It’s Memorial-weekend Sunday, so I should be allowed to not think about work, right? Well, it sort of… worked. DH, Smurf, and I spent some time at a local attraction, slathered in SP-50 Coppertone and working on our vitamin D reserves.
But, I have been thinking about procrastination today.
Why do I procrastinate? I see Eldest, who is a really conscientious kid when in comes to doing his school work. He has good study habits, which will serve him well in college.
I remember being very focused and not procrastinating in high school, doing my work and getting good grades. I also had several extracurriculars that took a lot of time, but I was able to get everything done and still reliably got 7 hours of sleep each night.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and I have to will myself to fill out forms for my kids’ summer camps (in my defense, these forms are inhumanely extensive). I won’t be late, but I will fill them out only a day or two before the deadline.
There is a response to the referees and the associated manuscript revisions that I should have worked on since early last week, but I keep avoiding it.
What has changed?
Part of it is that I am perpetually starved for both sleep and rejuvenating alone time. When I was younger, I really had no obligations to anyone except myself; these days, I am expected to be things to people (parent, spouse, teacher, advisor, emergency contact, principal investigator). I am finally catching up at work in terms all the papers that have to go out or get revised and resubmitted; I cannot just drop work for weeks because the summer is not endless and I don’t want to get into the proposal writings season with a backlog. As lyra211 says, “It’s terrifying how quickly it feels like academia can pass you by! Some of that pressure is self-imposed, but not all of it.”
Another part is that the work I do these days ranges from mind-numbingly boring to intellectually and possibly emotionally taxing. I didn’t feel work being taxing when I was younger possibly because I was my own sole focus. Now everything I do (or avoid doing) has repercussions on someone else.
Then there’s the clarity of goals. When I was younger, doing work was more like rock-climbing. You could see the pinnacle, you could see where you needed to put your foot next in order to get closer to the goal. (I originally misspelled “goal” as “goad”; what would Freud say about that?)
Working today is more like trying to not drown in a muddy swamp. You seem to recall that getting out of the swamp was the original idea, but you are not clear if that’s true any more and don’t remember which way the exit is supposed to be. Your limbs get tangled in vines, which pull you down and make it harder to move. So not sinking below the surface of the muddy water turns out to be the real goal on any given day.