How to Stop Slacking
July 21, 2007 1:05 AM   Subscribe

Is there anything besides 'willpower' to grab hold of if you wanted to stop being ruinously indisciplined? Do you know people who've managed major personal change on that front? It's difficult because it feels like it's literally ALL IN YOUR HEAD so how do you change your own mind?

Say you slacked. Say your life was literally ruined by this: that you had the best possible education and life circumstances your parents could possibly manage, which is a lot more than the background they came from--a hell of a lot more--but because of how you mismanaged it all, your childhood friends are now generic yuppies while your current peers by position/income are now generic service industry clerks (I'm early 20s).

Say it didn't matter whether it'd be education, work, or even things you'd take on for fun--you just never followed through. That it was pervasive: it didn't matter whether the issue was personal calls back to people, filling out a plain form, doing the dishes--everything from things like that to showing up to high-powered meetings 20 mins late (and thus managing to get yourself shut out of future such meetings since they all gave up on you).

Say you've heard this hundreds of times before: "you're so damn smart, I can't believe you didn't [pull through on whatever the issue was.]" It'd be almost cliche: no matter what it is, you'd have the capacity to do it but fail nonetheless. (Literal quote from a few weeks ago: "I can't believe you [didn't manage X issue at Y place.] NOBODY [doesn't.]" Again, it wasn't so much that I didn't do X to its requirements; I just didn't do X.)

Say that the wrecking effects this had were wildly disproportionate to the causes, eg. getting around to submitting the form would be trivial but not having done it suddenly colors your whole life status.

Say every time you got a chance to begin anew--and you get them again and again--you blew it.

So you were barely functional; anonymous--obscure--fading away.

Is there anything you could do besides wake up hoping to 'somehow' spend today differently.
I guess not.
Damn.
posted by raisons de coeur to Grab Bag (26 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
 
What about structure? I admit that my case was less severe, but I'm conditioned enough to enjoy checking boxes on todo lists so that I benefited a lot from David Allen's Getting Things Done and Hiveminder. The focus on "Next action" really makes it easy to keep DOING something.
posted by themel at 1:23 AM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think I should take scheduling and itemizing way more seriously but even when I've done so it's been like—"ok, right now I need to do SuchThing. Oh you know, I don't feel like doing SuchThing. Oh wait, I've spent so long putting off SuchThing that it's too late to do NextThing instead since NextThing Inc. closes at 5pm." And then the days just melt into each other with startling predictability, and now it's two weeks later and what do you know, I still have SuchThing and NextThing to do.

That's the worst part really, the stasis. All my years have been a haze.
posted by raisons de coeur at 1:34 AM on July 21, 2007


You seem to at least realize that you have an issue. The next step is to ask yourself what you want to do about it. It sounds like procrastination is a major issue for you. If you continue down this road, you will end up retired and regretting the fact that you never achieved this things that you wanted. So, ask yourself if you are ready to stop being lazy and find out what you want to do. Where you want to go and what you want to achieve. Without clear goals, you will have no reason, or motivation to get SuchThing done.

It is clear that scheduling and itemizing your daily events is not your thing. It is not for everybody. My wife does it constantly, which sometimes bugs the shit out of me *sorry hunny * and I am the exact opposite. She will ask me, "When do you want to do X?" and my answer will almost always be, "I don't know, haven't thought about it yet." That is just how deferent we are when it comes to these things. I still get them done though. I, personally, can't stand looking back at the day and finding 10 things I could have done instead of holding down the couch cushions.

Do you have a significant other? Do you have any real reasons to get things done? Do you have an ambition in life such as a career that you would like to go into, somewhere you would like to live or retire, a hobby that you would like to exploit into a business? Again, back to goals. Find out what they are and figure out how to get from A to B. Life will pass you by if you let it.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 1:46 AM on July 21, 2007


Sure as hell.

I myself have finally been able to become a more disciplined person over after being a slacker for many years. You can do that, too. First of all, you should begin engaging in a physical activity (Preferably running or/and old-school (!) weight training , because both are quite effective when it comes to training not only your body, but also your will power as well as self-confidence.) on a regular basis.

Apart from that you should learn something about the transtheoretical approach to changing your behaviour (I highly recommend the lecture of Changing for Good, a book, which outlines the transtheoretical model and gives pretty good examples on its implementation.

