Am I a crazy person from crazytown?
May 17, 2010 10:35 AM   Subscribe

My Get It Done is different than everyone else's Get It Done: If I tell somebody I am going to do things (file my papers, go to the store, clean up kitchen..etc) it will not get done. if I write it down , it does not get done. But I keep my mouth shut and just keep the plan in my head, it gets done. What is going on here? Do other people do this? Is there a name for it?

Also, it seems to work better if you never announce my day's plans aloud. If they stay completely internal, they get done.
posted by The Whelk to Human Relations (26 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
I can answer this one: Do other people do this? I do. All vocalized plans are doomed.
posted by bluishorange at 10:38 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, I am definitely this way as well. Once I say it aloud, there is (to me) more than one person's expectation that is will get done (regardless of the fact that whoever I told it to doesn't give a shit.) That expectation breeds anxiety. Anxiety breeds dicking around on Facebook and Metafilter instead of doing the thing I needed to.
posted by griphus at 10:40 AM on May 17, 2010 [19 favorites]

Nthing, but usually with just big plans, like moving, career choices, etc...
posted by hazel bites at 10:45 AM on May 17, 2010

You may also feel that now that you've "offloaded" it onto paper or someone else, you don't have to think about it any longer, so you forget ... and you don't have a habit of checking the to-do list you've made. I sometimes have that problem once I tell my husband something. It's like he's my external storage drive so I forget everything I've told him. (Sometimes hilariously, as when I tell him about MY friend's wedding, promptly forget about it, and then he's getting dressed for it two weeks later and I've forgotten she's getting married!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:49 AM on May 17, 2010

Could there be an observation bias issue here?

If I write down all my plans, and share them with people, then it's pretty easy to see how many of those plans do and don't get executed.

On the other hand, if I keep all my plans in my head, and don't write them down, and don't share them with other people, it seems like it might be easy to trick myself a bit: When a plan gets executed, I can think "See, I did it". When a plan doesn't get executed, it seems dangerously easy to forget it was ever a plan...

So I guess I'm asking: Might there be a chance that you're just better at *noticing* that plans don't get done if you tell people about them or write them down?
posted by ManInSuit at 10:50 AM on May 17, 2010 [13 favorites]

Oh, yeah. Never, ever tell people what you're going to do, or you'll never actually do it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:52 AM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

I was just thinking about why I do this too. It's problematic because I want to say "Yes, I will do that!" and sound all helpful but I also know it's counter-productive for me to say I'm going to do anything.

If you think of the "thing" being like a football that you're trying to get from one end of the field to another, it's easier to hold onto if you have a firm hold of it. Once you vocalize something it becomes partially externalized, so it's like you don't fully own it anymore. So it's like if you're busy looking for someone to pass it to, you've lost full control over the ball, and then you just drop it.

I have no idea if this is even how football works, but it's how I imagine this problem in my head.
posted by amethysts at 10:54 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, this is a phenomenon known to psychologists. See Shut up! Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them.
Four different tests of 63 people found that those who kept their intentions private were more likely to achieve them than those who made them public and were acknowledged by others.

Once you've told people of your intentions, it gives you a “premature sense of completeness.”
posted by caek at 11:00 AM on May 17, 2010 [25 favorites]

Oh, most definitely. I find this doubly so with creative projects. It is like saying a thing is just as good as doing a thing. It probably has something to do with the source of motivation for doing the thing is not internal but for external. The secret reason for the activity is for others to witness the doing, or imagine the doing, or to know you are wanting to do a thing, or planning to do it, or placeholder, and how busy/creative/interesting/thoughtful/productive/competent/placeholder you are, and some of those combinations can be perfectly fulfilled via telling others what you are planning to do.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:01 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I do something like this. For me, it's a frustratingly self-defeating habit with a chain of thought that goes something like this:

1) Thing needs to be done.
2) I shall announce thing so that I'm acknowledging it out loud.
3) This will make it more real, and will also make me feel accountable for doing it.
7) I'm so stressed out. Gah.
posted by desuetude at 11:02 AM on May 17, 2010 [16 favorites]

Yeah this just kind of made me realize I do the exact same thing. Dammit.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 11:02 AM on May 17, 2010

Oh snap. I thought I was just being superstitious. One thing though. Now that you have shared this with everyone it will cease to be true.
posted by mokeydraws at 11:02 AM on May 17, 2010

Wow, I do the same thing..totally didn't realize it was a common issue. I also agree it is doubly so with creative endeavors
posted by AltReality at 11:14 AM on May 17, 2010

Response by poster: desuetude, I have that argument with my brain like twice a week.
posted by The Whelk at 11:23 AM on May 17, 2010

Oh, I wasn't very helpful. My tactic as of late is to tell people my plans only after I complete them. This is awesome for a number of reasons that can only be understood by following the tactic.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:23 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I do this too - at least with vocalizing plans; writing them down actually helps me.

