The Occasional Slacker

If you’re a go-getter like me, any sort of procrastination feels like failure…

98% of the time, I’m the kind of person working way ahead of schedule. I’m completing tasks I don’t actually need to finish for a few weeks, but I just feel compelled to do them anyway. I’ve always been that type of person, always on the ball, always trying to make my time productive.

Except, that 2% of the time not accounted for, that’s when I feel beyond guilty. Defeated. Angry and frustrated with myself. Uninspired and unmotivated. There is that rare time when I come across a particular assignment that I just have no willpower to get done. Even when I never plan to procrastinate, which using that term could have many various definitions depending on the person, I have just a random paper or responsibility that I leave up as a window or tab on my computer and just ignore. And end up doing anything else BUT that.

It’s a habit that I luckily don’t fall into very often, but it does inevitably happen. Right now as I’m writing this, it’s a memo for media law and ethics. I have multiple tabs open in my browser for resources to cite and emails from an online database with more information, and yet there the document sits, little progress made, due in a few days. And here I am, writing a blog post instead!

I almost feel like I’m going against my own nature, like some unknown force is blocking my usual urgency to get things done. I’ve never been one to understand those who always write papers the day before they’re due or barely glancing at a textbook minutes before a test is handed out. I’ve had to work my tail off throughout my education, and while it can be exhausting at times, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished thus far.

Until I get to that one little snag in the production that I just hone in and focus on, use it as ammunition to shame my abilities or lack thereof. But regardless of the scenario, we all come to points where we face a roadblock, a random halt in our creativity that can come up out of the blue. The world still expects us to keep truckin’ along as per usual, but we just…can’t, or don’t know how. It’s not that we don’t realize we have lots of people and resources that we could fall back on and ask questions to, we just mentally are at a place where our brain randomly decides that a basic task is too much.

This can apply to so much more than classwork. How about making yearly doctor and dentist appointments? How about applying and interviewing for jobs? Heck, sometimes making a meal that isn’t just cereal feels like a task only a MasterChef contestant can pull off. Our perception of how we view the difficulty of everyday occurrences that skew from reality is appalling.

Wouldn’t it be great to flip a switch and suddenly have the clarity and ambition to do what feels impossible? Or have it already done for us overnight, like secret elves just pulling our lives together? Alas, it’s not how the world works. We are the ones to ultimately hold ourselves accountable. Sure, you could easily neglect certain things that stress you out, but what are the repercussions of those decisions? We all know the answer to those questions as it pertains to our lives, but even then, it might not get you into gear.

What I typically do is still try to be productive, even if one task sits on my to-do list for longer than I’d like, but I still am crossing other things off. It’s a satisfying feeling, and sometimes that’s the only nudge you need to want to cross everything off. Also, your well-being should always, without a doubt, come first. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, that’s what is most important. You can’t do a single thing if you always leave your energy tank on empty.

Keep that one nagging task at the forefront of your mind, regardless of how simple it is to shove it aside. Think of what a relief it will be to get it done. Maybe that means going to a different location to do so, or doing some self-care activities first before you dive in, or taking frequent breaks to prevent getting hung up on tricky spots, or all of the above. It’s whatever you know works best for you.

If you don’t feel it right now, here’s a quick reminder that yes, you are strong and capable of overcoming the obstacles that plague you. You will trudge forward past this point and look back satisfied knowing that you made it. Life is all about the highs and lows, bouncing back and forth in a constant game of pinball. But if I can do it, then you and everyone else can, too.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Stuck in the Middle

Stuck In the Middle With You | Music and Meaning: The RBHS ...
Did this song come into your mind, too? Hey, at least it’s catchy.

Do you ever feel like you’re going about your day, being productive in your work, but feeling like you’re…off? That the work you’re doing isn’t engaging you like you think it should? That if you weren’t required to do a certain task, you’d be off doing something completely different?

Because that’s where I’m at right now. And it’s a place that I have to be in, unfortunately, and I know I’m not alone in that. I think anybody in their educational career have at least one (or probably many) time(s) where you’re asking, “What is the point? I’m not interested in this. This doesn’t feel relevant to me.”

Whether it’s taking a required math class you despise, applying for a job you know you wouldn’t like, or scheduling a yearly doctor’s appointment when your health is a-okay, there are those moments where we look at the grand scheme of our lives and wonder why all of these seemingly minute details, ones that seem to not serve you, really matter. Shouldn’t we be using our precious time and energy always trying to better ourselves, fuel our passions, and make the most of what we have and are? That’s certainly the message drilled into our heads: no moment is guaranteed. Life is precious. You only live once.

Here’s my current example. I am in the midst of my second to last semester of my undergraduate career. The only classes I have left to graduate are those that are required for my Mass Communication major. As my mind has changed to recenter my focus on what I truly love and feel passionate about, I have felt very drained from taking classes about social research, writing for digital and broadcast media, and media law and ethics. Especially when I have a religion class that resonates with me so much more, going from that to all of my other classes is no comparison. I sit in the classroom just thinking, “This is so minuscule. How truly productive is this? I could be doing -insert other things here- instead.”

When you struggle to find that purpose in the seemingly dull, tiresome tasks, they just become even more strenuous. Our perspectives turn those tasks into mountains to climb every day, continually becoming steeper. If we can’t find a purpose, then it’s virtually impossible to find a motivation.

It’s easy to say, just find the reason you’re doing it in the first place and then you’ll be set, but if only life were that easy. Rarely can we just snap ourselves into a new head space and suddenly see the world with fresh eyes. Especially in the mundane tasks, classes and responsibilities, the reason you might see in going or doing what you need to do, doesn’t necessarily change your attitude toward it. Sure, you’re paying to be in class and you need to take these classes to graduate, but in the present moment? Fifty minutes is dragging on for what feels like hours.