I personally do not really believe in most of the self-help books, seminars, etc. on the market which offer unscientific advise. However, as mentioned above by themel GTD could help you structure your life better. But you need to get to work yourself. There is no guru out there doing that for you.

Moreover, I suggest that you read Self-Made Men, a famous lecture by Frederick Douglas and the articles about Benjamin Franklin on the Pick the Brain blog.

Hope I could help. Bye.
posted by pu9iad at 2:21 AM on July 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


I don't have a significant other (which really irritates me.) And yeah the point about physical activity is something I've been mulling too (I've been trying to lose weight like, forever). I'm beginning to think that instead of banging my head harder and harder against the wall I need to step back and consider that I won't get the things "I'm supposed to do" done unless I bring some balance to other parts of my life. It's a bit of a catch-22 though because I won't have the time/money/etc to do other things unless I do the core things... maybe you're right B(oYo)BIES in that I need to make a chart or something of everything I want out of life and then figure out how to chain them together. All I know is that I wish I was about 10 zillion times awesomer—an asset, not a liability.

I still don't know what to do about that moment when you're staring at a screen and need to type out an email or an essay or anything else and have the whole "I really don't want to do this" feeling—I need someone standing there with a pistol to my head! It's like I'm missing a "moderate stress" gene and end up swinging from "complete indifference" to "nerve-wracking despair". I guess there's really not much there in the moments between 'needing to do' and 'doing'; that you have to tell your mind to shut up and Just Do It ✔
posted by raisons de coeur at 3:01 AM on July 21, 2007


raisons de coeur: "Say you slacked."

Oh, I did. Thank God. Those were some of the best years of my life. And they're not entirely gone; I try to keep them alive a bit every day, as much as I'm able.

"Say your life was literally ruined by this..."

There aren't that many people whose lives have been ruined by slacking. Some have been ruined by shame, guilt, fear, gluttony, or general unhappiness, but a willingness to be leisurely isn't really a deadly characteristic, especially among those industrious enough to construct AskMe questions of more than a hundred words.

"...that you had the best possible education and life circumstances your parents could possibly manage, which is a lot more than the background they came from--a hell of a lot more--but because of how you mismanaged it all, your childhood friends are now generic yuppies while your current peers by position/income are now generic service industry clerks (I'm early 20s)."

It's very difficult for me to imagine that you've managed to turn your childhood friends into yuppies, or that it's your fault that they've become yuppies, unless you're some sort of prince upon whom the care of the souls and lives of his friends rests. It's also difficult for me to convince myself that someone in their early twenties should be judged severely based upon the position or income they've managed to attain in the miniscule amount of time they've had in the world to "get ahead." It's hard enough for me to convince myself that attaining a high "position/income" has as much honor or nobility attached to it as you seem to imply.

"Say it didn't matter whether it'd be education, work, or even things you'd take on for fun--you just never followed through. That it was pervasive: it didn't matter whether the issue was personal calls back to people, filling out a plain form, doing the dishes--everything from things like that to showing up to high-powered meetings 20 mins late (and thus managing to get yourself shut out of future such meetings since they all gave up on you)."

Sounds a little less like the existential crisis you seem to think it is and a little more like a minor problem with organization. Which I can understand; personally, I'm medicated so that I can compensate for my lack of organization, which in today's world is unfortunately essential. But you're talking as though that's a sin, whereas it's really just something we all have to deal with to varying degrees; you and I might have to deal with it more than most, but it doesn't mean much. It really doesn't sound as though either of us have lost all of our chances yet, anyhow.

"Say you've heard this hundreds of times before: 'you're so damn smart, I can't believe you didn't [pull through on whatever the issue was.]' It'd be almost cliche: no matter what it is, you'd have the capacity to do it but fail nonetheless. (Literal quote from a few weeks ago: 'I can't believe you [didn't manage X issue at Y place.] NOBODY [doesn't.]' Again, it wasn't so much that I didn't do X to its requirements; I just didn't do X.)"

If I were hearing those sorts of things that often, I'd probably go to the trouble of finding more pleasant people to spend my time with. That kind of weird, misplaced disappointment in people is pretty poisonous. Don't let people say things like that to you, and if they do, ignore them.

