Nestled comfortably on the back of our couch are my two good friends – Instant Gratification Monkey and Panic Monster. A couple years ago, these two stuffed friends came to live with me on Christmas morning. Not long before, Eric and I discovered an amazing TED Talk on procrastination. Eric is the information vacuum around our house. He enjoys taking in piles of data and I am typically happy with a brief summary. In this case, however, I devoured this fourteen-minute video again and again. It was like Tim Urban looked into my soul before he wrote his speech.
If you struggle with procrastination or know someone who does, please take the time to watch Tim Urban’s TED Talk: Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator. You will not be sorry. I promise!
A Joy-Sucking Weakness
Procrastination is my unwanted, stinky, aggravating “friend” who does not take social cues. Ever since I was tasked with my first “big” project in the fourth grade, he has been by my side. He “helped” me write my first (horrible) term paper in the seventh grade. He distracted me from unpleasant tasks until they piled up and overwhelmed me. He even kept me in unhealthy relationships. And, even though my love-hate relationship with Procrastination bothered me in my childhood, he practically destroyed me in my marriage.
Although I never went a day without Procrastination sitting on my chest, school had a way of pulling me in and holding me accountable. Grades mattered to me (and my mom), so I did my best to get assignments in on time. Now, I wish I could tell you I worked systematically until I finished a project, but that was seldom the case. Not only was I a world class crammer, but I was a turbo paper writer. For years, Eric and I hunkered down in our office – he on his computer and me on mine – pumping out term papers which were due at midnight. Every single time I received a new assignment, I thought, “I want this paper to be different. I want to work a little at a time and complete it early instead of cranking it out at the end.” And, every time (with few exceptions) I failed. Procrastination held me down until the last possible minute, enticing me with TV, snacks, and other random amusements.
Okay, Procrastination. You Can Leave Now.
Then came my final graduation. Finally, after twenty-two years of consistent schooling, I. Was. Done. No more papers, presentations, or tests. Procrastination could take a break! Somehow, I made it through even with him hanging around.
A year after finishing my Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy, Eric and I decided I would leave my full-time job and come home to work on PreEngaged. At first, everything was okay. Our puppy, Ramsey, had just come to live with us, so I spent a lot of time training and tending to her. We started the blog, and for a while, that was enough – until it wasn’t.
In no time, Ramsey was trained, and I settled into a lifestyle pattern of intense, mind-numbing, almost unbelievable procrastination. He was still here! Not only did Procrastination not move out when I graduated, he went on a binge and gained fifty pounds. He was no longer small and annoying. He was large and overpowering. Every day he sang me to sleep and each night I felt guilty and worthless.
Weeks turned into months and months turned into years. Procrastination took over my life. Eric became frustrated and angry. Not only did I procrastinate on work, but I put off cooking, cleaning, meal planning, and shopping. Depression crept in and lies such as “You are not worth the clothes on your back” and “Eric would be so much happier with someone more productive than you” swirled around in my head. Instead of motivating me to work harder, the lies weighed me down all the more.
Time after time, Eric confronted me about my work ethic. Sometimes, he approached me gently with questions. Other times, he asked me “what did you do today?” with a hint of aggravation in his voice. Then, there were moments when the full might of his angst came pouring from his mouth. Each time I wanted to promise change. I wanted to mean it. I did not (do not) like living as a slave to amusement.
Oh Tim, You Get It!
Then, I found Tim Urban’s TED Talk. What a validating ah ha moment that was for me. Yes, I am not alone. I am not the only one who struggles. What his speech illuminated for me was my desperate need for deadlines. Along with deadlines, my personality needs guidance. Oh, how I wish I were a natural self-starter, but I am not. It is often fear of humiliation, fear of complete failure, or fear of conflict which motivates me to work on unpleasant tasks. School offered me those deadlines. Working from home on my own business did not give me the same kind of accountability school and a job (with a boss) afforded me. So much became clear.
I wish I could say my behavior immediately shifted after watching Tim’s lecture. Habits do not die that easily. They require serious attention. Eric bought me an Instant Gratification Monkey and Panic Monster because he knew I loved the TED Talk, but occasionally I go get Panic Monster and place him in front of me as a visual representation that I need to get my work done!
It is Okay to Ask for Help
Procrastination still lives here, but he is on a diet. He does not pin me down anymore. Slowly but surely, I have been making strides to fill the boxes with worthwhile endeavors. I know now that I must have deadlines. Someone needs to be affected by my decisions. I need accountability and someone to (gently) keep me on track. Some people need a push and there is no shame in asking for it.
If you have not already, I urge you to watch the video above. If you love it like I did, you can purchase your own Instant Gratification Monkey and Panic Monster! Please do not allow years of procrastination to lull you into depression and shame. Discover what you need to break through (e.g., daily check-ins, affirming words, deadlines, partnership, etc.) and be willing to ask for help.
It might just save your marriage one day!
On a scale from 1-10, how much do you and your significant other struggle with procrastination?