Tuesday, 19 January 2010


Is it really that many weeks since I last wrote a blog? Not in my plan at all. In fact I see there are two incomplete drafts, that could do with my attention. I started them before Christmas.

I really enjoy writing the blog and think up at least one subject a day. So what stops me writing it? In fact what stops me doing all sorts? I'm certainly easily distracted and...

...and there's a case in point. I wrote the previous paragraph 90 minutes ago. I have hardly moved out of my chair, but have managed to find other things to do. Help! I've just got up to put the kettle on. The umpteenth break. Now this has got to stop. But what is causing this behaviour and where is its roots? Can I use my own learnings to find out the cause and thus find a solution.

A couple of years ago, I was at a demonstration of techniques to reduce emotional arousal. The speaker asked for someone in the audience who procrastinated. My hand shot up all too readily.

It was hardly surprising that my memories of procrastinating went back a long way, deep into childhood. The conversation took me back into some connecting childhood experiences but my emotional arousal levels hardly rose. Whatever it was, didn't bother me that much. I was able to re-tell the memories as stories and not re-live them. The latter being one of the signs of troubling , if not traumatic memories.

In the end, I uncovered some feeling of anger at writing thank-you letters after Christmas. These had to be perfect and I had to re-write them many times. So it was decided at the demonstration, that my procrastination was down to not wanting to finish anything because it wouldn't be perfect. But I have fortunately, very rarely been bothered at all about something not being 'perfect', so I didn't think it was that. Everyone was satisfied at the outcome of the demonstration. But while the process had been of interest, I knew that it hadn't really uncovered anything new and was unlikely to change the habits of a lifetime. It didn't.

It has always been a family joke, that I have "the attention span of a flea". In many ways, it hasn't been a hindrance, in that I am adaptable and also tend to be quite observant in whatever surroundings I may be in. For those reasons alone, I have no doubt that I don't want to lose those resources and so unconsciously will not allow any change to occur. I can also convince myself that if I leave things to the last minute, I will be more productive in the end. A dubious justification.

But there are other times, when not completing tasks or leaving jobs to the last minute has been a pain and I probably, no, definitely, could have been more successful in various ventures through my life.

But I've got some good excuses haven't I?

1. I'm a Gemini for starters. Well, that's it then. Geminis have 'butterfly minds'. Really? All them? It reminds me of the friend who told me that she had grown up a nervous wreck because her sisters had teased her in childhood, saying she was "Wednesday's child and full of woe". I asked her whether she thought everyone born on a Wednesday was full of anxiety and whether her sisters' characters were true to their birth days of the week? She hadn't given either possibility a thought and had held on to that one unhelpful, childhoood belief all 40 years of her adult life. A great shame.

2. Another excuse is that I has a head injury when I was a toddler. I ran into an iron girder and caused a dent in my skull. Well, there you are. Damage to my frontal cortex. Just think, I could have been an grade 'A' student, but for that accident. Unlikely.

3. Yet another excuse, is that I was just born like this. It's as part of my personal make-up as my height and eye colour are. I can't change it.

4. I'm a woman. Women multi-task.

So, there are some of my excuses and there's nothing I can do about them. "It's not my fault". Whoopee! I can carry on in the same old ways, because it's not my fault.

Wrong! They may possible reasons, but they should not be used as excuses. As an adult, I could take responsibility for my shortcomings and learn how to adapt. After all, isn't adapaptability one of my resources?

I have learnt managing strategies over the years. Do I use the carrot or stick motivational methods? The carrot is what works for me. But while I know what works, I don't always put it into practice. I hear my internal diologue shout, "Can't be bothered", "Why should I?" Neither are expressions used by emotionally mature adults.

If I break up tasks into small pieces of time, I'm hugely more productive. Whether it's a work or domestic task. (Parkinson's Law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.) The stick of self regret and verbal abuse doesn't work. What does work for me, is the carrot of another small piece of time waiting for me with a treat. Could be a coffee, reading a newspaper/magazine, making a personal call/text, social networking, going shopping etc:

My conclusion is that there certainly are reasons why I have a butterfly mind, but there are no excuses. My impulsiveness to switch from one thing to another is based on an emotional immaturity and I can change that by stopping myself. As a client one said to a colleague," Wow! I know now that I can't ever stop the first thought, but I have the choice to change the second". It was a powerful insight for that person.

The saying goes, 'Proscrastination is the the thief of time', as if it is a negative force. But I don't ever feel that the things I do are a waste of time, just that I perhaps need to prioritise a little better.

So, four days, yes, four days later, I have reached the end. Some interruptions have been necessary/urgent, some have not.

The mini me whispering in my ear, "I want it and want it now!" will have to 'grow up' and use some of her more adult, working practices. Will it work?

You will know if you see more regular blogging. But not yet, I'm off to get my treat of reading the morning newspaper.