"Say that the wrecking effects this had were wildly disproportionate to the causes, eg. getting around to submitting the form would be trivial but not having done it suddenly colors your whole life status."

Again, you're describing my ADD, so I understand. And the most important point about this is: it's not a sin, and the wrecking effects aren't even as bad as I think you imagine they are.

"Say every time you got a chance to begin anew--and you get them again and again--you blew it. So you were barely functional; anonymous--obscure--fading away. Is there anything you could do besides wake up hoping to 'somehow' spend today differently [?] I guess not. Damn."

If you're in your early twenties, then chances to begin anew pave the road ahead of you like loose bricks. Even if you don't see them now, you're bound to find them sooner or later. And you're not "fading away;" you've just barely begun. Finally, everything you say indicates some complexes that stem from an inability to organize, and you'd probably feel a lot better about this if you talked to a psychiatrist. It sounds a lot like you're ADD like me; everything you're describing sounds very familiar, anyhow.

You're not very specific about any of the details of what's going on in your life (job, actual job pitfalls, career path, why you feel like it's a dead end now, etc) but from what you've said, I think you should at the very least try to worry less and just work on simplifying. Take out details you don't need. And if you're unhappy with the way your life works right now, a psychiatrist can be of some help, if only as somebody to talk to about it. It's really not your fault; don't run around thinking you're a big failure, as it's not very healthy for you, and isn't likely to lead to your own happiness.
posted by koeselitz at 3:47 AM on July 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


Thanks for your response koeselitz. Yeah I guess I need to get a sense of perspective instead of getting all biblical about it. The thing about childhood friends wasn't about what I did to them but rather about where I started from and how our paths have diverged since then. It's difficult not to think about it when your HS friends are graduating from MIT & LSE & Harvard to join Morgan-Stanley and MSFT and god-knows-what, and meanwhile you're trying not to get kicked out of a 2year school, having gone there after being suspended from a full-fledged uni (both for GPA reasons) :/ I feel like God's punchline.
posted by raisons de coeur at 4:06 AM on July 21, 2007


Let me be more clear: I have a hell of a time filling out forms. I have a hard time getting silly, small tasks done that seem so simple and basic that they should be done right away. To take the most pertinent example, and the one that comes immediately to mind, most recently I've delayed so much on ordering my prescription that I'm finding myself having to go without it for about a week, even though all I had to do order it was fill out a form and drop it in the mail, and even though I've had a month and a half to do it. This is repeated a million times a day, in the smallest ways; my wife gets upset with me, because sometimes she forgets that this is my condition, and she starts to think that I'm absent-minded about things because I don't care, or because I don't want to listen to her; I've been disciplined in particular workplaces because of my failure to complete projects; in school, I continually read the assigned books (as I loved reading) and yet promptly failed to do an iota of the homework about the readings, forcing many of my teachers to give me low grades, much to their dismay, as they tended to like me and think that I was relatively intelligent. I had the good fortune of going to a college where reading and discussion were really almost all that were required; even there, the few papers that were assigned were completed badly by me, and the teachers from whom I'm sure I learned the most were disappointed. I completed the coursework for my master's degree in Political Science a year and a half ago; all that's left to complete the degree is a thesis, which all these months later still lies undone.

I say all of these things to let you know that I know how you feel, and to let you know that it's common. I have ADD. And it's not quite as bad as I've made it seem above; I'm moving toward the point where I'm completing my thesis, my wife and I get along very well and have a growing mutual understanding of each other, and I'm even (god help us all) using a day planner. The things that you seem to want so desperately are withing your grasp, I assure you.

Even if you don't have ADD (and, while I suspect you do, only a good psychiatrist can say for sure) you certainly need some kind of psychological coaching. You need someone to sit down with every week or two to check in with; for myself, I can resolve to dramatically clean up my life, but unless someone is there every week or two to make sure I keep working towards that goal, I'll forget it. It takes some time, some planning, some work, and some discipline, but those things can be broken down into easily achievable steps. I suggest you start working with someone else who can help you do that; if you're anything like me, it'll just be overwhelming if you try to do it on your own.

