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The Decision to Do Something

Date: 2013-01-10
Tags: depression procrastination decisions

The decision that something needs done and the decision to actually do what needs done are two very different decision.

Very often I find myself knowing that I need to do something, such as workout, work on a contract, work on school work, &c, but I always find it difficult to follow through with it. I always seem to do whatever is most fun or of least resistance at that time with no thought for the future.

Earlier I was moving over the (short) Chronicles of Oak Island and I remembered that summer well. It was the first non-dorm apartment I ever had and my first summer not living with my parents. I spent a lot of time at work at the PSC, but got very little actually done. Much of my time was spent tinkering with things that didn’t matter or just surfing Reddit and Slashdot. My apartment didn’t have an internet connection and I lived alone, so that should have been the perfect atmosphere to read and program, but I spent the majority of my time trying to find which corner of my house would give the best connection to an open wifi network in order to grab porn (I justified it by telling myself I was chatting with friends and getting email, which I was, but it should have never ate up nights).

As I read those posts I realized how much fun I could have had with them. I realized that I could have had at least one paper published and a much more impressive project.

Then I remembered that those types of thoughts, while constructive to have and important not to dismiss, cannot be dwelt on. I find it extraordinarily easy to beat myself up, to the point that I used to cry and curl up in bed.

When Anne and I first met I was in a good mood. I lasted that way for a few months, as I do normally did. Then I began to beat myself up and become the harbinger of doom of myself. It hurt Anne a lot to see me do that to myself, even more so because nothing she could do would help; I was determined to hate ever bit of myself and was very good at doing it.

Long story short, I eventually decided to seek help. I met with a psychiatrist who I’ve been talking to and seeing for over a year now. At first I wasn’t in a terrible mood, and it lasted that way for months. We focused on attempting to deal with a “procrastination” problem with which I was making progress. He recommended a book called ‘The Now Habit’. I realized the triggers and some of the reasons that caused me to take the easier or more enjoyable path at the expense of happiness later. After a while I had a pretty rapid decline. Compounded with my grandmother dying and the end of a contract I was nowhere near finished with coming to a close, I began to crash. He began to see what I was trying to describe to him.

He put me on an SSRI that has defiantly helped stabilize my mood. I can’t describe any better than it makes it harder to hate myself. Not spiraling towards oblivion and crying in the fetal position while laying in bed has allowed me to once again focus on not procrastinating.

Approaching this problem is more like peeling an onion, with multiple layers. The first was not acting like a vegetable whenever I became upset at myself. The next layer is to schedule more realistically. While I’ve become much better about not overbooking myself than I have been in the past, but I still have a ways to go. It’s difficult, especially when I have a billion ideas floating around in my head. I’ve never had to tell myself “no” before, but it is something I need to learn.

Those times where I do schedule my time effectively, though I then hit the next layer: doing. It’s much easier to sit and read Reddit or Hacker News than it is to clean or work on a contract, even when I’ve set aside the entire night specifically for that one thing. It comes back, again, to telling myself “no.” If it’s the best way or not, I don’t know, but I’ve started by promising to Anne certain things: I will have the kitchen clean. I will clean the living room. I will dust. That seems to work for that initial motivation, but it doesn’t seem to work if I promise her I’ll work on the contract project, and honestly, promising the client doesn’t help motivate me either.

The hurdle I face is that a task seems very imposing at first. I see all the little things that need to be done and for some reason find it difficult to just pick one and go with it and only focus on the littler task until it’s finished. If I can figure out how to do that without feeling obligated to someone, I feel that that’ll be a major breakthrough for me.

So where am I going with this. Often I know what I need to do and decide that, yes, I will do it. The problem is actually making the decision do to it. For many years, probably the better part of a decade, I just thought I was being lazy. While that might be true, it doesn’t actually help me resolve the issue. Instead of calling myself lazy, thinking about how I feel and what I think about when I go to work on something and ways to change how I think about tasks is a much better path to helping me solve them.

So far better planning has helped remove the feeling that a long-standing or -running task is consuming my life. Fighting myself to always focus on a sub-task to alleviate the anxiety I feel by seeing everything that needs done all at once, and making focusing on a sub-task a habit is what I’m currently work on.