Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Angel of Procrastination

I’m a procrastinator.

There, I’ve said it – and it really did take me more than half an hour of staring at the screen to squeeze those words out.

What could be a concern is that I looked at the Wikipedia definition of the word, just after writing the above and seem to have self-diagnosed ‘an issue’ that I didn’t realise I had, but one which has been with me since I was a teenager.

I am genuinely very content in life and 2011 was my greatest year, so far, but there has been an underlying – though not overpowering or debilitating - feeling of frustration stemming from inaction in certain areas of intent, such as improving my general health and fitness, and increasing my writing productivity.

Without doubt, compared to my pre-awakening existence, I am much more productive than I have ever been, but there’s very clearly room for improvement.

I wrote that it could be a concern to realise procrastination is more than just a word (and possibly a psychological disorder), but it’s not something that worries me – it’s actually quite exciting, because now I realise I experience it, I can work to overcome it.

Until now, I’ve always delayed tackling the important tasks until the last moment; instead, being distracted by the trivial. This goes right back to when I was at senior school and I’d be scribbling my homework down on the morning bus, or in the last few minutes before the bell rang for first class, because I’d spent the previous evening tapping away on my ZX Spectrum or hanging with my friends, as the youths call it, nowadays.

It’s a common problem, apparently, with up to 95% of students experiencing it at some point, and there actually being a specific ‘branch’ of procrastination, named ‘Student Syndrome’:

“Student syndrome refers to the phenomenon that many people will start to fully apply themselves to a task just at the last possible moment before a deadline. This leads to wasting any buffers built into individual task duration estimates.”

I guess I never grew out of that student phase…

When I read that procrastination could be an indicator to underlying psychological problems, I’ve got to say it freaked me out for a few minutes, but, according to Wikipedia, the two main causal issues are depression and ADHD. I’m certainly not depressed and it took just a glance through the symptoms to reassure myself that I don’t have ADHD.

Sooo… how to combat Student Syndrome?

I guess the best way to combat this is to employ the same tactic as I do with depression, in doing exactly the opposite of what my brain used to expect me to do. Whereas I’ve banished the black dog by being (to some) irritatingly positive and full of joy, the best way to combat procrastination is to scare my mind into submission by doing things… straight away.

It’s a no-brainer to you multi-taskers, I know, but this is a delightful revelation to me.

Somewhat annoyingly, this light bulb moment came after I listened to an audio-book about angels, during which, I spent most of the time scoffing at the advice given, with the author advising that I should ask Archangel Gabriel for help if I was experiencing creative procrastination.

Now, although I have a very firm belief in things of a spiritual nature – having experienced some crazy, beyond-the-five-senses stuff in my life - I do find I get irked by suggestions from authors such as this woman that we should abdicate our self-belief out to subcontractors, rather than relying on our own power to bring about change in our lives.

I only bought the audio-book because I’m interested in learning mediumship techniques (again, I’ve had a few experiences in that area) and this title was the closest thing I could find to the subject, on iTunes. I listened to it, cynically, then followed a few instructions because I didn’t want to waste my money.

But here’s the thing… if I hadn’t listened to that book, which I downloaded by 'chance', I wouldn’t have made this self-discovery about procrastination and I wouldn’t be writing this blog right now. I’d still be in the same mind-set I had last week, hoping that my cerebral turbo would kick in some time soon – which is essentially subcontracting my self-belief out of the moment, and away from my direct control, in the now.

Humouring you (and me), here, but just say there were angels, and you could ask them for help? Would they appear in a flash of holy light, accompanied by the blare of trumpets, then magically massage my mind to make the changes I was asking for, or would it be a more subtle process of slowly revealing the path to a new way of thinking – which is exactly what actually happened?

For those of you who completely reject the possibility of the existence of angels… you may not be quite so cynical about the concept of life after death; that your loved ones live on after their mortal demise and even, on occasion, visit those they cherish, in this world, with quiet comfort and guidance. I know a few atheists who have had ‘challenging’ experience of such things.

So, bearing that in mind, is it really such a great stretch of the imagination that there could be older and wiser spiritual beings that come to us when we call for help?

To be honest, I don’t know, but this process of recognising my failure of procrastination has made me smile. I don’t believe in coincidence, and whatever happened, and whatever the source of that happening – whether it be me, an angel or the holy ghost of Elvis the King - it’s a good thing.