The world as it's built today requires an unprecedented amount of focus and determination. The peoples in the past didn't have to have those traits nearly so much as we do today, which is why I think the problems that you and I share are relatively new problems in many ways. Unfortunately, the world isn't very easy-going with us. But it's possible to live a fulfilling life in it and to determine and focus upon the things you want in order to achieve them.
posted by koeselitz at 4:16 AM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


And one of the reasons I made that last comment there is that I understand: it all certainly seems "biblical" at times, doesn't it? I know that when my wife is asking me, out of a genuine sense of hurt, why I can't listen to her, why I can't hear what she says to me a lot of times even when it's really important, it makes me feel as though I've failed at something essential. But at the same time, as she's taught me when she remembers that I'm like this, it's not my fault; and she's been gracious enough to work with me toward making my life better. I guess I just wanted to tell you that it's not as bad as it seems.
posted by koeselitz at 4:21 AM on July 21, 2007


See my reply to one of yesterday's questions.
posted by mpls2 at 4:57 AM on July 21, 2007


Your comment that your life was "literally ruined" by slacking is contradicted by another comment that you are in your "early 20s". I was older than that before I ever even started college. Some of my friends were twice that age before they stopped 'slacking'. Some of them are three times that age and still haven't stopped.

It's not going to 'somehow' fix itself, but it's not like you need to become a cruel taskmaster of the will. You'll be a slacker as long as being so satisfies you more than the things you are missing out on. Then you will figure out things you want to change, and you will slowly change them. One day, probably, you'll look back on your slacker days and wonder how you got to where you are from there.
posted by foobario at 5:12 AM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


A couple of comments. First, you think your friends don't slack. They do. A buddy of mine thought I never procrastinated. He thought I was a machine. (We're in our late 30s, and he's a doctor.) I had to clue him in one day.

Now, there a chance there's some depression involved (there's certainly some apathy - you're aware that you need to do these, you avoid doing tasks, often until it's too late and it's a crisis.) That's also very self destructive (and you're now in the depths of what you feel you've done - you're sabotaged everything.)

Your life's not over. You have people who believe in you. You just need to get some help; some from a 'system' like Getting Things Done....some from some counseling.

There's a reason you're 'doing this' to yourself. And the sooner you look into it (and yeah, I'm suggesting therapy) the easier time you'll have overcoming it.
posted by filmgeek at 6:32 AM on July 21, 2007


The fact that you have gotten a Metafilter account and written this questions shows that you are serious enough to get help for your problem. That's good.

Yes, I think you're right, that it's "all in your head." But I think you can change what's in your head. Have you considered approaching this like a "mission," and re-orienting yourself completely in your life? When I say a "mission," I mean viewing yourself as embarking upon a journey that is akin to joining the military, being involved in a life-or-death struggle, or starting some profound spiritual quest ... except in this case, the mission is to profoundly change who you are? The stakes, in the situation you are describing, is every bit as important to you as any of the other personal mission can be.

An approach to solving your problem may involve:
1 --- cutting yourself off from your other slacker friends, the generic service industry types. Hanging around them, the temptation to slip into old habits may be too great.
2 --- beginning a series of projects that have definite starting and ending points ... whether painting, writing, building something, whatever you're interested in. These projects may give you a sense that you can be a "finisher."
3 --- keeping a daily journal that is focused exclusively on your goal of "not being a slacker."
4 --- inserting yourself productively into communities that do things that you are interested in. If you're interested in philosophy, start attending talks at the local philosophy department of a university, even if you're not enrolled there. If you're interested in journalism, volunteer as a freelancer for a community paper. These things may fuel a passion that makes you more productive.
5 --- finding a mentor who can help push you when you feel yourself slipping. This could be a community college professor, a boss, etc.
6 --- moving to a new place, such as an apartment right next to your college or university, so that it is harder to come up with excuses not to pursue your education as a part of the "mission" of self-improvement.

One thing that has always intrigued me is how people who are socially alienated and do very evil things often manage to lead very austere, focused, goal-oriented existences when it comes to the evil thing they are planning. The key seems to be a point where the mission-planner breaks with their past life, and focuses with great intensity on the mission. You need to apply the same principle to your own life to your positive goal of self-improvement. Break with your slacker buddies, move to a new place, and schedule your life around things that all contribute toward the new self that you are creating.
posted by jayder at 6:38 AM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Through more than three decades of systematic research, Carol Dweck has been figuring out answers to why some people achieve their potential while equally talented others don’t—why some become Muhammad Ali and others Mike Tyson. The key, she found, isn’t ability; it’s whether you look at ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or as something that can be developed. What’s more, Dweck has shown that people can learn to adopt the latter belief and make dramatic strides in performance."
The Effort Effect is a short magazine article about her research and book, Mindset.
posted by ajr at 6:44 AM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Do speak to some professionals about this. I'm rather similar, and it's clear I have ADD, and maybe depression, too.

