The mind of a procrastinator

Issue 32 - weekend newsletter

Earlier last week I spoke to a dear friend. He is in his 30’s and the first thing he told me da these days I am spending a lot of time with myself. He has been practicing mindfulness for a while now but the pandemic has given him a great opportunity to look into himself. 

I felt nice and kind of envious with him (in a good way). At 30, I was confused and I had no clue what I was doing in the IT firm. I was a Business Analyst dwarfed into a tester. My big mouth was the reason. Those days I was nicknamed as the angry young man. Anyways I never learned the art of pleasing people.

During our long conversation about life, relationship, work, and fuckups. He mentioned that he has been struggling with procrastination. Things that he isn’t interested such as doing the dishes. “Things that I love doing I am deeply engrossed but the things that I am not interested are put on hold.” However, he has found a hack to do his mundane activities. He calls his friends or people while doing his dishes. 

Even Bill Gates washes the dishes every night. He says he enjoys it - that it helps him relax and clear his mind, and that he tries to do it a little better each day, following as established order or set of rules he’s made for himself: plates first, forks second and so on. “It’s one of his daily moments of microflow,” according to the book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.

I do the dishes in the afternoon. Somedays I do right after everyone has done with their lunch or in the evening. The delay is because I am lazy. I don’t find it interesting but I make sure that I am present at that moment. I don’t listen to music or do anything. Sometimes it is okay to not love things, but rather face it and be normal.

But why do we procrastinate?

Every day my cupboard will ask me when will the day come when you arrange your clothes. “Today I am not okay, can we do tomorrow.” Besides I was comfortable finding my stuff in the mix. Until yesterday when I saw my father organizing the cupboard while I was out for my run. Obviously, I told him to finish whatever he is doing and I will do the rest. The cupboard was smiling and I left with guilt.

Think again it isn’t about time management, it is about moods. “We procrastinate because of bad moods.”

“Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem,” said Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa.

In a 2013 study, Dr. Pychyl and Dr. Sirois found that procrastination can be understood as “the primacy of short-term mood repair … over the longer-term pursuit of intended actions.” Put simply, procrastination is about being more focused on “the immediate urgency of managing negative moods” than getting on with the task, Dr. Sirois said.

If there is a world championship in procrastination then I am going be the winner. One of my classic cases of procrastination lies with a thing I really loved or I still do. I love Royal Enfield. As a kid, I grew up listening to the sound of an Enfield. When I started earning money I had a clear goal I will only buy a Royal Enfield. After a waiting period of 8 months, I finally bought a 500cc Classic in 2010. But I got a permanent license after 8 years. 

Why did I take 8 years? Because it was never on my priority list. I kept on delaying, sometimes I went but I would mess it up at the last moment. Finally, I got it done in Bangalore because the traffic regulations are strict and I also had a permanent address for the first time in my life.

I procrastinate because either the task is not on my priority list or I have this superpower inside my brain that convinces me to have fun now and we will do late nights and work it out. The mind is a monkey. Tim Urban does a candid and hilarious dissection of a procrastinator’s mind.

The problem - not everything can be managed at the last minute. Especially with human relationships. My art of procrastination has resulted in numerous fuck ups in life. Because I was too busy or insanely mad behind things I love. So the things that I don’t love were pushed back. Eventually, it just exploded. Leading to the reasons for my failures in my marriage and relationships.

Have I found the solution to procrastination? No. I still procrastinate lot of things. But the realization is quick. You can keep reading books or articles like this one on how to stop procrastinating but the answer is simple:

You do it NOW or you do it the next day or someday.

Earlier this week I shared three stories, here is a quick recap. Read when you have time.

I have a special love for a website. In a recent podcast Ramy Nagy, Madeo's CEO, and Creative Director said, “Your website is not a project but it is a program.” I wrote about what it means and basic things to keep in mind if a nonprofit is considering a website redesign.

The donation page is a strong element in a website. I am impressed by how Wikipedia has designed its donation page and the campaign message. In my next story, I share my thoughts on Wikipedia’s ongoing donation campaign in India. 

My last story of the week is about the girls from the Hear Her Voice Project. Battling the pandemic, these young girls have turned the cameras on themselves to create weekly digital diaries answering co-created questions that are submitted via mobile phones through the TEGA app.

“A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell on the future,” Albert Einstein said.

Peace be with you.