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

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Procrastinating 101: Beware the Dead(line) Zone!

This week, our Procrastinating 101 focus is on Cure Three--subtitled "Get Off the Rollercoaster"--in Diana DeLonzor's Never Be Late Again:  7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged.

As in previous chapters, DeLonzor here leads us through a self-assessment, this one designed to determine whether or not we are the kind of adrenaline junkies whose lateness is of the "Deadliner"variety.  If two or more of the following statements describe us, she maintains, we are "Deadliner" material.
  • I work best under pressure.
  • I like a fast-paced life-style.
  • I often have difficulty getting motivated without an impending deadline.
  • I am probably more easily bored than most people.
  • I sometimes like to do things that are a little frightening.
  • I enjoy living on the edge.
Personally, I think I am beginning to outgrow this status; but I have to admit that, as unpleasant as it feels sometimes, I still find myself "dashing around the house before work or furiously jamming papers into [my] briefcase before a meeting."  And I admit that "rushing makes [me] feel alive, focused, and purposeful."  Crazy, huh?

DeLonzor holds that we deadliners are likely to be one or both of these two types:
  • Those who use adrenaline to relieve feelings of anxiety of boredom
  • People who require a crisis to get motivated
Check, and check.

It is not exactly surprising that Deadliners of either type tend to be procrastinators, too.  In an earlier blog, we learned what Dr. Joseph Ferrari had to say about procrastination fueled by adrenaline addiction.  We also confronted the research that shows that, despite what we want to believe, last-minute, last-ditch efforts seldom result in superior achievements.

So why do we do it?  What is it about the breathless conduct of our habitual high-wire acts that keeps us in thrall?  DeLonzor answers these questions, in part, by sharing a couple of interesting findings.

First of all, deadlining is apparently at least partly--some estimate 60%--inherited.  And it seems that a "longer version of one gene on the eleventh chromosome" is common among those of us who "crave excitement."  This gene "influences the brain's response to dopamine, a chemical responsible for feelings of pleasure and euphoria, whose release may be triggered by exciting or risky experiences." 

Additionally, research conducted by psychologists G. Anderson and R.I. Brown in 1984 suggests that individuals vary in basic levels of arousal, and that some of us with "lower level[s] of base arousal" may require more stimulation to feel comfortable.  (Maybe that's why I experience a sense of having two gears--comatose and maniacal.) 

So if some of us are biologically inclined to push the envelope when it comes to completing work and getting places on time, what can we do about it--short of gene therapy?

DeLonzor recommends these three "basic steps:"
  • Recognize how and when you create crises in your life.
  • Learn to motivate yourself in the absence of a crisis.
  • Find more constructive ways to obtain stimulation.
Following the book's pattern, DeLonzor prescribes a variety of exercises for each of these three steps.  The two that hold most appeal for me are:  looking for patterns in my production/use of crises as motivators; and practicing doing things early, to build internal motivation.

Something she doesn't deal with much, which is a serious issue for me, is the overall health consequences of living with self-generated stress.  I am hardly alone in our society in suffering from what has been termed "hurry sickness."  And many of us are coming to appreciate and long for the kind of calm that requires us to spend less time on the rollercoaster.

1 comment:

  1. Gosh,craving excitment is sometimes referred to as an addiction to drama in my community and is often related to substance addictions. I've seen a lot of people in early recovery become bored with the calmness of a recovery program. Sometimes they seem to look for drama to get that high. Mary