What I really hate, is when I can't stand the very idea of doing things I SHOULD do (even not especially onerous things, like writing an email), yet can be bored at the same time!
posted by Goofyy at 8:08 AM on July 21, 2007


I kind of like your idea best jayder, but although I can muster up a lot of energy to conceptually CHANGE EVERYTHING, I hit a roadblock when it comes to the normal small details of changing everything. I guess personal change is painful regardless of what you're trying to change and has to be done on the small hour-to-hour level.

(also just to clarify, my service-industry friends aren't slackers in any sense, they're quite competent and generally have it much more together than I do.)
posted by raisons de coeur at 8:56 AM on July 21, 2007


I was horrible at the small things too, I had plenty of money to pay my bills, but the night before they were due, I would realize they were still there, and end up dropping the extra $15 on the phone payment so they wouldn't be late, I never filled out forms, and right now I have prescriptions on my table that are 2 days old that I need to go get filled.

What I have done to help myself is by using the 2 minute rule out of GTD. Basically, it's just - if it takes two minutes do it now and be done with it. You never have to worry about it again. When I got my electric bill last night, I logged onto my online bill pay account, entered the amount and clicked done. Total time 2 minutes, and now I can slack about that until the next time I get a bill.

My goal is to enable the slacking by not having things to worry about. It's nice to know that I can sit and zone out to TV for 5 hours at a time without anything creeping up on me.
posted by cschneid at 9:01 AM on July 21, 2007


I know where you are coming from and want to give you my witch's brew of a theory. I will begin with George Kostanza. There was an episode of Seinfeld where George realized that if he would just do the exact opposite of what he was inclined to do, that he found success, happiness and women who loved balding men. The lesson for me was: if I really don't want to do this--I know that I now must do it--because the opposite would be bad. It sounds strange, but that is how I have used Seinfeld for my own mental well being.

Secondly, I want to agree that physical exercise is SUPER important. I found that the physical mastery of my own body made me feel a lot more control of other elements in my life. It is a wonderful discipline and you can create any kind of regimen that would be interesting to you. Don't worry about what other people do, just do whatever you want to do. Want to run sprints in the park? Want to lift a used car tire over your head as many times as you can? Want to walk 10 miles a day? Do whatever you want!

Breaking projects into smaller parts is the only way that I can get things done. If I don't, the project is done in the 11th hour. Structure time. Set aside 2 hours of just "work time" where you do not answer email, IM, the phone, the cell phone and the front door. Just hunker down and get shit done. I have done this in "manic" mode for a few days (which I do not recommend) but find it easier to do in chunks. I also give myself room to be me. For example: I am not super organized in my home office. I have a few piles of paper that will be filed or tossed at some point. That used to bug me because I "couldn't just take care of it" as I thought I should. Now, I allow myself an area that can be askew.

I took an improv class many years ago. One of the rules of improv is to be "out of your head" and not pre-planning, to try to be funny. In other words, "just be in the moment". The past will affect your future, in large degree, based on how much you allow it to. Imagine meeting someone new on the street. What do they know about you? Nothing. Who is the person that you want them to know? To me, that is a truly transformative idea.

There is no one answer but the fact that you are seeking assistance is a great step forward. Good luck!
posted by zerobyproxy at 9:22 AM on July 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


Instead of trying to change EVERYTHING, why don't you start by picking the most important thing and changing that? Then proceed on down the list in order of descending importance. E.g., there's no sense in wasting your willpower on losing weight if what's most urgent right now is that you're about to be evicted from your home.

The other thing is that what you describe can be a form of depression, and whether it is or isn't, you might be well-served by seeing a psychologist.
posted by callmejay at 10:22 AM on July 21, 2007


raisons de coeur : "I kind of like your idea best jayder, but although I can muster up a lot of energy to conceptually CHANGE EVERYTHING, I hit a roadblock when it comes to the normal small details of changing everything. I guess personal change is painful regardless of what you're trying to change and has to be done on the small hour-to-hour level."