42 comments:

  1. Brilliant Les. I am so glad you have shared it like you said you would. I wonder who your special angel is?
    I look forward to many more blogs!
    G :-) x

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  2. Interesting. The question might well be asked — are thoughts about 'angels' diverting you away from tasks requiring supreme mental effort?

    I have always been anxious to get on with things I know need doing by a definite time — get it done, here, now, don't wait, things might crop up, etc. etc. But many things that need doing get left until later, then later until I forget about them, or it's too late. I want to write a story but it can wait — like the rest of ones I have unfinished! I need to wash my hair but since I am not going anywhere, why bother this morning? I should have done my eye routine three hours ago — dear oh dear, I had better get it done! I had better get dressed too! Well, I had to check my emails etc etc didn't I?

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  3. Good post. I can totally relate the Student Syndrome... its something I also need to work hard to overcome. As to the underlying question of angels, even the most devout would struggle to be certain of such things which is why it is called faith! Yes we should try and take control of our own lives, but in doing so we all need a little help. I have felt something similar where a path slowly reveals itself I believe that is way these things tend to work.

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  4. So happy you've "un" procrastinated yourself into writing this post. It's a good one, keep going.

    eden
    xoxox

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  5. Thank you, Georgina! I think my special angel is Archangel Pedro, the patron saint of Spanish guitar. :-) x

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  6. I think there's another lesson there, Gladys, in that even people who don't procrastinate procrastinate. I guess I shouldn't worry about it too much, nor the 'angels', and just get on with it! :-)

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  7. I guess it's just a matter of breaking out of the old mental pattern, Amy, and I'm sure we can both do it! And yeah, we all certainly do need a little help from time to time, and we all have 'angels' in our lives, in the people around us. :-)

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    1. Yes I think that's right. :-)
      The Universe sometimes has a way of putting the right people together in the right places at the right times, if we are open to such things.

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  8. It's been a while, eh, Eden? Lots of ideas flowing again, now. Hope you're feeling better, lovely lady! xoxox

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  9. Just because they are angels doesn't mean they're going to do something flashy. :) Divinity (whatever aspect you solicit for help) rarely responds in the way we think they will. Their assistance is much more subtle. They are not into theatrics, especially not to prove their existence. So most of time, we are left wondering... :)

    Either way, so glad you "saw the light"! Lol.

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  10. I don't know... I think it would be pretty cool to talk to an archangel - especially if accompanied by trumpets etc ;-)

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  11. The wink after trumpets makes me think your mind is on a different track to mind, LiR! ;-)

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  12. I've had some amazing things happen by putting trust in the Universe, Aphrodite. Always subtle, but always very compelling, when you look back. :-)

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  13. Like you, I either have to do things right away or they get done the day of. Unfortunately, I continue to have this problem where things without deadlines often don't get done. Sadly, writing novels falls under that category until someone gives me a contract. And hwo will I get a contract if I can't write without a deadline. Chicken and egg.

    Sigh.

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  14. Isn't it funny how, if you are open to it, the universe somehow channels the information you need right to you, just when you need it? I agree with you, there is no such thing as coincidence. You needed to find this answer and now you have it. And I am so happy for you. Call it a spirit guide, an angel, or just a buzzing collective consciousness, in my mind they are all the same.

    For me, I usually find myself procrastinating in my writing when I am either afraid I won't be able to write something amazing, or when I lose sight of why what I am writing is important to me. Know what usually puts me back on the right track? Listening. Listening to other writers and appreciating that sometimes the struggle is a part of the process and that not everything has to be pretty and perfect. And if I find that's not enough, I just find a quiet place and open up and wait for the answer or a bit of inspiration to come. It always does. :)

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  15. My best friend taught me to kiss the frog. Ie do the worst thing first and the rest of your day will go and feel much easier : )

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  16. A beautiful and fitting title. Maybe there is no procrastination - only divine order. Love your writing here and the ending too! Thanks:)

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  17. I never suffered from the Student Syndrome due to one deep inset emotion - fear. I struggled to maintain my B average in college and could not imagine spending as much time as I possibly could have preparing my work for class. Not being prepared would instill a horrid sense of despair in my heart. Now, pruning our huge rose garden - that I will put off to the last minute ...

