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I was having a conversation recently with my friend Julie (Blonde, 25, reasonable SOH, WLTM decrepit billionaire for inheritance, energetic sex, loves badgers). We were discussing procrastination and in particular, the ‘putting-off’ of things which we know will inevitably make us happy. Julie is a self-confessed Procrastinator. And so am I. So is everyone I know.

It’s a weird behaviour – knowingly putting off something we know will bring us happiness or fulfilment – is this a British thing? I suspect not exclusively, but it does seem particularly indicative of the British personality – purposely depressing the shit out of ourselves. I know it might not seem obvious that often procrastination is a form of self-punishment but it is. Trust me.

Now, I know we all procrastinate because the task which looms before us is usually an effing ball ache. Housework for example. I’m currently procrastinating about nine household tasks. One of them is to remove a dead, murdered fly from the windowsill which the cat left there. I’m writing this blog instead because it’s much more fun. But I know that once I complete said household chores, my little brain will become overwhelmed with fulfilment because I have a clean house and can spend the weekend relaxing, feeling accomplished, in a tidy, organised environment. It will mean that I don’t spend most of my time scowling at the carpets and work surfaces. I will be nicer to my husband. He will then do his share of the housework knowing it will make me even nicer to him. We will be happy.

But going back to procrastination about Things Which Will Make Us Happy – not all of them are tasks which are a ball ache. What if you are putting off writing a book? Or painting a portrait, or baking some delicious cakes? In favour of watching TV or browsing the world wide web. Is that procrastination or is it laziness? Or is it just the order of priority in What Makes Us Happy. Have we just become more satisfied by these things? I’ve always known that throughout my entire life, watching TV makes me very happy and now, with all this new-fangled technology, I can also waste hours on the internet. Often looking at crap. Pointless, shallow crap. What am I doing? I could be writing my book! Or baking those delicious cakes. Or going out for a walk! I’ve clearly confused my serotonin, as it now thinks that staring at a computer screen makes me happier. I must have a word with it.

Procrastination is about priority and fulfilment. And motivation. Are you putting off writing that first chapter because you’d rather be watching a film? I bet that when you start writing that book, it will become the thing that stops you from doing everything else. You’ll procrastinate about everything in order to write. The Sky planner will become backed up with films, because writing is the motivation. And that’s great, isn’t it? That’s surely a good order of priorities – writing a novel instead of watching TV or cleaning the house?

But Procrastination is also the servant of Laziness. Laziness says ‘Don’t do the cleaning because it takes too much effort – stay on the sofa and watch that film, it’s fine’. Procrastination replies ‘OK, thank you! I’ll do that! The cleaning can wait until Motivation arrives’.

Motivation remains quiet. Motivation has a terrible memory, it has forgotten that Procrastination doesn’t always get things right and that it should be reminding it that cleaning will lead to a longer fix of happiness than the film will. That maybe the film should come after the cleaning. That it needs to set up a meeting with Priorities.

Everything ultimately comes back to happiness – or fulfilment, whichever you need from procrastination, whether you are a Procrastinator, or not. Quick-fix happiness by putting off the other jobs to satisfy yourself instantly, or getting on with the other jobs as you know it will lead to longer-term fulfilment. Either way, it’s all in your head.

These earlier blogs might be interesting to you as they’re connected to this subject:

Honestly Now – Are You a Starter or a Finisher?

New Year Resolutions – How to Change Your Mind