How can I change my habits? I'm a graduate student, and I am taking my PhD qualifying examinations within the next year. I am down to the wire and I need to change my habits, and they are very, very bad.
Studying for the examinations will require reading a few hundred books ("reading" often means skimming, and a few months is usually all the time we have to prepare). I have made it this far, in a top ten program, by doing very very little work and playing hard to my intellectual strengths. I have excelled in the program, and no one knows the extent of my poor habits, so I can't exactly fess up. I can count on one hand the number of assigned books I have actually read. But my degree work is really important to me (yes, I promise, really), and my success in it is, too. I want to change.
The problems that have led me here are several:
1. Plain old laziness and procrastination. Because I've been able--for YEARS--to get away with doing very little and absorbing a lot, I've continued to do so. I have a set of skills that allows me to get away with this. I know hitting bottom is sometimes how people turn it around, but it hasn't happened yet, and I don't want it to. Even if I intend
to do what I'm supposed to, I fuck around and don't--and get through it anyway. I am great at resolving to do things, much less so at actually doing them. And I'm great at picking a new "system" to adopt and then abandoning it. I also produce pretty good work at the last minute.
2. Depression. I have been depressed for many years, probably a combination of dysthymia
and major depression. Yes, I am in treatment with a therapist and on medication. Sometimes it doesn't work. So the number of days I lose to fucking around is matched by the number I lose to being depressed.
3. Trauma. I have not had an easy time of it. In my first year of graduate school, my only living parent died. I was the executor of that parent's estate, many states away. I am still grieving, and this, too, seriously disrupted my schoolwork. Yes, I had (have) a grief counselor in addition to the therapist.
So it's not just sheer laziness. If it were, I would deserve every "get your shit together" in the world. And I know, of course, that I'd have been fired from a "real" job long ago. But that alone isn't enough.
I already know that paying serious attention to my physical well-being will be a huge help--that I need an exercise routine, a more careful diet--as will continuing with my mental-health work (therapy, medication, alternative healing). How can I make that routine work?
And really, how can I get serious about my work? How do you serial procrastinators stop yourselves in the act? How do you make a routine stick when you've been averse to one for so long? I want things to change, but sometimes it's a huge uphill climb to change them.
Throwaway email: email@example.com. Please, please, please, I promise you I have done all the berating and tough love talk you feel the need to do right now. Solution-oriented advice most welcome.