Well, it does need to be broken down, but don't worry too much about "hour-to-hour;" I think that would get a little *too* focussed. A big part of working on learning to focus on all the things you want to get done is learning to avoid a situation my psychiatrist calls "superfocus"- a state where you're so wrapped up in some mundane detail that you can't even begin to work step-by-step on the big picture.

You've got the right idea. Even very difficult obstacles can be overcome if you break them into easily digestible parts. Don't tell yourself that you need to change everything right away-- just find one small thing you can do every day to start to make it better, and then, when you've got that one down, do another. It takes some time, but that's okay.

My own first step was getting a day planner and writing in it one thing that I had to do every day. Some days I didn't even have anything useful I had to do, so I had to remind myself to eat lunch, or to go to work; but writing in it every night and checking it every morning got me into the habit of regularly thinking about what I had to remember to do and meeting the tiny but significant goals that I'd set for myself. It was so small it was easy, but it was a great start, and something to build on.
posted by koeselitz at 11:19 AM on July 21, 2007


Reading your post I feel like I'm maybe one or two steps ahead of you. I'm 24 now and just starting to pull myself out of the slacker mentality. I attribute two things with helping me start this change.

1) I let my brain begin to atrophy. I hadn't really challenged my brain since elementary school and last year I finally got so fed up with it that I decided to take an interesting looking class at the community college. It was an easier class and it got boring part way through, but I kept with it. In my mind it was either keep going or sink back to that atrophied state. When I'd think of that, it became much easier to push myself to stick with it. This last semester I took another class and did pretty much the same thing. More in fact because this class was much harder. Normally when I get confronted with something difficult I just cut and run, but I struggled through for the sake of not letting myself slip back and it turned out well.

Passing those two classes has really given me something of an edge in working toward improving myself. They're something concrete that I can look back at and say "I accomplished this and I did a good job at it." It's sort of like a foundation made of things I can take pride in.

2) I got goal. Far and away this has helped me accomplish the million things or more that I would put off so I could read MeFi all day. Building on the successes I made at school, I realized that I didn't want to be jealous of all my successful peers. I didn't want to feel like I was just that guy that was going to amble through life and not even make a dent in his own world. So now I'm working on earning a degree because I feel like that will give me some leverage in the world and because I think the experience will help me focus on organizing other parts of my life.

Now when I get that feeling that I should be doing something productive I try to think of my goal and what I need to be doing to reach it. Does that always work? No. In fact there are still plenty of days where I get nothing accomplished, but those times when I finish something I would normally put off I feel encouraged to do more good things for myself. It's a whole snowball effect.

although I can muster up a lot of energy to conceptually CHANGE EVERYTHING, I hit a roadblock when it comes to the normal small details of changing everything

I really understand that. So many nights I've fallen asleep thinking of being a different person when I wake up and so many morning I've woken up as the same person I was the night before. From what I can tell it's about slowly changing the unwanted things. You don't wake up one morning and start getting everything done; you wake up one morning and wash a few dishes or tidy up your room. Then maybe a few weeks later you find yourself doing that a couple times a week. From there it just gets easier to do as it becomes routine. Again, it's all the snowball effect. Start small and let things grow organically.

Some of the best advice I can give is to talk to a psychologist regularly. Whether it's about slacking issues or other stuff, I've found that talking to someone regularly helps me get a better understanding of what's going on inside me. It makes it easier to change a behavior when you know why you do it.

Oh yeah, I've gotten over some of the "OMG-I'm-in-my-20's-and-I'll-never-accomplish-anything-in-life" thing by reading about the cool things that the old fogeys on MeFi do with their lives. ;)

OK, sorry for the rambling reply, but your post really struck a chord with what's been going on in my life lately.
posted by mindless progress at 12:07 PM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Do you want a different result at the end of the day or hour? Or are you content with every hour and day ending as the last many have? Maybe spend some time stewing on the results you are getting versus results you might get. You want to be 30, 40, 50, 60 and still in this sort of rut? Maybe so. There is no list of things you should be doing. You are an adult and you get to choose, even if by default. So, seize the day before it whips around and bites you in the ass. And give yourself a big pat on the back for taking steps and completing things, when that occurs. You can procrastinate and drag something out for months, and drag the consequences out for years, or you can kick some butt and get the thing done and forget about it except the benefits. Slack, but maybe you should be earning your slack time by getting things done? Just an idea. Do you owe yourself something better than self indulgence? There is enjoyment in competence and getting things done, and if you find the right exercise, that can be enjoyable too. That was a hard one for me.

