I am working on a Big Project with a Looming Deadline.
Up early every morning with the firm intent of wrestling my thoughts and notes into something coherent. It’s really, really quiet at 4:00 a.m., by the way. I can almost hear myself not thinking. Because, just in case you were going to be impressed by my zeal and dedication, I should tell you that instead of Thinking Great Thoughts, I am currently sitting at my desk cleaning my computer keyboard with cotton swabs.
Yes, I am an accomplished, world-class procrastinator. A true professional. Yesterday I cleaned out a long-neglected drawer rather than face the task at hand. But I’m running out of avoidant projects. Tomorrow I may be forced to start folding the CE’s handkerchiefs or organizing a shoebox filled with decades-old photographs. Yes, it’s that bad.
Why do we, well, at least some of us, procrastinate? There may be deep psychological reasons. The word “sabotage” comes up in many articles on the subject. I have a niggling suspicion that the word “lazy” should also come up in any explanation related to my own failure to do what I am supposed to be doing. Some suggest fear of success can lead to self-sabotage, although that is not my jam. Fear of failure, now there you’ve got something. But I think it might be simpler than that. An inability to concentrate. “Trouble Starting a Task” is on Web MD’s list of Symptoms of Adult ADHD. So is “Extremely Distractible.”. I seize upon that as a research endeavor- not because I think I have ADHD but because it’s a nice beefy project to consider instead of doing what I’m supposed to be doing. My folly is partially lodged, I think, in the realm of magical thinking: by not working on this today, I will do a better job on it tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the day after that.
Am I ringing any bells here? Please tell me I’m not the only one.
I certainly feel like the only one since it’s 4:30 a.m. and still velvety dark outside. Sliver of a moon still brightly shining. Just us chickens and really not even the chickens because, unable to concentrate, I just checked on them and they’re still huddled together on their roosts, dreaming of mealworms.
According to the Wall Street Journal, 4 a.m. is the most productive hour of the day. In an article published earlier this week, author Hilary Potkewitz reports that Apple CEO Tim Cook “starts his morning routine at 3:45 a.m.” and quotes psychologist Josh Davis, who says “When you have peace and quiet and you’re not concerned with people trying to get your attention, you’re dramatically more effective and can get important work done”. Davis is director of research at the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of the book “Two Awesome Hours,” about using science-based tools to enhance productivity. I think I’ll download it. Something to read while while I’m not getting anything done.
I recently read (probably while avoiding some important task) Angela Duckworth’s bestseller Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance in which she devotes a few pages to the concept of flow, which is the 21st century term for what used to be known as “being in the zone”. It is defined as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”She quotes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, credited with creating the concept of flow as saying “Flow is performing at high levels of challenge and yet feeling ‘effortless,’ like ‘you don’t have to think about it, you’re just doing it.” According to Duckworth, “gritty” people experience more flow. Follow-through. A tendency not to abandon tasks in the face of obstacles. Perseverance, tenacity, doggedness. I need to get some grit, and by that I do not mean the stuff in the bag that I just scooped into the dish for the chickens, another made-up task I performed (in the dark!) to avoid working on my Important Project.
Speaking of which, I really need to settle down and start working on it. It’s time.
Well, maybe not. It’s finally starting to get light out. I think the box hedge needs trimming. Anyone want to help?