Yet another Friday night...
November 20, 2009 8:31 AM   Subscribe

GoodTimesFilter: Instead of going out and being social, I tend to make excuses, saying I need to stay in to complete work - which I often don't actually complete, due to procrastination and distraction issues. How I can quiet this negative voice, and go out to have a good time?

I've been like this for as long as I can remember - "Sorry, can't go out tonight because I should get some work done." And then? I don't actually get anything done, I sit around, screwing around on the computer. I'm fixing the procrastination/distraction issues with medication (which seems to be starting to work), but I'm still at an impass with the other bit.

It always seems like there's something else I should be doing, but instead of missing out on these great opportunities, while sitting at home and getting no benefit - social or productive.

I feel like I missed the day in high school where people were taught to sometimes turn off the part of their brain that says, "Hey, I know you have to stuff to do, but go out for a movie on Friday night. It's not like you'll get anything good done anyways."

How do I turn this off? Or, how do I get myself to go out and enjoy these social activities, without thinking about the billions of things I have to do?
posted by SNWidget to Human Relations (11 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Use "grandma's rule". If you clean your room, then you can have an ice cream cone.

In other word's you don't have to get into an all-or-nothing situation. Pick a manageable chunk of a task you need to do, do it, then go and get your reward.
posted by plinth at 8:43 AM on November 20, 2009

Are people actually inviting you? I guess you have to pull a "Yes Man" like the Jim Carey movie (no, I haven't actually seen it) and force yourself to say yes to the next invitation. Did you get one today and already give an excuse? Go back and say, "you know what... My evening is suddenly free. What's happening?"

Perhaps you are, like many, an introvert by nature. This article helped me. Although it doesn't address your problem directly. I still struggle with invitations to social events. Despite always having fun once I arrive, I dread them when I first get them. I look for an excuse to say no. I guess lately I treat these invitations as a chore that must be completed, and once I get there I have such a good time it hardly matters.
posted by Brodiggitty at 8:45 AM on November 20, 2009

you could be me writing this question! ultimately, you just have to force yourself to do it. once you start going out and just literally drag yourself out of the house, you'll be surprised at how whatever is going on in said social situation will take your mind of whatever else is going on, or what you think you should be doing. it's like going to the gym - the hardest part is putting your sneakers on. you just have to get the ball rolling...and unfortunately just force yourself to do it. that's the only thing that worked for me.
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 8:45 AM on November 20, 2009

Response by poster: A few comments:

I'm an extrovert, to be sure. I enjoy my evenings alone with my wife, but we both enjoy going out as well.

This is more of an issue with me not being able to put aside my mental todo list long enough to be able to free myself from it. I'm keeping myself in with this grand idea of "getting work done," but managing to not accomplish that, because "Hey, it's Friday night. Who wants to do work?"
posted by SNWidget at 8:50 AM on November 20, 2009

I find that going out and limiting the time you have to do something helps anyway when one is a procrastinator to begin with, since it forces you to do it with some pressure (assuming that there are some kinds of deadlines involved), so I usually will force myself to go out anyway - I was just going to leave whatever it was until the last minute whether or not I did go out, right?
posted by urbanlenny at 9:03 AM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Put "being social" on your to-do list. Seriously. There have been times in my life when I have had to do this. Social connections are really important, and you may not even know what benefits you are missing out on. So tell yourself you must attend a minimum of two (or three, or five) social events per week. Write it on your to-do list! Write "Social: ________" and when the opportunity comes up, fill in the blank with "dinner with FriendX" or "poker night at FriendZ's house." If that gets canceled, you've got to find something else to do by the end of the week. If you don't get enough social invitations to fill in the blanks, then you must invite somebody else to do something social. It's mandatory. You have to do it. It's on your to-do list.

