Tag Archives: frustration loop

Procrastinate to Think

A check of my Timex sports watch, 13:00. I shrug, no problem.  I hurry out the door for a Monday afternoon jog.  After a productive morning of writing, I deserve a break and some fresh air.  The other work can wait.

I run half way around the lake path, walk the rest, and make it home in under 45 minutes.  Maybe a quick protein shake, then back to the writing?  On a second thought, maybe a shower first.  With damp skin, I could catch a chill.  But before that shower, a speedy check of the email.  A quick pop-in just in case, I don’t know, someone needs me immediately.  Not sure who the hell that would be, but too late.

One check of an email leads to the click of a link, another, and then a Google search about creative entrepreneur teens who are changing the face of feminism. Maybe a YouTube search to find out what the music and TED talks are all about.  A Timex check, 15:00 already. I should eat a substantial lunch if I hope to get through the mental obstacles of revising my manuscript.

Bread warming in the toaster; ham slices, tomato and relish at the ready. The sandwich made, I grab a book and read while I eat.  Only crumbs left, I read some more and enjoy the warmth of our sunny patio. Then, okay, 16:00; is that the time?  Wasn’t I supposed to work on something this afternoon?

I pull up the document.  I sigh.  A disjointed mess of words hang on the screen.  The usual awaits: sorting, revising, massaging, re-typing, finding a rare jewel hidden in the crud.  Eyes drooping; maybe a revitalizing cat nap?  No, too late in the day.  What about that full sink, there in the kitchen, disgusting and screaming out to me? No, it’s hubby’s turn to wash; don’t give in.  But the dog needs to go out a little early this evening.  Don’t even think about it.  I could stare at the screen; think of the thousand things to do other than write this essay; this essay about procrastination.

A friend joked that I would probably put this one off.  My laugh flowed easy when she said it, but inside I knew.  It would be like every other essay, every other project.  That first hurdle; not necessarily of focusing, but convincing myself to start, and start immediately, before anything else popped into my frontal lobe and offered an excuse to delay.

No, sit back down, you don’t need to find some damn gum. Just chew on your tongue.

*********

To procrastinate is not exactly a positive choice in our culture.  Beyond the simple definition, there are the social stigmas: procrastination equals lazy and lack of will power, or leads to the plague of never getting anything done. Self-help guides line bookstore and virtual shelves to assist with this near mental disorder.  Sciences study indicators and motivations, hoping to figure out the almighty weapon to fight off procrastination so it never returns.  Are we in the battle of our lives, to conquer and defeat the fire-breathing monster known as ProKrastin Ate?  I admit, I intentionally delay certain tasks that linger on the top of my priority list.  But sometimes I am only taking a pause to think.

From my experience, the first stage of procrastination involves a fear and apprehension welling up from my belly’s pit.  In response, stress throws up a mental roadblock that always offers a convincing detour sign.  The messy-house-that-must-be-cleaned is my classic form of procrastination.  If my home is unkempt, the universe will of course disintegrate back to a tiny particle of dust.

My inspired muse works overtime to generate more creative procrastination techniques, expertly veiled behind cloaks of both necessity and temptation.  While juggling multiple assignments, the easy one becomes the focused center; the intentional distraction to divert any attention given to the one that’s due.  I also prefer busy work in the name of procrastination.  Although I do not budge an inch on the targeted task, I accomplish lots of other stuff like paying bills, creating a new household budget, organizing notes and files, even completing a few cryptograms from a puzzle book.  And then there are the obvious offenders: eating sandwiches, checking my arms for odd shaped moles, sorting through junk mail coupons, taking pictures of my sleeping puppy dog, biting my nails, daydreaming of the nearby construction site and the creative ways I could dismantle or mangle the excessively loud equipment.

My fail-safe method of procrastination is time travel.  Jumping forward, out of the present moment, and making to-do lists; creating new schedules that I implore myself to follow this time.  Just turn off the brain and follow the damn list.