So instead of taking a robotic approach to switching motivation on and off, be gentle and gradual with yourself. Practice mindfulness in becoming aware of your body, position and circumstances, putting more thought into what you’re doing instead of daydreaming about other “more exciting” things. Even just a single reason to go, even if that is to see a friend or silently criticize the relevance of a topic (which, in my case, has been my go-to reason), can ease you into a different perspective.

Cliche, I know, but we are truly so blessed, so when in doubt, find gratitude in whatever you’re dreading because chances are, there are people vying for such an opportunity. Like the ability to receive an education. Or have access to certain resources. Or just any little luxuries that we don’t think about when we’re finding every little detail to complain about.

Because maybe yes, right now, this less enjoyable task isn’t of end-all importance. But in the grand scheme, if it fits into your goals, then it’s a necessary step to take. I have the goal of graduating from college with solid grades in three years, and by taking the classes I am now, I will be able to achieve that. Even if I look back and cannot remember a single detail of what was discussed in those classes, I can be proud knowing that I did it, despite my reservations about it at the time. Same goes for graduating high school, or taking care of mental health, or going through eating disorder recovery.

Everything is intentional. Sometimes it isn’t very obvious. Heck, it can be downright frustrating and defeating thinking you might be wasting your time on something. Accept your current emotions, but know that you’re in the right place at the right time. There’s a purpose, obvious or not, for everything. The lesson you learn from it might not be listed on the syllabus. And at the end of the day, be proud of how far you’ve come, where you are right now, and where you’re going.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

More Than a Message

Technology is so wonderful. The capabilities we now have to learn more information and stay in touch with people near and far is, if you really dwell on it, surreal. I still remember having to use the landlines to call my friends and schedule play dates. Weird, right?

But back then, things felt much more simple. While it was certainly less convenient to rely upon a phone on the wall to make plans, there is also a reliance upon this technology to communicate in any capacity. As in people who, while in the same exact place, will still text each other. Or how about talking about very important topics that should be discussed, but being afraid to say them in person?

Yes, I relish the fact that I can communicate in a way that I can best articulate myself and have to time to think about my words, but there’s a time and place for that. Maybe it just shows my age that I have come to truly appreciate having an open conversation about something compared to an on-screen exchange.

Not that I’m planning to stop writing or texting any time soon, no sir. But I think that should be used as a starting point and as a casual way to catch up. It should by no means be a complete replacement for getting your point across, especially if you are discussing very important.

For any type of relationship, regardless of what it may be, if it’s something beyond an acquaintance, you cannot avoid talking. As easy as it is to fall back to a familiar keyboard, it’s a crutch. A virtual wall to hide behind to avoid a fear of opening up to someone and having an immediate response and every emotion that might come from that. If somebody cares about you, you deserve to receive everything, not just the snippets of composed, robotic words.

Again, let me reiterate, there’s still a place for our texts and messages and whatever else we send these days. We can get in touch with people at any time, from anywhere with a wireless connection. That’s crazy. People hundreds of miles away are suddenly at your fingertips, expanding your knowledge and world far beyond the naked eye.

It’s also much easier to reach out to others in general. If you have any hesitation with dialing a number, a quick message can be a thoughtful gesture. You can still find a comfort in making contacts with others, even if you have difficulties communicating.

Technology bridges past gaps in making contact, but to an extent, we abuse that luxury. We forget how to actually speak up for ourselves. We forget how to actually think in the moment, how to read other people’s emotions and body language, how to truly empathize with others. We overlook that valuable quality of simply being present.

When you do come across people who tend to be bug-eyed on their phones all the time, you really start to appreciate what conversation feels like. You can too often lose any sort of accountability with those people to receive a timely answer. (I’m guilty of this, but when did heart-to-hearts ever happen over Snapchat?) Especially depending on the subject matter, it is just common courtesy and respect to tell people straight-up what you’re thinking or planning.

Anybody can write a text. Heck, you don’t even have to use complete words or sentences. It’s easy. It gets the job done. Especially for introverts, it takes true willpower to make that extra effort to say something, and something that might be uncomfortable at that. But the fact is, if you cannot have an open stream of dialogue between somebody else, what kind of relationship do you actually have? As the Bee Gees once said, “How deep is your love?”

And if that’s the case, if you feel like somebody isn’t confident enough in themselves and in you that they can bring up a topic, as rough as this sounds, they might not be worth keeping a close connection with. You do you, of course, because everybody’s situation is unique and you know best. But you shouldn’t feel like you’re walking on eggshells and that you cannot mention certain things that you think are important. Any relationship you’re in should be uplifting, not draining. It requires work, and that work probably looks like having a difficult exchange of words every now and then.

Conflict sucks, but it can be unavoidable. And hopefully it’s ultimately productive. Constructive words and feedback can be the wake-up call we all need sometimes to slap ourselves awake and get our heads back into the present moment. While typing or writing our your thoughts can truly be a lifesaver to organize what you want said, that comfort zone doesn’t allow much room for growth.

We all have different preferences when it comes to communication and life in general. I despise talking on the phone and tend to avoid conflict like the plague. My mind tends to falter when translating my thoughts into spoken word. I fear I become muddled and cannot articulate myself how I want to. But how am I ever going to improve if I never try? How will I receive the openness of somebody else if I myself won’t meet them halfway?

Moral of the story? Always be open for self-improvement, wherever that may be. And do not settle for people who aren’t willing to grow and challenge themselves, too. Still expect me to be chatting away on my blog, making random remarks on Twitter, and relying on texts to keep my loved ones updated. But also expect me to make the effort to try new things, to venture into areas that scare me. Technology provides some stability, but I must remind myself to soar.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie