Procrastination is one of my worst habits. (Fantasizing about getting back at rude and inconsiderate people by doing things like throwing water balloons at them or making them rename themselves after the cast of the Jersey Shore is another habit of mine. But I'm not giving THAT one up anytime soon.)
I know that I shouldn't put off responsibilities or work that needs to get done. I am able to get my work done, but it's often hard just to get started because I keep procrastinating. Then I'm left with less time to complete my work.
When I have a lot of work to do, I know that I shouldn't watch TV, read chick lit novels, or write down the laws that I would pass if I were President (Law #1: It is now illegal to talk on your cell phones in the movie theater. The other moviegoers are thus justified in eating all your popcorn if you do.). And yet sometimes I can't help myself, and then not only am I left with less time to complete my work, I'm also left with less time to do fun things.
I started thinking about the reasons why I've been procrastinating, especially lately. I read somewhere that if you can understand the reasons behind bad habits, it makes it easier to break them. So here are a few of my reasons:
I'm overwhelmed. I work two jobs and I have a dissertation to write. There are some days when I feel completely overwhelmed by the stack of papers that are waiting to be graded, the lesson plans that still need to be made, the projects that need to be completed for my website job, the students' e-mails that need to be answered, and the research that needs to be done.
When I feel overwhelmed, I don't automatically think, This will be a snap! I'll get this done, and then I'll clean my apartment! Instead I think, I can't do this right now. I'm going back to bed. And then I'm going to figure out a way to clone myself, as long as it's not an evil clone who will turn against me and take over my entire life.
I'm frustrated. I recently turned in a draft to my dissertation director, and he says it still needs more work before I can show it to the rest of my committee. It frustrates me that my work never seems to be good enough no matter how hard I try, and it makes me question whether I belong in graduate school in the first place.
When I feel frustrated, my first impulse is not to sit down at my desk and start a new outline for my dissertation. Instead, I'd rather go to the gym and work off my aggression, eat something chocolate-covered, or give up altogether and consider an alternative line of work, like professional break dancer.
I'm burned out. Even though I am a workaholic, even I occasionally get bored and worn out from working so much. Sometimes I just want to do something fun and take a day for myself. I want to stay in bed all day and watch movies, or go shopping and spend money that I usually reserve for books I need for my graduate research (that aren't available in the library) on something I don't really need, like a cute dress or a nice pair of shoes (instead of the loafers I usually wear, which are sensible but also call attention to the fact that I have ginormous feet). Sometimes I don't want to have to respond to yet another e-mail that reads something like this: "I know that I got a C on this paper, but I still feel that I did everything correctly."
I'm afraid. When I sit down in front of my computer, sometimes I feel so afraid that I'm going to write something that disappoints my professors AGAIN. In the movies people can rely on magic powers or good-looking heroes, which makes it easier for them to confront their fears. But in real life I have only myself and my fear that everything I want will always be out of my reach.
But in spite of all these things, I know that procrastination is one habit that I definitely need to break. It would be unrealistic to say that I'll never procrastinate again, but I do need to make sure that I procrastinate less frequently. I can't afford to keep wasting time.
What about you? Do you have a problem with procrastination? If you do, why do you do it?
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