I’ve finished putting up a trellis by the front door so that the jasmine can wind its way up and go some very moderate distance towards soothing the wisteria envy I have for the house on the corner.
The fact that the trellis is slightly wonky I take as karma for doing a bit of sub-standard DIY when I have actually marked out a couple of days specifically to get my accounts finished and submitted to the Inland Revenue.
So far this week, I have erected some trellis, been to the DIY store twice for materials to erect the trellis, bought some new clothes that I may have needed but probably didn’t, and gone on at least four very long and glorious dog walks.
The file on my computer containing the accounts is, as yet, unopened.
Procrastination is such an odd beast often affecting, as it does, tasks that are either a. Reasonably enjoyable or, b. Quite simple and quick.
I am ashamed to say that in years gone by I have often incurred increased fines for an inexplicable inability to make timely payments.
My accounts are not quick or simple, but they are reasonably enjoyable as I can listen to music while I go through them and culminating as they do in a sense of immense accomplishment.
“I wonder if I avoid doing them because completion means having to pay a lot of money to my accountant and a lot of money to the Inland Revenue,” I say to my daughter as we drive home from the fifth very long and enjoyable dog walk.
“Just do your accounts,” she says.
At home, I make tea and sit at my desk.
I make a list of all the reasons I could be avoiding doing my accounts, and then a further list of the reasons I procrastinate generally.
– It will cost me money once they are completed
– I worry I’ll have missed some significant income or outgoing
– It takes a long time and I get bored
– My accountant will ask me questions I can’t answer
– Once I submit them I have no way of changing my submission
– I’m a bit lazy
– I find it hard to start things I can’t finish in one go
– I’m afraid of failing
– I’m afraid of succeeding and having to maintain a standard
– I’m not as good as I want to be at dealing with negative emotion
This last one is a worry but I know it must be true because procrastination is essentially self-harming and we self-harm when we want to avoid something or can’t find another way of letting it out.
My friend Martin, when he was an active alcoholic, used to drink a litre of vodka a day so he didn’t have to think about his feelings. I apparently avoid totalling up the money I’ve spent on web hosting and email management software.
In the past decade, I have written enough material for about five books but I fall short of actually creating one from the anxiety which results from worrying nobody will be interested in reading it, and the fear of rejection that will come from people reading it and telling me it’s terrible.
As a therapist, I realise that both the anxiety and the fear of rejection are worsened by my willingness to avoid facing them.
I steel myself and go through the ways I’d work with a client troubled by procrastination.
Identify the feelings I’m trying to avoid with curiosity and lack of judgement, wondering where they come from and what they’re telling me.
Consider what the next action might be if I were to begin the task I’m putting off without forcing myself to do it.
Agree with myself that I don’t have to do my accounts but, until I am willing to make a start, I cannot do anything else either.
All this makes me feel surprisingly lighter and much more positive about getting on with the task.
I start up my computer and write a piece about what it’s like to procrastinate when you really ought to be doing your accounts.