    As for angels, I say this ... "I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of him." - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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  18. Hi Les,

    I have never been much of a procrastinator. I am far too anxious that if I don't get stuff done then the world is going to end. (That might come true this year, who knows?)Secondly, if I put things off it just leaves me feeling down and out of control. I guess my problems lie more with OCD and having a control freak personality. It's good for being a multi tasker though -I don't have any problems with that ;)

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  19. Maybe procrastination dissolves in the light of day. I’m into my second “resolution” project for this new year. The first took me back through last year’s blog posts where I updated the entries with the knowledge I had acquired through 2011. Along the way, I noticed that I had frequently used the word procrastination. I, also, made a comment about having ADD and depression, but stopped paying attention to both and they moved on. I suspect there is a connection between confusion and procrastination. Maybe I will try to sort that out some day. It feels like a control vs. surrender issue. Such conflicts often confuse me. I’m working on being more permissive about where I drift. Just because I have all these high minded ideas about what’s better for me, doesn’t mean I have the best perspective.

    Anyway …….. I sensed some commonality in our relationships to our grey matter. It’s not a matter of fact; just a hunch.

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  20. Isn't procrastination merely a case of constipation concerning one's mental flow?

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  21. Hehe, I think you're right there, too, Gladys. :-) x

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  22. Great blog!!
    Have you checked out http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/ ? Really interesting theory from a highly achieved academic who is also a self-proclaimed chronic procrastinator.

    Also - I am a massive procrastinator but I found help in a book called Change Anything -The new science of personal success -I really recommend ANYONE get this book, especially procrastinators. What I have found REALLY helpful thanks to the book is the studies on how your social networks & relationships can help you out. About a month ago I started sending emails to my closest relatives every night before my next working day (i'm self-employed with flexible timing so procrastination is a BIG obstacle) prioritizing the most important 7-8 tasks for the next day, in order of importance, then next day I'd wake up & do them in that order, report back in the evening with what i'd done & also do prioritizing for the next day. This mega simple task has improved my productivity three-fold. (That, and deleting my Facebook profile; unfortunately I cannot now "like" you there!!)

    lots of love, keep up the great work (i've been looking for a blog like this for a while!!!)
    liisa (liisamusic on twitter, where i found you)

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  23. Yay, another procrastinator here.
    ... and just very briefly: I saw the light!
    It's hard to wrap this experience into words and whoever does not want to believe is LOSING OUT.
    But it's his/her own decision ;)

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  24. This multi-tasker would not say it's a no-bainer. You see, I think I'm equally both a procrastinator AND a multi-tasker. Multi-tasking in several areas gives me an excuse to procrastinate in another. Also, being a muti-tasker can mean that I am able to put off many things at once! Oh, it's a vicious cycle. :)

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  25. A very interesting article indeed. I like that you were playing around on a ZX Spectrum (you don't often hear this these days)--I did that too when I was a child. That was the first computer I ever used. Procrastination in my opinion is not a disorder. I employ a kind of procrastination, where when a big project looms I need to psyche up for it, and the way I do this is to do something else, which I end up doing incredibly well (because I am supposed to be doing something else) and then when that is done, I am all fired up to tackle the big project with everything I have got. It works for me. And then I got two things done!

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  26. Nice! I often procrastinate, I can't even tell you why. I def related to this post, thanks for sharing!

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  27. Very good Les, i too am guilty and comfort myself by saying - i work best under pressure! I also multi-task but thats inevitabable as im a sungle mum with fulltime job and many hobbies! As have succeeded in pushing myself, but Not enough....and my fave word is incorrigible ! so any advice gratefully received :D good luck x
    Gill Booton

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  28. Les,

    I don't know if you've read The War of Art by Pressfield, but I'd give that a look. Thank you for all that you do.

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  29. It is Thursday, early afternoon, under cloudy skies in Toronto as I type this. Snowfall yesterday makes everything looks frosty and picture-perfect pretty, but the clouds make me want to hide under the blankets and, you guessed it, procrastinate.

    Or, as my most clever and awesome creative writing instructor, Brian Henry, prefers to call it, lying fallow.

    I can not afford to lie fallow. But here I am. Deciding to put on some funky music, pin up my hair, sport capris (enough of winter already!) and pretend the sun is shining. Must put in at least three hours of solid writing today!

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  30. WOW, I really needed to see your blog! Thank you :)

    Michelle - Trust Your Vibes

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  31. I am actually using this blog to procrastinate! It is very hard to get to your list when you work from home!! Thanks for the insights.

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  32. Nice post! I'll write a reply later.

    ;-)

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  33. My question is - what were you procrastinating from when you took the time to write this? LOL In the past, I've worked really hard procrastinating to avoid work. At my age, I can't afford to procrastinate anymore. Time is running out, but I do so love to hear about others who do so without knowing they are using up their last hours.

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  34. Haha, I too am a procrastinator.

    There was no such thing as an ADHD diagnosis when I was a kid, but I've been since then, that I have all the symptoms. Depression? Yeah, lately I think so. Hmm, I wonder why, LOL!

    Angels? Yes, I do believe in them and work with them all the time. However, I do not include those dearly departed in that category. Angels with two exceptions, have never been human. Those that have passed on are spirits and they may assist Angels, but that's it. At least, that's what I believe and have experienced first hand. Many times, I might add.

    Once again, so happy we're friends!

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  35. Hi Les, Missed this when first posted, have just 'chanced' upon it so there might be a few things I'm putting off..
    I think there's much more about procrastination than many of us can grasp. Often when I do things closer to deadlines my brain works super fast and comes up with some fantastic stuff in a very short space of time I can almost feel the inspiration 'kick in' presumably with the adrenalin rush of deadlines. If I do the same task slower, earlier, more planned, I rarely get the same 'inspiration'. I've learnt to embrace my procrastination and not feel guilty about it. I'm better when I take more on so I have the deadlines to work to. If I notice I'm procrastinating for the sake of it I'll turn the spotlight on and see what else is bothering me as there's usually a reason I'm putting something off.
    Angels, I see it a bit like writing this. I need the keyboard and computer and network cables to talk to you and get things done these days. I seek the help of angels and spirit guides for the things in my life they can help with. A problem shared and all that. I do also hope they get a bit of humour, light relief and support back from us to help them with the 'bigger picture' stuff we depend on them for.

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  36. This blog is so me right now. Great blog and one that I need. I always enjoy reading your posts. Oh..and I believe in Angels. My husband dreamed of one called Kaela and I put her into my book. I think procrastination is an important part of our mental health. It gives us a break from brain overload and offers an opportunity to separate all the "junk" floating around in our heads from the "truths". The trick is so know when to snap back.

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  37. Another interesting and insightful post Les, thank you. I have three things to add about 'student syndrome' and procrastination. First, there may be a physiological reason why some people leave things to the last minute- the adrenaline rush that comes along with being against the clock is often the thing that will push someone to throw themselves into a task. Where there is no urgency, the person finds it harder to sustain that forward motion, which leads me on to say, second, maybe procrastination is ok sometimes, it need not be something that you have to change about yourself. Think about times you've procrastinated. Was the outcome negative in any way? Is there a reason why you 'shouldn't' have sat looking at the screen for 30 mins before typing? Try expressing gratitiude to procrastination- that usually cures it! Say in your mind, 'I am so grateful that I have the blessing of time to work at my own pace.' Working with the feeling instead of against it is usually a good antidote. If you really must change that about yourself, Archangel Haniel is a good angel to ask. He is the angel of integrity, justice, motivation and 'working stuff out'. His colour is deep, burgundy red. Call on his energy, he'll sort you out! Have a great day! xx

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  38. Playing right along with your statement of the obvious: "doing things straight away" helps you deal with the problem of procrastination, I will take it a step further: There is no such thing as procrastination. There is either action now, or there is not.

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  39. I shouldn't follow Donovan on this...;) But great article, Les. I used to wait until the last minute, quite literally, to finish my university papers. I'd get off work at 2am. Sit in the common room with friends cramming and eating chocolate until 3:30 when we'd talked ourselves out. Sketch out an outline and start typing. I'd have the paper done by 6:45am if I was lucky. If not, I'd staple it on the way to university campus and if I had the angels on my side ;) I would be in my seat at 7:45am exactly with my paper on my desk to be turned in. I loved that rush. And I nearly always got A's or at worst a B. I think your neurons fire faster when the adrenaline is rushing. It's nice to think an angel was helping me write ;)

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  40. If you've ever listened to Joyce Meyer, she says the same thing basically. If you dread something, you'll put it off, so just conquer the task first, and get it out of the way.
    Remind me this at 9AM when it's time for me to get my butt in the chair and get to typing, would you?

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  41. Hmmm..perhaps you are my angel of procrastination, because I was sitting here wondering why I always wait til the last minute, and why I can't sit down to write without getting distracted by every little thing, and your tweet just popped up in front of me. Thank you! I'm getting to work now! :O)

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