I think the Puritan work ethic is engrained in our culture’s psyche.  You must be hard at work to be a good person because while the boss is away the mice will screw off and idle hands are the devil’s something or other.  I read an article published recently, “5 Tricks to Teach Kids to Avoid Procrastination.”  The article advised to prioritize work before play, to keep a to-do notebook and to get organized.  The subject in the article was a child who had entered the first grade.  Yowzah.  What is that, 7 years old?  I thought I was stressed out in grade school when I had to use my stuffed animals as dates for my Barbie dolls because I didn’t have Ken.  I never knew this stress was a projection of how I felt about putting off other more important shit.  Seriously, someone should have let me know about the other more important shit.

It’s all about results. I was raised to produce, to accomplish.  When I got into school, homework was on, then band practice and tennis practice, then some more homework, nightly assignments, monthly tests, quarterly projects and exams.  After public school came college.  Time management was the necessity; procrastination meant cramming, all nighters, gut-rot from too much coffee and NoDoz. How did I manage without the current prescription Adderral focus-me drugs?

Maybe we credit procrastination too often as the culprit, the something to blame. “Oh, I’m just procrastinating,” I tell myself with a dismissive wave.  But what is the delayed activity and why am I dragging my feet?  Do I feel an intuition of bad timing, or do I hear the disgruntled integrity alarm?  Maybe it’s plain ole fear and I need to gulp a breath before leaping into possible failure, or possible pain (I’m thinking of the dentist appointment that I have to make). Procrastination could be the red flag snapping in the storm, a signal to take a moment more of thought and consideration.

Wait, that’s right, no time. Multitasking is the desired momentum in this day and age, with everything geared toward doing more in less time.  Procrastination could be the rebellion, to escape a social conditioning that runs our humanity dead tired into the ground.

To me, procrastination is a symptom of our productivity obsession; a sign that the overstimulated, multitasking wires are fritzing on overload.  If I am not busy and producing, the social control kicks in and I feel horribly guilty.  I must not be managing my time, or, oh-no, procrastinating.

If the social stigma evaporated and we didn’t beat ourselves up for delaying an action on some things, we could be a more relaxed culture. That’s a scary unknown.

Just because I create a to-do list doesn’t mean I actually have to do anything from it.

© M.R.Collier, A Way of Your Own, 2015

My First Steps

The new calendar year begins.  A prime time to think about life, direction and perspective; to reflect on past thoughts and seek out new lines of reasoning. So, on a rainy fog-filled morning, with coffee cup in hand, I strained my eyes thoroughly, browsing through the multitude of headline stories presented by online media outlets.  At the start, I searched for inspiration among the black and white lines of text.  Then, as my posture slunk further to a form that asks “are humans really supposed to sit for hours this way?,” I realized that inspiration was the distant star of emotions triggered by my perusing.  Frustrated, disconnected, fearful, sympathetic, enraged and ultimately betrayed – those were the emotions and reactions ranking near the top of the list.

From death and destruction caused by suicide bombers, to people complaining about the requirements for the Nobel Peace Prize, to a child plagued by unstoppable weight gain due to a surgery side-effect, to a list regarding the ‘11 Dumbest Things Said By Media About Women In 2013.’ These were just a smattering of story lines; each snagged my attention and triggered a distinct emotional response.

Actually, because of my responses to those stories, I am reminded of my earlier blog post (“Frustration Loop” published October 2, 2013) when I mentioned briefly a method of thinking, described as reaching outside of one’s self as an immediate response to anything encountered.  I then continued by asking if perhaps there is another first step, which would include “reaching in.”

To develop and apply the concepts of thinking methods, I wanted to break down how I normally think, which I will describe as “looking outward” and then try a different perspective or method of thinking, that I will describe as “looking inward.”

So, what is that first step in the method of thinking timeline (either outward or inward), before any emotion, or any action may be triggered?  Is that initial step so natural and engrained that it pushes my train of thought down a well entrenched path without me even thinking about it?  I think so, or else that’s just my excuse for procrastinating with this blog post and staring at a blank screen.

Okay, down to business then.  In order for this to make sense to me, I need these concepts (looking outward/looking inward as methods of thinking) in a useable everyday format.  Let me work with a concrete example.  I’ll take a media story that I just saw online and process the experience in both methods and try to note the timeline and details of both.   Here goes….

