Procrastination killed the media star (does burning out result in a supernova?)

So it’s quarter to deadline and I haven’t started working on almost any of my assignments yet. My body and mind are aching, both from this realisation and from all the exhaustion I’ve caused them for the last couple of… years, actually.

I believed that working and working and working (or at least pretending to doing so) would bring magic and happiness in my direction, and a thousand flowers would bloom. I would be appreciated, praised, and feeling great. I didn’t settle with simple and nice – I wanted big, I wanted to fight dragons and walk on burning brigdes, to feel like a true hero! I would work mindless hours in my jobs, spending the better part of my weeks and weekends in front of the computer, fighting some minor bug or rewording a sentence for the 1000th time. I don’t know if workaholism would be the word – but if you combine this with obsessive perfectionism, the result can be pretty scary.

One of the side effects of this type of behaviour is procrastination. And extending the little tasks until forever – because oh you’re working so hard, look you’ve spent last week in front of your damn computer and you’re producing only grateness!
Which, of course, is very far from true. Most of this time is spent with the mind wandering around and resisting to cooperate – because it wants its break! So instead of doing something good and then moving on to have a break, I’d spend hours and hours clicking around, doing low-priority tasks with the passion of a dead monkey – and extending them to all the hours of the day. So a simple thing like writing an email would now need 2 hours in front of the computer – should I bold or italicize this word? Should I singlespace or doublespace it? It’s just a damn email! The only thing in the internet you have no control how it will be seen by people – because every browser and every damn email client has its own understanding of how to display the results of your two hour perfectionism.

Of course, this leads to putting off the big and meaningful tasks until forever – like I did with my assignments for tomorrow. How would I start producing greatness if I have these small tasks in my way? Better clear them off first – but make it good, you’re a perfectionist! So I’d spend another couple of hours sorting out minor things, and then that would of course exhaust me like hell – so no more energy left for the big tasks. They will have to wait until tomorrow! But tomorrow is no different – it’s the same you, and you of course start doing the same things.

Another very disturbing symptom is feeling so great and able and talented and experienced – that I’d underestimate the time and effort that I’d need to put in for the big tasks. So in putting it off until the day it’s due, I’d actually have not enough time to do it well – but in the back of my mind, I’d know I have an excuse for it not being good – ‘I did it in two hours, it’s a pretty good result for a two hour task!’. Which of course makes you feel awful – the work that’s supposed to be meaningful and maybe having some kind of impact, ends up being done in the worst possible way. And the big problem is, you’ve set these high standards for yourself – both in other people’s expectations and in yours. So you end up feeling miserable, unfulfilled, unable and incompetent – which in the meantime has become not only a feeling, but a reality. Because while you’ve been procrastinating and doing mediocre work, the others have worked their way to high levels of excellence, and now are producing some incredible things! Maybe it took them more time and effort (because you still believe you have more talents and magic powers than them!) – but in focusing on this one important task, they’ve achieved much more for the time you’ve been fighting the minor problems. Now they are fighting the dragons – and doing it quite well!

And now all these thoughts find a very comfortable place in your mind. So instead of thinking about significant problems or how to have a break, your mind is now preoccupied processing these cyclic thoughts. They are destructive – you start one thought, then move on to the next one, halfway through you find some other miserable thought to keep you busy – and it is now all madness in your head! Working doesn’t help – but neither does trying to have a break – because these obsessive thoughts work best when you are half-awake. Sleep isn’t an answer either – you go to bed feeling unfulfilled and empty, and wake up rediculously early the next morning, irritated and moany. You start another dead-end day – why would you be excited? Of course you’re moany.

Bottom line: I need a break. But I can only have it after I’ve done my assignments. Which are due tomorrow. And which I haven’t even started working on. So I guess I should start now. Let’s see where this takes me.

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8 thoughts on “Procrastination killed the media star (does burning out result in a supernova?)

    • Thanks, Emma 🙂 I’m really looking forward to it! I finally know the meaning of a ‘break’. Too bad I had to learn it the hard way. On the other hand, it’s a very useful experience.

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  1. Hi Rumi,

    Incredible Rant/Definition/Lecture on procrastination. It is so nice that I’m sure it is procrastination it self 😛 Run for your break to clear up your mind. Stay far from the computer as soon as possible as long as you can. Ride your lovely bike as hell so you can be tired enough to be able to SLEEP and enjoy SLEEPING. Well, that is just what I try to do when I’m in similar situations 🙂

    Kisses & Hugs,
    Ziggy 🙂

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  2. Thank you, Ziggy! I actually spent almost all of Friday in bed, sleeping. I just didn’t have the energy for anything else. And it felt so good!

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  3. You know, before reading this, I thought that I, being a little older than you, could not be surpassed for shear mind-bending guilt and labyrinthine turns of thought. (Look at my call-name if you have doubts). But you are my peer and perhaps my superior.

    That said, if I can say what I know you are wise enough to already know, a little forgiveness goes a long way. If you always swing for the fences, and it sounds like you do, then sometimes you’re going to come up short. But I would bet that this does not happen very often.

    Thanks for the read. I hope you’ve recovered!

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    • I am in the process of dealing with this. The fist stage was acknowledging it – I did this with the post. Actually, I read a very thoughtful article on ‘structured procrastination’ (written by a university professor), and it showed me:
      1. I’m not alone,
      2. There is a way to make it work for you.

      Here is the article: http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/ (Yes, a whole website devoted to it). You can also check out ‘A Plea for the Horizontally Organized’ in More Essays – these two often go together.

      Thanks for the comment, I hope this post is helpful.

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  4. Pingback: ‘Cubiculum’–Shaking hands with my fear of failure. A lesson of how not to work on my friend’s project | Rumena Zlatkova. I live to create.

  5. Pingback: I’ve turned into a ‘feedback giving problem-solver’ to everyone but a friend to no one. | Rumena Zlatkova. I live to create.

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