May 202006

I have been a procrastinator since coming to Canada. This wasn’t the
case back in Saudi Arabia, because we usually weren’t given large
projects. Mostly, we had homework that we just had to do for the next
day so I didn’t get the opportunity to. Recently, I’ve spent some time
figuring out why I procrastinate and how I am trying to fix this
problem. Some of the reasons and solutions are high-level and some are
more practical.

The first reason I procrastinated is because I
overestimated my abilities. People have been telling me that I’m a
smart kid for pretty much as long as I can remember. But there are so
many poor geniuses in the world that it is ridiculous. There must be a
drive to accomplish something (or prove yourself, depending on how you
approach it) and a willingness to work hard at something you love. I
kept believing that I can just do the assignment the night before or
the last minute.

Of course, after I finished something at the
last minute, my grades rightly suffered. At that point, I kept on
believing that I was smart and that the reason I wasn’t get as good
marks as other people or as high as I wanted was because I did it at
the last minute. I started lauding myself over the marks that I did get
by doing it at the last minute, as if it reassured my own belief that I
was very intelligent. However, it was a farce and I knew that somewhere
inside of me. So, to further protect and uphold this farce, I did more
things at the last minute and was happy with my marks. I lowered my
standards and started accepting my results.

The other major
reason was a sense of perfectionism that I inherited from my family.
Telling myself that I had to this project unrealistically perfect made
it harder for me to get started because, somewhere deep inside me, I
suppose I was asking myself that if I worked hard and got crap marks,
how would I feel? So, out of the fear of hurting myself, I started to
procrastinate and lowering my standards even further. Interestingly,
the more important the project was, the more I procrastinated and the
less fun I had in doing it because I felt under pressure to do it
perfectly but at the same time afraid that if I tried my best I might

Another reasons why I procrastinated was because I had
come to associate the work I had to do with not at all fun because I
would never try to have fun while working on anything because I was
always so stressed in trying to get the project done. I can remember
quite well that the few times I did have fun working on a project, I
got great marks. Mostly in writing assignments, I suppose my writing
was just more fun and easier to read. The fact that you’re having fun
just sorta seeps into your work and other people can sense it. Or so it
seems to me. If you make it a little bit entertaining for your teacher,
you will likely get a better mark. They’re people, too.

final reason why I procrastinated was because I was told to finish the
project. It is well-documented that people don’t like to be told what
to do and I was no different. Perhaps I have an even stronger
contrarian streak because of how different I have been pretty much all
my life. In some ways, I suppose, I was afraid I would lose that if I
started working really hard like everyone else. My differences are
something I have come to celebrate because they make me unique and
interesting; I’ve rarely been bored being by myself. The other thing to
keep in mind is whether you feel you’ve made the right choice. If, for
example, you’re in a job you hate, being told to do something will be
more annoying to you than if you were in a job you enjoyed. So, make
sure you understand your reasons doing something.

The solutions,
then, would be focussed around fixing up those reasons and I have done
just that. On the highest level, I have come to realize that I must
have proof of my intelligence (or other parts of me) before I accept
it. I have learned to be more honest with myself about my abilities.
Most of all, however, I have come to realize that it isn’t how smart
you are or how great you think you are, it’s about what you produce and
what you do. There are other qualities that determine how successful
you are including honesty (with yourself and others), discipline, hard
work, perseverance and passion.

The next
reason–perfectionism–has two solutions. The high-level ones are those
of accepting that I am human, and that my marks are not a direct
reflection of my abilities. The second solution may sound a little
strange but I have simply stopped taking my marks personally. If I get
a bad mark or do badly, I don’t make excuses for it and I don’t see it
as a threat against my own sense of self-worth. This helps me to do the
work without worrying about the results or consequences as much. It
also allows me to take a few more risks, which is definitely a good
thing. In this way, I’ve also stopped fearing failure. You either
succeed, or have a learning experience. If you haven’t learned
anything, then you’re not looking hard enough. For example, I
completely and utterly bombed on stage at the comedy contest, but I
learned to take risks and that life is much more enjoyable if you do.

lower-level solution to my procrastination is also solved by the Nike
slogan and timeboxing. "Just do it!" and the variant "Do it now!" help
to snap me back into position if I’m starting to feel lazy. Changing
your attitude from, "I need to finish this perfectly" to "I want to
start this now" can also help a lot. The other thing that has worked is
by doing something for only a certain amount of time. For example, I
will tell myself I will only study for half an hour (I’ve started
studying for my CSC). I can quit after that half hour, or I can
continue it if I’ve gotten into it such as when I studied for another
half-hour. Tasks appear to be much more daunting if you think that it
will simply swallow all your time. Timeboxing is a related technique,
in which you give yourself a certain amount of time to do something. I
learned of this one from and the example he gives to
explain it is:
"As an example I use timeboxing when doing my Christmas shopping each
year. I usually allocate a total of 2 hours to the task, which for me
involves buying gifts for 8 people (my wife handles the rest). I decide
in advance what kind of gift I should get each person on my list, and
then I order as much as I can online and then head off to the local
mall, where I zoom from one store to the next picking up gifts as I go.
I also usually take advantage of my flexible schedule, doing the
shopping on a weekday morning when the stores aren’t busy and I don’t
have to wait in line. So I’m in and out with everyone’s gifts in under
two hours." – Steve Pavlina
I would suggest you read the link for a better idea of how to use timeboxing.

a couple of ways to make tasks fun or personally fulfilling. The first
is to replace "I need to…" with "I want to…" Of course, this
implies that you actually do want to and have good reasons for doing
whatever it is, so use this with caution. The second method is to make
something intrinsically interesting or fun. I like writing and from
writing this entry, I am hoping to excorsize some of my demons and get
my thoughts on the subject in order, as well as potentially help
someone if they’re reading this blog entry. It will also help you to
remember you can have a lot more guilt-free fun if you don’t have to
finish any work. Over all, everything becomes more fun. Of course, if
all else fails, you can timebox to complete something in a certain
amount of time and set a reward for yourself at the end of it.

have also started to leverage my contrarian nature for this sort of
thing. I’ve come to realize that most people (outside my group of
friends) don’t actually work very hard or want to be wildly successful,
so wishing to be is sorta odd. That, of course, fascinates me and I’m
hoping to continue to leverage that in the future.

The other
thing to keep in mind, however, is not to lower your standards (hell,
make them higher) and to keep yourself accountable for what you are

I know that this is one helluva long blog entry (might be
the longest so far) but I hope this has been interesting and will help
you to stop procrastinating, getting your work done and succeeding in
whatever you do.

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