I  just saw a story streaming on the Today show about a teen bullied because of her looks and deciding to get plastic surgery.  She got a nose job and a chin implant and feels confident enough now to go back to school and make friends, after not wanting to leave the house for a couple years.

Outward – First Steps:

*I think about the story as it is told, those involved, the circumstances, the choices, the outcome.

*I feel judgments rising, emotions gathering energy.

*I feel frustrated that this kid got plastic surgery in an attempt to affect people’s judgement of her.

*Then, the frustrated spiral continues when I ask myself, are these the values that we want our kids to live by?

*Then, there is the counter-argument in my own brain – she is empowered and can do what she wants as long as there are the resources for it.  If it raises her confidence, then great.

Ah, the loop of no clear answers and frustration, feeling a pressure to form an opinion and a convincing argument, the automatic and expectation that I should have or make a judgement.  I am left feeling slightly manipulated, drained a bit of energy, leaning toward  ‘who cares’ apathy.

Inward – First Steps:

*I listen and watch without judgement – a calm pool.

*I gather the details for the sake of knowing, observation.

*I have no opinion; I feel compassion.

*I understand the story’s perspective, but give no energy to it.

*I maintain my perspective.

*And I let the encounter go.

*I move on.

There is no analysis, comparison or pressure to form an argument. In this example, I do not think as the first step, I listen.  I am not launched onto the mind’s path of judgement, of creating an opinion.  I do not personalize the story, or take it in.  I maintain my own perspective and empathize with the characters involved in the story and observe the various facets of a society intertwined.  I feel full and deep with the warmth of heartfelt interaction.

Interesting.  So, the first few steps lead perhaps to more questions, to more “concrete example” work.  Hmm…another coffee cup in hand, another rainy fog-filled morning and the new calendar year continues….

© M.R.Collier, A Way of Your Own, 2014

the frustration loop

the government shutdown.  posturing seems to be the new term and the favorite pastime.  the political figures have their agendas, whether they verbalize them or not.   frustration surfaces in the mainstream as does the realization that a large part of our lives is so greatly impacted and controlled by the decisions of a few.

And this is where the loop begins.  Frustration felt from the lack of control.  We, the people, cannot fire the politicians for not doing their job. We do not have the authority.  We, the people, cannot demand immediate re-election of our representatives in order to voice our opinion.  We do not have the unified confidence or means.  So we wait and watch to see what the few decide.  And we stew in our boiling pot, searching for the answer, the resolution, not to the political debate necessarily, but ultimately how to relate to this lack of life control.  Nothing immediately comes to mind; so the frustration continues.  We bite our nails and shake our head, there has got to be something to do about this, to make things better.  We rack our brains amidst the waves of betrayal, unbelievability and anxiety; how to create change. Nothing again, except another bout of frustration.  And this is the loop.

I’ve had a few conversations with friends that have started out with “there has got to be another way to think about this.”  The ‘this’ has usually resolved itself into a full blown frustration loop, like frustrations with the government shutdown, or encounters with sexism, or crazy people expressing themselves with guns.  For myself, when I become stuck in a loop, I feel the energy bubbling over, with no productive direction for this building energy to be funneled; at least productive in the sense that the direction would alleviate the pressure from the cause of the frustration.   So, how to avoid the loop to begin with and put energy towards a more productive path?

I have noticed that my immediate response is usually to reach out and change or solve whatever is causing me the frustration.  I look outside of myself to effect change.  But when I encounter an issue, a concept, a culture, an event beyond my control, then the frustration loop begins.   What if the first step was something else altogether? Another method of thinking, or a different way to process information and come to solutions, resolutions or even just an understanding.  I wonder if our society is buried so deep in normal processes of thinking (stereotypes, belief in opposites, understanding through differences, one reality, blame, ‘one man to save the world’ storyline) and our culture perpetuates this current ‘how’ in thinking, that it would be extremely challenging to impact or be aware of how we develop our perspectives.

So, how do I think about the government shutdown without entering the loop?  I honestly don’t know.  But I feel like it is all about the first step.  Instead of reaching outward for the answer, maybe the first step is to reach in.