The Bad Habit of Procrastination

I procrastinate quite a lot. If I don't have to get something done straight away, I generally do something else that is more fun. I'm trying to quit, but behind it is a personality trait I dislike: I feel like I should always be doing something. Writing another blog post, cleaning a room even better, learning more about music theory or SQL or photography or playing piano or exercising or doing one of my back burner hobbies like gardening or painting. If I'm going to always feel guilt about not doing something after I've already finished a lot of somethings, I might as well feel the guilt in the start of the process and do something fun and distracting first! I still get everything done. I still feel guilty. I don't see a way out of it.

But there is something better than living this way, because I've done it the other way, and it feels good. The feeling of accomplishment and very little procrastination. For my final college class, I actually studied and read the textbook and kept up with classwork in a timely manner. I got an A like I usually did, but I wasn't nearly as stressed. The outcome after all is said and done is the same as the other way. I got everything done on time, I got an A, I've forgotten pretty much everything in my class. Except for the great feeling about doing things straight away without procrastinating.

So, how do I do this? If I list all the things that I currently want to do, I'm going to be busy every night for months, always feeling behind and guilty. But what if I just set myself a list of things to do that day that is manageable? I get home after work around 5:30. Because it's still very busy in January at the gym, I've been going around 8pm. Sounds like I have at least one hour to get something accomplished if I subtract some time to eat dinner and write a blog post.

Some of the things I want to accomplish this week:

Clean out the guest room
Cut up and freeze the pork shoulder I bought
Learn two new piano pieces - just passably well, not to perfection
Finish the SQL compliance Pluralsight course
Usual weekly chores like laundry

Between being tired, being a procrastinator, and forgetting that I wanted to do something (I've forgotten that I wanted to do laundry for two days now) my habit of doing nothing instead of something really ought to change.

Using the rules from Atomic Habits (make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, make it satisfying), I need to change something in my environment. I have blank paper and plenty of pens. I will write down all of my current project (that I can remember right now!) and put it on my desk, which I look at every night. I used to have my to-do list in electronic form (tried Google Task, To Doist, Evernote, One Note, etc) and it just didn't work. Way too easy to ignore. I'm thinking I just need to see it physically before I even get to a computer. I know that the projects can be broken down to manageable steps, taking care of the make it easy part. I'm not sure how to make cleaning a room or doing laundry an attractive endeavor, but I know that at the end of the task, I will be satisfied at my result.

This takes care of one of the problems - the forgetting. But I also have to deal with the second problem - stopping without guilt. Even if I do a few of the tasks on my project list, I'll just see that I have more tasks yet to complete. Perhaps I need to just set my task list to one thing per day on the weekdays, and more, say three tasks on the weekends. I'll continually edit the habit - maybe I can do two on a weekday, or I find out that I can only do two on a weekend day - to make sure I don't feel like I am failing. I also am noticing that I'm happier when I do get things accomplished, and some of my habits are getting easier - I wrote two blog posts, went to the gym, then the grocery store, then rearranged the food in the freezer, watched a half hour of TV and had dinner. I guess I did do several things. I just... expected more. Maybe I shouldn't have. I thought I also should have started laundry and unloaded the dishwasher and played piano. I did all of this between 5:45pm and 10:15pm. Is that too slow for the normal person? I probably shouldn't care, because I'm just me, and I am going to be me instead of some extremely productive person, at least right now. I can work up to being more productive, but I'm back in the same trap, and this paragraph itself has gone off and shown the thought process I go through when it comes to completing tasks, completely draining me, making me feel like I'll never measure up, so I might as well go procrastinate.

Deep breath.

Okay. I'll get the notebook and paper now, and start writing down my list of things I want to do. When I am done with that, I will put it on my computer so I don't start using the computer until I've looked at the list. The goal currently is one task per day on weekdays and three per weekend days. And... I'm going to try to abide to the rule as both a minimum and maximum. The rest of the time, I will do something fun without procrastination guilt.

I feel guilty already. Wish me luck!

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