The phrase “bane of my existence” probably gets used too broadly a lot of times, and definitely so by me, but there is something which is truly the bane of my existence: procrastination.
Not that I have any idea what a “bane” exactly is, but I’m pretty sure it’s a bad thing. It always sounded bad to me. So: procrastination is the bad thing of my existence. (Sounds lame, right? Now you know why they say “bane”.)
The funny thing about solving procrastination is that in many ways it’s super-simple—much like quitting smoking. The only thing you need to do to quit smoking is to not smoke. (So technically, you don’t have to do anything at all, really.) It’s an extremely simple problem to solve, when considered merely on the task level.
The solution to procrastination is just as easy and obvious: The only thing you need to do to stop procrastinating is to do the things you haven’t been doing.
So that settles that. Hope that helps you out. Just, you know, do those things! Good luck to all you terminal procrastinators out there. End of column.
But hang on…even though I just solved procrastination (and tobacco addiction) for everyone in the world, it does make you wonder, doesn’t it? Procrastination, I mean. Since it’s so easy to resolve, why does anyone do it?
I can’t speak for all procrastinators, but in my case, the answer that comes to mind sounds almost too strange to be possible: self-sabotage. It sounds crazy, but how else can you explain why I would be “studying” the first season of Psych for the third time—OK fine, the fourth time—while still bemoaning my own unwritten screenplays and my massive mind map of undone tasks? Logic struggles to explain such a thing, but self-sabotage provides a pretty solid explanation…except for the fact that it makes no sense.
How could someone sabotage himself? It seems automatically counter-intuitive: you sabotage something (or someone) if you want it (or them) to fail. But generally, doesn’t one do that so that they themselves can win? Meaning: you sabotage the other guy, the other team, the other team’s project. That’s the whole point of sabotage, isn’t it? To screw things up for someone else?
As is the case with many things, I’ve learned most of what I know about sabotage from TV and movies. (Most recently, from the first season of Psych.) And on TV, Person A sabotages Person B because Person A hates Person B and wants them to fail, generally.
But I can’t be Person A and Person B in that scenario. That’s crazy! How could I want myself to fail, when I have all these things I want to succeed at? And for God’s sake, how could I hate myself? I’m awesome! I mean, I talk about how awesome I am in this column plenty—so we all know it’s true. Why else would I go around telling others how great I am all the time, if I didn’t really believe it?
Don’t answer that. And don’t worry—the answers to these questions and more are getting probed regularly by me (and dozens of therapists from movies and television) in my mind as I walk with my dogs every day. And we’re getting there, slowly but surely.
There is one answer that seems to come up frequently to explain my own self-sabotage, but unfortunately it sounds even more bizarre and inexplicable: fear of success.
Say what? Fear of failure, sure. But fear of success? That seems like a contradiction in terms. It sounds even nuttier if you replace “success” with synonymous phrases: Fear of things going really great. Fear of getting what you want. Fear of completing your to-do list. Also known as: Crazy. Crazy. And crazy.
Suddenly the solution to procrastination seems a little less simple. And our 50 minutes is just about up, so we’ll have to wait until later sessions to follow up on a lot of this. But I did discover something useful in this little journey, and if you’re a procrastinator, or a self-saboteur, maybe my tiny insight can transfer into something useful for you too.
See, here’s the thing: I never have to put watching my favorite TV shows on my to-do list. I follow several current shows, and when they are in the on-season, I watch them loyally, and in a timely fashion. I always have, going all the way back to M*A*S*H and Diff’rent Strokes.
Hmm. I know that doesn’t necessarily sound like a strength, but the more I think about it, the more I realize how strong my “to-do” muscles are when applied to my shows. I always get those tasks done, and almost always on time. (And often repeatedly…I’m looking at you, Psych.) And with nary a note jotted down, nor a desk calendar consulted.
There must be a lesson there, and perhaps even a solution.
What solution, you ask? Will Captain Awesome find a way to use his twisted powers to break the chains of procrastination in time? Will he escape the Fear of Success dungeon, and save the day from the evil villain Self-Sabotage?
Tune in next column to find out! Same bat-time, same bat-channel!
(And no, the solution is not to stop watching TV. Nice try though!)