I find that part of the reason, though only part, is that often people, well-intentioned or not, tend to discourage plans, especially ambitious ones, both explicitly or implicitly (the way they would approach a task is different than the way I would, or they may not see the point, "Why would you want to do that?!" etc.).

But there may also be confirmation-bias: non-vocalized plans that are forgotten about or dropped for whatever reason stay off the radar.
posted by scribbler at 11:25 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am like you, except it DOES help if I make a to-do list for the next day right before I go to bed. Mostly that helps me get to sleep without laying there mental-noting myself to death.

But in the fog of the morning it is pretty hard to ignore that sheet of paper left on my keyboard, and often there are at least a few things on that list that are really quick or easy, and so I wind up knocking more of it out than I expected.

It's hard to accept the fact that you relish the idea of yourself as someone who would accomplish these things more than you actually like doing them. But for even the projects you WANT to get done, there is a process you must go through to get there, a series of steps that must be taken. Just do the steps. Do this step, then that step. You can't do really fun step #138 until you first do a bunch of steps before, so just do them and move on.

I hate, HATE doing anything in a blind panic at the last minute. It's usually pretty easy to break my mild reluctance by imagining myself in that state somewhere down the road.

Also, look for the patterns you veer into when you're avoiding something. For me, it's refreshing MetaFilter and a few other sites semi-constantly, looking for... what, exactly? I don't even know. Anything to keep me from facing the task at hand.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a deadline of my own to attend to... :)
posted by hermitosis at 11:27 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Yay I guess the weird thing is the to-do list doesn't work at all cause I can go "pft! Paper. Screw you! what are you WOOD PULP.? It's probably a bad idea anyway."

I hate, HATE doing anything in a blind panic at the last minute

This is my FAVORITE way to get things done.

Away, derail over.
posted by The Whelk at 11:35 AM on May 17, 2010

I am like this too. grumblebee posted a link to this video which explains that line of thought, I think.
posted by yaymukund at 11:55 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I find that even plans that are going really well, when I tell people about them, get derailed. So no, it's not just you.
posted by bardophile at 1:07 PM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I love having a clearly thought-out plan and plenty of time to not panic. That part of my brain really comes in handy when I am, as usual, getting things done at the last minute in a blind panic.
posted by desuetude at 1:30 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

You could be just a bit ODD, Whelk.

Writing it down or saying it might make it like an external demand.

Speaking strictly for myself, I have come to believe there is a partially independent segment of my personality which can understand (simple) language, but does not hear my internal monologue.

As a result, I feel I have to be pretty careful what I say out loud.
posted by jamjam at 2:41 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Add me to the "me, too" list. I'm still convinced this is how I talked myself out of going to law school, among other things. Now if I'm going to do something "big" I just don't tell anyone until there's no going back. I applied for a promotion at work (which I got) but I didn't even tell my husband until I already had my first interview scheduled, even though about a month elapsed between the time I applied and the time I heard back about the interview. I didn't tell my parents about it until after I accepted the position.

For me it has a lot to do with not wanting anyone to bother me or ask me or remind me or even bring the thing up, because then I feel pressured. I have a lot of avoidant tendencies anyway, so this only brings them out in full force.

Also, like you, I work best under very last-minute get-it-done-now situations and often end up putting things off until I absolutely cannot wait to do them any longer.

To-do lists work for me, at least in my work life. At home it seems like I'm just as good at "losing" or burying a list and putting things off anyway.
posted by miratime at 5:36 PM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you don't tell anyone, no one can nag you and make you wish you had never made the plan in the first place. Plus, when you do something from inside your head, people don't expect it and it's a mini-surprise. When you announce your intentions, people are expecting you to follow through, so you don't feel as appreciated when you actually do whatever it is.
posted by estlin at 6:06 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I completely do this, at least when it comes to something I want to do for myself, or my own well-being. If I don't tell anyone about it, it's like if I fail to achieve it no one will know, so there's no pressure.

The only exception is if I know someone is relying on me for something and it's not my responsibility to get it done. That is, if someone asks me for a favor and I say I'll do it, I really will do it. If someone asks me to do something for myself as a favor to them, I'll do it. I've thought about it, and I dunno why. I think it's more that I like making other people feel good than I secretly don't love myself enough, though; it's more of a laziness thing than a self-loathing thing, and I know that I'll feel fine about myself even if I don't accomplish anything.
posted by Nattie at 6:45 PM on May 17, 2010

Dang! I fight myself like this too. I had no idea that so many others had the same issue :) Metafilter is awesome for making me (well everyone?) feel normal.

That being said, what those above describing issues about pressure feels right on the spot to me. If I feel pressure, I shut down. I not only don't get things done, I can't focus in order to get them done. OTOH, I too seem to produce best under last minute pressure. I have no idea why. Something is due tmorrow, suddenly all of the blockage dissapears and everything flows. I have no clue how to get around this though.
Writing things down helps...sometines. Sometines not so much. However, I don't think I do a good job of making to do lists.

I'm curious as well if professionals have a technical term for this behavior, thinking pattern.
posted by Librarygeek at 5:30 AM on May 18, 2010

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