It’s Day two of this blog and here I am going strong with another post. Wow, Day 2 and I’ve already exceeded my resolution to post once a week. It’s not surprising really. This is my MO. Get an idea, act on the idea, spread the word and enthusiasm for the project, book, movie, parenting technique, etc., dive in with copious amounts of energy, and then slowly watch the enthusiasm and the energy wane until I’m left with that same old feeling of frustration and failure. OK, maybe failure is a little harsh. But the feelings associated with my lack of follow-through have never left me feeling all positive and rosy.
My problem: Like an estimated 26 percent of the American population, I am a procrastinator. And if I’m really being truthful, I’m also a truly lousy self-motivator.
Before studying for a test or completing a paper in high school or college, I would spend hours rearranging and decluttering my surroundings claiming the clutter around me cluttered up my ability to think and create. I still employ the same techniques when writing an article, story or blog post today. “I can’t create if my mind is cluttered,” I’ve been known to say on many occasions. And decluttering experts like Oprah’s organizing guru Peter Walsh and author of “Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?” would agree, after all I heard him say it a thousand times on the show.
I read about a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience (Jan. 2011) in which researchers from Princeton University’s Institute of Neuroscience found that:
“Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system.”
Unclutterer.com put those finding into layman’s terms: “When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus. The clutter also limits your brain’s ability to process information. Clutter makes you distracted and unable to process information as well as you do in an uncluttered, organized, and serene environment.”
So my procrastination technique of clearing the clutter can be understood and even validated by science, but according to the procrastination research done by a University of Calgary professor (ironically which was supposed to only take five years to complete, but lasted 10 years — was the researcher procrastinating himself?), though a relatively clutter-free environment may clear my mind and allow me to organize my creative thoughts more effectively, the actual process of procrastination could do more harm than good.
“People who procrastinate tend to be less healthy, less wealthy and less happy,” Piers Steel, the professor who published the 30-page procrastination study in a January 2007 edition of the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin, was quoted as saying in a 2007 Associated Press article.
And I have found that to be true, too. My perfected ability to procrastinate has, in fact, caused me a lot more stress and unhappiness than the actual act of decluttering has caused happiness. The feelings associated with my decluttering efforts are usually short-lived. I am a mother of three after all, and once they return home from school, or from soccer practice or from a football game the house, that I very well could have spent all day tidying up, looks as if a cyclone has hit leaving the remains of half-unpacked backpacks, rancid shin guards and cleats, mismatched socks, inside-out sweatshirts, football pads, helmets and a couple of half-drunk bottles of Gatorade in its wake. The joy that filled me throughout the day as a result of my ability to create this relatively pristine environment is quickly replaced with resentment, anger and general feelings of “pissed-offishiness,” and my kids are right in the middle of my wrath. To make matters worse, the article or column or blog post that I have avoided writing is still unfinished — a solitary cursor blinks mockingly on the blank computer screen — which only adds to the growing pile of negative feelings being heaped upon my back for the rest of the day and my general shitty mood. Welcome Home Kids!
On the other hand, taking the time to sit down and write, say this blog for instance, first thing in the morning leaves me with a feeling of accomplishment and pride that I carry with me throughout the rest of the day. I can even refer to it on a day when I am much in need of a little self-motivation. It can serve as a reminder of how good I feel when I leave my procrastination for other things, like doing the dishes and laundry, rather than avoiding my writing which gives me so much joy.
Can you say “lightbulb moment?” Or in Oprah’s words (I miss that woman’s words of wisdom everyday streaming from television) “my a-ha” moment.
So there it is folks, another reason to blog! It just elicits all sorts of good feelings inside of me, and that definitely cannot be a bad thing. Better yet, if I can affect someone else’s day, by giving them a good laugh or causing them to think about their own bad habits and make a change, that, too, will add to my good feelings.
As Gretchen Rubin wrote in her book The Happiness Project, “do good, feel good.” I think I’m going to try that more often.
*** I couldn’t help but update this post after I found this in my Inbox today from of all people, Oprah. Actually it’s part of her Thought for Today Newsletter, but how appropriate to my blog and my journey to get this today.
“Wellness isn’t about deprivation and it’s not about perfection. It is about pointing yourself in the direction of growth, training yourself to get comfortable with your highest potential, and then taking small steps to support that shift. It’s about showing up for yourself, day by day, and then one day finding that you’ve undergone a transformation.” — Kathy Freston
Inspiration comes from a variety of places, doesn’t it? Fantastic!