ me late
Is keepin’ you waitin’

And I tell you how easy it is to put things off
And so I just keep missing deadlines
But I, I rehearsed those words just late last night
When I was thinkin' about how late it just might be

Procrastination, procrastination
Is makin’ me late
Is keepin’ you waitin’

And tomorrow's my favorite day to do things
I'm not focused and I don't know why I delay  
But I'll try and see a way to do things now
So stay right here ‘cause I’ll get it done someday

I’ll get it done someday
So stay right here ‘cause I’ll get it done someday
I’ll get it done someday
I’ll get it done someday
I’ll get it done someday
I’ll get it done someday

A theme song for my recovery. . .