I want to pass on to you a site I stumbled across recently that I found helpful in getting myself out of a horrible funk. I think it has some good tips. I don't know if they might help you change your way of seeing what you are doing/can do. This specific article talks about asking yourself useful questions. A favourite useful question I picked up elsewhere is "What is the best use of my time right now?" It's an interesting question to ponder, helpul in focusing and motivating yourself.
posted by Listener at 10:47 PM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


If there was depression (quite likely) or ADD (unlikely) involved, wouldn't it be circular? That is to say if you do find yourself caught in permanent fatigue/dysfunctional insecurities/suicidal ideation/etc. but it's all related to the issues mentioned here wouldn't working on the issues be the way to get rid of the depression anyway? My understanding of what you do with a therapist is basically 'talk' right? Like you still have to go back and do the things you'd do without them anyway.
posted by raisons de coeur at 2:20 AM on July 22, 2007


If you have the same whatever-the hell it is that I have, it goes a bit beyond slack and hits more of a..... resigned indifference to failing? ( Usually read as failing yet again) it doesn't matter either way if it gets done or not? I know it does matter, but i cant make myself care enough or force myself to do it?

I know in my case, a lot of it stems from being very, very good at some things (reading) and very, very bad at some other things (math, language) Failing frequently at them (ie, in many ways i really CAN'T do something, or, id be investing 1000X more energy and effort into something that means nothing to me) lead me to be much more indifferent to failing in other things. Some people claim this is a love of perfection, and that if I can't do something perfectly, I wont do it at all.

A second big factor is also isolation. Does it really matter if I show up for school/work tomorrow? No. Does it really matter if my apartment is a mess? No. Does it really matter that I'm a speck in the universe? Well....... my two main holds on reality are my sister, for obvious reasons, and some volunteer work that only takes a few days per event and has visible results.

So yeah... goals are great, but doesn't really help the goal-less. I wish you all the luck in the world, let me know if you find the answer :)
posted by Jacen at 9:47 PM on July 22, 2007


Jacen, yes there's some perfectionism involved but I wouldn't exactly say apathy along the lines you describe—that is to say I do want to show up and keep things neat etc. and the only extent to which I convince myself it doesn't matter is to rationalize not having done it (rather than vice-versa.) I guess it's the same mental process though, i.e. "not caring enough".

All the responses have been very helpful and it's been great to finally talk about this stuff outside of an interrogative "what on earth is going on?!" environment. The instant gratification thread is great as well.

I'm going to take a few days to consider and try a few new things and I'll post a summary of what steps I've taken so hopefully someone else reading this can have an itemized list to glance through and pick from.

(Basic points are: 1. No, there isn't any way to do what needs doing besides just somehow getting on to it. 2. What helps is organizing everything so at least you can rearrange and prioritize on the fly. 3. Keep the larger goals of what you're working toward in mind.

In a way the 'fix' spans from very macro issues--where are you living? what are you working toward?--down to moment-to-moment thinking.)

The big epiphany is that unless I do something about it the future is gonna be exactly like the past, which would be abominable. I would never have imagined when I was 17 that I'd have the same issues, mentality, life in general at 21—that's way beyond unacceptable, it's like a slow death.
posted by raisons de coeur at 5:17 AM on July 23, 2007


Raisons, are you the kind of person who can't develop good habits easily? Like dental hygiene, flossing, eating regularly, etc... If you can develop habits, that's a good sign.

Either way, I'd consider three possibilities. You can fix this by yourself with the advice people are giving you, or get help. To get help, you are going to need financial resources (parents?) and a life coach. If you can't get financial resources, and you can't seem to fix it yourself, I'd strongly consider joining a branch of the military. I normally don't recommend joining the military, and it is somewhat antithetical to my personality. However, it does instill good habits, a sense of connection to the world (which I suspect you lack), and self-discipline. It's also a lot like being in prison, and you'll probably hate it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:44 PM on November 20, 2007


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