You don't say whether your "work" and "to-do list" are more to do with your profession or with domestic chores, but either way, remind yourself that spending some social time does not subtract from your work time in a zero-sum way. Maybe you will go out for dinner with friends and get introduced to somebody new who turns out to be a good professional contact. Maybe while you're socializing you'll bellyache about what a pain it is to clean out the garage, and your friends will offer to come over and help. You can't rely on these things happening, but you just won't know what benefits might come your way until you get out there and socialize. The point is, there are lots of reasons not to view social time as wasted time. Social connections are a resource, but you have to invest in this resource in order to be able to draw on it later.
posted by Orinda at 9:20 AM on November 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

My default answer is no - to pretty much everything. Once I became aware of that I needed to tell myself that I would begin to say "yes". So, sometimes I say yes. I do wonder if the anxiety involved is worth it though. Because I absolutely dread these things, from the moment I get the invite.
posted by mokeydraws at 9:28 AM on November 20, 2009

Best answer: You sound like exactly the right person for Neil Fiore's The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play. This book helped me immensely by showing me how to silence these nagging voices in my head that tell me I should always be working. Instead he advises you to schedule the play first. This sounded crazy to me when I first heard it, but what happens is that you are able to enjoy your free time more and in a productive way (going to a movie or out with friends or with a favorite hobby) rather than just frittering it away on the Internet. It also shows you how valuable your time is: you stop waiting for three hour chunks of time to present themselves; you'd be surprised how much you can accomplish in half an hour of focused work. I highly recommend it.
posted by peacheater at 9:42 AM on November 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

I do this quite a bit. I have a lot of trouble with my priorities. The solution for me, so far (always a work in progress), has been to:

1) Accept that I generally do not like doing things on work-nights except going home. Thus, unless it is something IMPORTANT, I automatically bow out of any plans I am invited to on a work-night.

2) Prioritize and schedule relaxation and social time. I look at them as two different things because I am an introvert (though I do love spending time with my friends) and I *need* some time alone to just read or watch movies or harrass my cats or whatever in order to not go crazy. I try to schedule social time for Saturday afternoons & evenings, so I try to make plans for those times.

3) Prioritize and schedule off-hour responsibilities. So, let's say you need to bring work home or you have other things you feel like you have to do during your "free" time (not work hours). Make time for it when you make yourself sit down and get it done. I use Saturday mornings and Sunday mornings & afternoons for this. I have been trying to make a to-do list of the things that I really need to get done, and then a list of things I'd like to do if I have the time. But once it's time to socialize, I go do it.

4) Be aware of your internal rhythms. As a part-time grad student and someone who works full time (and often extra hours during the week), I have come to realize that on Friday nights, I am tired and my brain is fried. If I can avoid it, I do not make plans on Friday nights, nor do I expect to get anything productive done. Usually it is the night of the week when my husband and I get takeout and watch a movie on the couch. I used to try to be a social butterfly or get stuff done on Friday nights, and it never really works. If I went out with friends, I would be a cranky bitch because I was too tired to be pleasant. If I tried to do homework or work-work, I'd spend most of my time zoned out and cranky.

Remember, time to relax and time to socialize is as important to your well-being as your job and other personal responsibilities. It's as important to your mental well-being and even your physical health to make time for fun and relaxation!

If you make time to socialize and relax, and also have a plan to get your responsibilities done (I know, easier said than done, I am also still working on this), hopefully you can achieve that balance.

Remember, all work and no play will make you not only dull but burned out and sick.
posted by dumbledore69 at 9:52 AM on November 20, 2009

Seconding peacheater - I was literally just about to write all that about NOW HABIT GUILT-FREE PLAY YES.
posted by cadge at 11:26 AM on November 20, 2009

Response by poster: I picked up the book recommended by peacheater, and WHOA - I've been through about half of it, but most of it describes me to a "T." I'm trying to follow some of the advice in there, but just hearing that these problems aren't unique already make me feel better. Scheduling some free time sounds like the best idea in the world.

Thanks for the advice everyone - everything made me see this situation in a new light.
posted by SNWidget at 5:46 PM on November 22, 2009

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