Are you a reformed malingerer? How did you quit?
April 9, 2012 5:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm the boy who cried wolf! (or 'ouch'!) Help me stop, especially in light of the fact that this behavior has been positively reinforced at some points.

I have dreams. Dreams take work to achieve.

I use relatively minor aches and pains to justify putting off the necessary effort.

Of course, there's backstory. History of depression and childhood trauma that are undoubtedly related. Those are being treated. I will be asking my therapist for advice about this also. Sorry, no throw away email.

I was the kid who never had to do any homework and always got As on exams. Real life is not a set of multiple choice bubbles, unfortunately. Also my childhood home was very invalidating, so even being gravely ill was not attended to.

It's not that I'm lazy - if I have a very defined task before me, I will happily work strenuously at it. It's nebulous tasks, long term projects, and multi-step processes (including packin for vacation!) that drive me to dive under the covers for a nap. Of course, I wake up feeling worse. Making a list often helps. I know I need to practice asking for help on tasks that are stalled by my needing information.

But what else is there?
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Man, it's perhaps overused, but Getting Things Done helped me immensely with this kind of procrastination. You don't need to adopt the whole lifestyle, but the methods for identifying action items, breaking down multi-step projects, and sifting through piles of inputs has made me look actually competent on more than one occasion.

(I still catch myself flailing, but when I do, I can say "OK, what is the actual next action here?" and it's inevitably something simple like "Oh I need to send an email to X asking for information A, B, and C - until I get that, I can't do anything." So I realize it's not quite that I'm procrastinating, it's that I know I'm blocked somehow but I haven't sat for a second and figured out how so I just avoid and stress about it.)
posted by restless_nomad at 5:18 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

Are you actually taking care of yourself properly when you don't feel good or need a nap? Can you trust yourself enough to believe that?
posted by bleep at 5:34 PM on April 9, 2012

I have been looking at this stuff lately myself. I have difficulty doing longer term projects that benefit only me (eg finishing my degree). My background had some similarities to yours, lots of illness, always effortless As, depression.

There are lots of productivity tips around the place and you can cherry pick the ones that you find helpful, but also have a think about what if fueling the procrastination. I have a bit more of an understanding about why and when I do it now, and how to proceed despite the urges to do otherwise. It sounds like you are open to exploring how things work for you generally, I'd encourage you to look at procrastination as a more complex problem than just 'how to make yourself do stuff'.

Since it is so often recommended in AskMe comments, I have had a look at Neil Fiore's Now Habit and am finding it somewhat helpful so far. Also tried a hypnotherapy resource via MeFi Projects (can you tell where I do a lot of my procrastination?) made by Xekul. This was the first time I'd ever really thought hard about what my procrastination was serving and how I might manage to feed that need and still do the stuff I need to get done.

Keep at it. You will overcome it incrementally. Good luck.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 6:55 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have similar propensities. Like restless_nomad above, I have found some very helpful lessons in GTD:

- If it'll take less than 2 minutes, just do it now rather than wasting time forgetting and remembering and feeling guilty and worrying about it.
- Basically ignore huge projects, and instead just consider what is the next step to getting that project done. That next step is the only thing I have to do right now.

For instance, I need to make curtains for the bathroom, which has been weighing on me for months. But the day I decided that all I had to do was measure the window, I got that done. And the day I decided that all I had to do was figure out a vague sense of what color I wanted the curtains to be, I got that done. And then another day all I had to do was buy the fabric. Making curtains still feels insurmountable, but I can always do the next step if I'm willing to figure out what that step is.

As for the everything's-always-been-easy syndrome, I read this awesome post about praising kids for being smart vs. for being hard workers, and now I try to remind myself that it's more important to me to be a hard worker than to prove that I'm so smart I can do things effortlessly. Because I've learned which characteristic is more important for my personal success and happiness, and it's not the smarts. It sucks to not be very good at it at first, but the cool thing about valuing hard work is that working hard to be a hard worker makes you a success already.
posted by vytae at 7:14 PM on April 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

The first time I ended up on Metafilter I was looking for the answer to a question exactly like this one. Oh yes, I understand exactly what you're saying. A few of the details might be different, but the result is the same. And I'm still not great at it, but I'm better. And actually, I've gotten many good new habits from AskMe.

Ten minutes. You don't have to do the whole project. You don't really have to think about the WHOLE project. Just do the next ten minutes. Seriously, right now go do the next ten minutes of something you have been intending to do, then come back and check the rest of the suggestions here. And actually, I can see the previous comments are in essence very similar.

Just make one small step toward your goal, and you'll be so much happier! (And that might make you take another step! But it might not, and that's ok. Do one more step tomorrow. See how that goes.)

Also, lists never worked for me. They were just more procrastination. I don't do much in the way of lists these days except for packing lists and grocery lists. And mixed tape lists.
posted by Glinn at 8:48 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

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