I Hate Myself

Photograph by Andrew Neel

Okay, calm down. It’s not because I have body image issues or low self-esteem or have been permanently scarred by a deep, unsurmountable trauma from my past or anything else you should be worried about.

The problem is that I truly cannot remember what it feels like to come home one day, sit at your desk, and just work. Just do your work without procrastinating for 5,000 hours first and then go to bed and feel proud about it.

Imagine having the kind of life where you say, “I’m going to start my essay tomorrow,” and you actually know for sure that you are going to start your essay tomorrow. Because when I say that, it doesn’t really mean anything.

This is a problem present in the lives of every single student that I know, and it’s really fucked up. Listen — why is it that when we break a promise to a friend, we realize it’s a really shitty thing to do, but when we break a promise to ourselves, it’s fine? Why should it be any different? Someone is still getting screwed over. Your actions still have consequences.

Breaking a commitment to yourself is exactly the same as breaking a commitment to someone else. Or maybe even a little bit worse.

How are you supposed to function in life if you can’t even cooperate with yourself? If anything, I should at least be able to count on the fact that I will do what I say. I can’t control anyone else’s actions; I can’t count on anyone else — all I have is myself — this god damn body and identity that I’ve been given.

Why do people procrastinate?

I think “because they’re lazy” is, well, a rather lazy answer.

There’s two main things that cause you to procrastinate, and they’re two sides of the same coin.

First, in the words of psychologist Neil Fore, procrastination is deeply tied to anxiety. If for whatever reason a task gives you anxiety to complete — you don’t know how to do it, you think it has to be perfect, it feels like a big commitment, etc. — you will avoid doing it.

Or second, it could be because we’re addicted to chasing highs: the highs of junk food, scrolling through Facebook, talking to someone we like, watching a series — and we can’t just give it up for enough time to complete a task.

Either you are avoiding the assignment and therefore search for distractions or are engrossed by a distraction and therefore neglect the assignment.

How do we f*%king stop?

Listen — we’ve all tried having willpower. It’s been most of our strategies up until now. But honestly, willpower kind of relies on how you feel that day and thus is the most unreliable thing you could possibly decide to depend on.

Assignments actually get done when they have to get done, often at the last possible minute — because there is a deadline, someone is going to check our work, someone is going to look at it or give us feedback. And it just needs to be done at that point.

In other words, you get stuff done when you are going to be held accountable.

Therefore, the only way to get something done is to set up an accountability system. It is extremely difficult to set up an accountability system for yourself because if you are in control, then there’s no guarantee that you’ll hold yourself accountable. We have the power to let it slide. And if we ask someone else to set up an accountability system for us, chances are we can get them to let it slide. So unless you’re more creative than me and manage to come up with an unbeatable system, that’s never gonna happen.

The other way would be to address the avoidance or negligence — try to be less addicted to the distraction or less anxious about the assignment. And the way to do that varies on a case-by-case basis. Installing a distraction-blocking app, breaking up the task into manageable bits, etc. All the traditional productivity advice that you hear and only end up doing once or twice but drop before it ever becomes a habit. The success of those strategies depend on your development of productive habits. And since I haven’t read The Power of Habit, I don’t know how to do that either.

So it’s either a system or a habit. Neither of which I have. Neither of which you probably have, either. And neither of which I know how to form. But I’m gonna get there, eventually.

Just let me read one more article.

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