Monday, August 25, 2008

Get Busy Being Busy

Why is it that when I had nothing to do at work, I would spend fifteen minutes with my mouth open, staring at the wall, dreaming about candy, or whatever the hell it is I think about, instead of paying bills, managing my calendar or returning emails? Even though any normal person would think that would be a perfect time to do such a thing, to go on writing the new book or managing the management of the old one, or even go down a floor and say hi to my old boss to let them know I didn't perish in Nicaragua, didn't even get dysentery?

Some times in life, there are no answers to questions. There is no answer appropriate to explain why I, at 26 years old, cannot do anything unless I explicitly have a prominent kick in the butt to do it. I sleep with papers on my bed because there is enough room to do so after I'm reading at night. I will drink coffee all day instead of picking up the phone to order actual food. I will write if I have a schedule and someone to answer to. Work out if there is an actual goal, not just the process of maintenance. Doing things just to do them, or because I should, even though there is no end in sight feels all too A Wrinkle In Time to me. Bouncing a ball because I don't want to fall out of line with the others. It's like when my parents forced me to do Kumon Math and there was a choice: do fifteen minutes a day of math problems OR leave them all to the last day of the week and spend over an hour doing them.

I let them sit until the end every time. I hate math. But I like an equation in which I am under a certain amount of stress and then must perform. I like pressure. It's...weird.

It's a strange thing, not doing work unless I have some imposing deadlines, and then suddenly I'm that much more productive. Banging out work-related projects, personal writing projects and scheduling a dentist appointment is so much easier when you've got a deadline on at least part of that to-do list. At least for me. Otherwise you're in this nebulous state. You could or you couldn't. No one would know either way. You yourself would know, but that's never really pushed me. I'm not that great of a self-coach. I can critique myself but not come up with any sort of constructive way to improve. Also, I have bursts of manic productivity and then stretches of extreme laziness. And I'm kind of getting used to it.

I decided this weekend I was going to have a busy week. I actually have a lot to do. I'm going to try to do it. Give myself some pressure. Because after the trip, I feel like so much of this is self-imposed. I thought the hamster wheel I was on was necessary, but really as I look at my piles of unopened mail and crushing in-box I see that it wasn't. But I liked it, deep down. I like feeling a little crazed. Otherwise I'll spend all my time staring and thinking. And if I'm going to fund my next trip, this time to Southeast Asia I think, I need to have both.

Because no one is going to pay me for ruminations. Not yet.


Anonymous said...

I have the same exact problems. But it sounds llike you have found a solution.

Good luck with all the work!

Anonymous said...

I just took a two hour lunch break and told a friend the same thing. I can't function without pressure. If there's no immediate deadline, I spend hours reading the New York Times, taking online personality tests on websites like "" (which, though insightful, didn't mention my need for motivating factors, so a little suspect), and hoping my Internet usage isn't somehow being monitored. I told myself this morning: "You will not check personal email, Facebook, blogs, etc. You will only do work."

Right. And, uh, here I am.

Anonymous said...

This is uncanny, I am exactly the same way and was just musing on how ridiculous it is that I can't do ANYTHING without a kind of manic pressure. I tell myself I'll spread everything out over time and then end up procrastinating the non-pressure-laden days away, feeling vaguely guilty and ever-so-slightly paralyzed by a background sense of 'should'. I wish I could just accept - maybe embrace? - the fact that I only work under insane pressure. Will I ever be able to work normally, calmly and efficiently like (seemingly) every one of my colleagues? Mysteriously, immutably, I think the answer will always be NO. So I'm with you!