This past January, like in so many past years, I told myself, “This year, I’m gonna do it. I’m going to file my tax return in February. March at the latest.” And yet, here I am–again–in the middle of April, at the last minute, thinking about when I’m going to start working on it. I could be starting it right now, but I decided to wait, justifying it with messages to myself like, “The forms and papers I need are in the bedroom where Karin’s still trying to sleep. I’ll get my paperwork together after she’s up.” Only I know that we have plans today…
So begins the cycle of anxiety.
I think about the fact that we have plans today, which gives me a rush of sick feelings in my gut. I notice my fingers staring to flick, and I let out a big sigh. My mind immediately tries to go somewhere else; a sure sign of avoidance. It’s a sort of “fight or flight” response. Either push through the discomfort of this time-pressure situation I’ve placed myself in, or escape in my head by distracting myself with something else. I know it would be better (and I’d feel much better) if I pushed though it, but before I’ve even had a micro-second to think about that as a viable option, I’ve already fled. Off to thoughts of Facebook and blogging. I notice my nails could use a trim. Or maybe I’ll read that book for the upcoming staff retreat at work… Nah, I’m sure I’ll put that off until the night before, too. Blah.
I know why I do it. In February, I feel like I have lots and lots of time, so why bother with it right now? In March, it starts to come more into view, but it’s still very easy to find other, less uncomfortable things to do. By the time April rolls around, I’m starting to feel the pressure, but the immediate yet temporary relief of anxiety I get from escaping is too gratifying to look past it.
I know what effect it will have on me. Today I’m going to feel sick to my stomach, my leg will bounce, my fingers will flick, I’ll sigh a lot and I’ll probably be testy and/or depressed.
I know, I know, I know.
Yet, somehow, I also know that it will get done. This is a procrastinator’s worst enabler: accomplishment. If I’d had enough failures under pressure, I’d start to get the message that procrastinating is not OK. But I haven’t had that. Generally, things work out for me. I do have a bit of an issue with how well I focus, and while I’ve learned to cope with it with tricks, mindfulness, meditation and self-medication (caffeine), it most definitely improves when a deadline is at hand. But only when it’s immediately at hand. Any earlier than that and it just induces anxiety.
So I’ll make a list over another cup of coffee because getting it out of my head and onto paper helps. I’ll take lots of deep breaths. I’ll be aware of my feelings and mental escape tactics. And I’ll file my tax return.
Or maybe I’ll call H&R Block.
Are you a “procrasturbator,” as my little sister so affectionately refers to me? Does any of this ring true with you? What tactics to you use to get things done? Comments are always welcome! Please join me on Facebook. 🙂