Jan 01

End Procrastination: You Won’t Regret It Later

Maybe one of your New Year’s goals is to end procrastination. Or maybe you have other goals—that maybe will get done someday but definitely not now.

How does one actually end the problem of procrastinating?

A recent post by psychologist Timothy A. Pychyl on his procrastination-themed blog Don’t Delay addresses the response writer Caitlin Moran once gave when asked how she accomplishes so much. Her answer: “Caffeine, alcohol, and fear.” Pychyl: “Although we might all recognize and find amusement in Caitlin’s response…it’s not a recipe for health or well-being if it’s the only route to success. The long-term costs, or the potential costs (because predicting the future is not an exact science), are too high.”

One of the top-rated books in recent years on how to end procrastination is Pychyl’s The Procrastinator’s Digest: A Concise Guide to Solving the Procrastination Puzzle (2010). How does he say we can change our tendency to put things off til an indefinite later? Start with self-awareness; use Pychyl’s test, taken from one of his posts:

The next time you put off a task until tomorrow, telling yourself tomorrow (later) is better, then simply note the next day whether you now believe that tomorrow is better.  Chances are, it’s not. If anything you may feel more guilt and pressure related to the task at hand and yet not have any more motivation to do the task.

So, now that you’re self-aware, what?

One of my favorite quotes is David Campbell’s “Discipline is remembering what you want.” When you remember what you truly want, the doing will follow.

If you’re feeling up for all that motivation-seeking and follow-up, that is.

Oliver Burkeman points out in one of his weekly “This Column Will Change Your Life” articles that most ending-procrastination advisors put less emphasis on the doing part and more on the “how to feel in the mood for getting things done.”

Even in the depths of serious depression, as the author Julie Fast notes, being ‘unable to get out of bed’ in the morning really means, to get technical about it, being unable to feel like getting out of bed…

What if you’re unable to feel like doing whatever it is you think you want to do? And what if that’s your pattern in general? And you’re so terrible at feeling like doing things, actually, that you’re beyond help? Burkeman quotes Shoma Morita, the late Japanese therapist, who basically advises…stop the excuses and self-name-calling already:

‘Give up on yourself. Begin taking action now, while being neurotic or imperfect, or a procrastinator, or unhealthy, or lazy, or any other label by which you inaccurately describe yourself. Go ahead and be the best imperfect person you can be and get started on those things you want to accomplish before you die.’

Let me know how this works out.

Aug 24

Food Addiction and Other “Woman” Issues: Caitlin Moran

Award-winning British author Caitlin Moran writes about the stigma attached to women with food addiction in an excellent recent essay called “I Know Why the Fat Lady SingsWhen she visits a female friend participating in an intensive addictions recovery program, Moran learns something and then makes an interesting observation:

As my friend told me, sitting on the end of her bed chain-smoking, an institution full of emotionally troubled substance abusers turns out to be no fun at all.

‘There’s a pecking order,’ she sighed, shredding her cuticles with her opposing thumbnail. ‘The heroin addicts look down on the coke addicts. The coke addicts look down on the alcoholics. And everyone thinks the people with eating disorders—fat or thin—are scum.’

And there’s your pecking order of unhappiness, in a nutshell. Of all the overwhelming compulsions you can be ruined by, all of them have some potential for some perverted, self-destructive fascination—except eating…

Specifically, overeating and/or food addiction is neither sexy nor crazily dramatic. It actually looks kind of functional, ordinary. Caitlin Moran delves deeper into how moms, for example, can have their food-as-a-drug and have a life too:

…(B)y choosing food as your drug—sugar highs, or the deep, soporific calm of carbs—you can still make the packed lunches, do the school run, look after the baby, stop in on your parents and then stay up all night with an ill 5-year-old—something that is not an option if you’re regularly climbing into the cupboard under the stairs and knocking back quarts of scotch.

Overeating is the addiction of choice of ‘carers,’ and that’s why it’s come to be regarded as the lowest-ranking of all the addictions. It’s a way of screwing yourself up while still remaining fully functional, because you have to. Fat people aren’t indulging in the ‘luxury’ of their addiction, making them useless, chaotic or a burden. Instead, they are slowly self-destructing in a way that doesn’t inconvenience anyone. And that is why it’s so often a woman’s addiction of choice.

I sometimes wonder if the only way we’ll ever get around to properly considering overeating is if it does come to take on the same perverse, rock ‘n’ roll cool of other addictions. Perhaps it’s time for women to finally stop being secretive about their vices and instead start treating them like all other addicts treat their habits. Coming into the office looking frazzled, sighing, ‘Man, I was on the pot roast last night like you wouldn’t believe. I had, like, POTATOES in my EYEBROWS by 10 p.m.’

Caitlin Moran also happens to be the author of the new-ish book How to Be a Woman, which covers feminist topics in addition to food addictionHolloway McCandless, Shelf Awareness, compares it favorably to other recently popular books by female authors: “As funny and careerist as Tina Fey’s Bossypants, as divulging as Ayelet Waldman’s Bad Mother and as earthy as Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.”

Visit her website for more info.