The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Monday, September 23, 2013

Procrastination - Part 2

Definition has it that procrastination is a particular behaviour characterised by performing less urgent tasks in preference to the more meaningful and/or urgent tasks. Another variant is choosing more pleasurable actions over less pleasurable though more essential ones.
To my mind there are two ways of looking at procrastination – the conventional and the unconventional. In Part One I explored my perspective of the conventional way. Here in Part Two I take a more unconventional approach.
Avoid Convention
To my mind the unconventional approach holds simplistic pathways to permanent change, where these points prevail:
  • No one is broken
  • Once we change our perceptions, transformation happens
  • There’s never a need to consult a To-Do list

I start my conversations with clients inviting them to tell me what happens for them. They will usually say, almost for starters, “This may sound weird,” or “You may think I’m weird, but,” and so on. In their perceptions, the whole structure of their behavioural experience is framed up as ‘weird’ and they need to be put back to (or made into) ‘normal’, ‘regular’ or – dare I say it - ‘conventional’.
The relief and relaxation that washes over them when they discover firstly that ‘weird is normal’ because we are all unique, is often patently visible. Out of that they then discover that they are not broken in any way and then we continue talking around their perceptions and how they make up their view of the world.
And if we are talking particularly about procrastination, I often show them an illustration of The Procrastinator’s Clock – just to gauge their responses!
The Clock illustrates time as a metaphor for the procrastinator. This is very much the coat-hanger for his procrastinators’ cloak!
Before he dons this cloak he is normal – the un-weird Mr Ordinary!
He believes the task X needs to be done and although now might be a good time, it can be left and done at a later date. There may and perhaps will be consequences of this, however.
Now at this very moment, as he considers the task X, he is hit by feelings of discomfort. Some thought process has triggered these feelings but he’s probably not aware of this. He just gets the feelings, thinks about them, considers them, and then acts upon them.
The action he performs is labelled as procrastination, and this is the moment he dons his cloak and engages with the clock!

Just suppose he was considering the task X and felt that there were good and sensible reasons to not do it today or Right Now. Then he’d get no feeling of discomfort.
If he had a sixth sense experience that seemed to say ‘this is not a good idea’ then the feeling and its bodily location would be different.

No, the proper discomfort he feels is quite a specific set of sensations – probably feelings he is familiar with, if he is a “chronic” procrastinator!
Next, in order to justify his deferment of X, he sets about filling his Now with other tasks – tasks with much less consequence than X. It is a variant of Parkinson’s Law. In doing this he justifies to himself (far more than to others) his reasons for putting things off. He wants His World to see that his time is meaningfully occupied, and that X would take much longer, so starting today is not the wisest thing to do.

It appears that there is a useful purpose for his putting off doing X. Now, this is a powerful excuse, and it has staying power – he can use it again and again, for he can always be “busy” right Now! It makes the next deferment easier, and so the loop goes on.

In the moment, however, the issue isn’t the task X, it is the discomfort.
The problem for him, right Now, is that he is trying to make the discomfort go away, and not X.

He isn’t a fool – he knows he cannot make X go away, because he knows it has to be done at some time, and probably sooner rather than later. Yet, the discomfort is what causes his deferment. And his frustrating dilemma is that only deferment seems to take it away.

When we procrastinate we often feel we are prisoners of such a habit - and the bars of that prison seem as close as are the hours on the clock face approaching 12. Yet, when procrastination begins, the bars of the prison are as wide apart as hours 1-4.

Here, our perception of time is distorted. The metaphor appears amusing on the outside and from a distance, yet on the inside it can seem as real as we want to make it.
However - the key, the essential element, to understand here is this:
Where procrastination is concerned, all of Time is distorted – whether it is the first hour or the eleventh hour. And when Time is distorted, like that, we need to realise that it is just an illusion.

Interestingly, with Time having such relevance in the domain of procrastination, it is a short and conclusive journey to the next realisation - that procrastination itself is also an illusion.

The Illusion Perspective
Procrastination and Time are perceptive illusions.

Imagine looking through a telescope. Now imagine seeing everything permanently through a telescope. If we don’t know what a telescope does, then when we use it we get a distorted view of the world whichever end we look through. The moment we know about telescopes then our view of the world we thought was REAL, suddenly changes.
Flight simulators, virtual reality goggles, microscopes, all change our perspective – and what they present for us is also a perceptive illusion. We just happen to know about the illusion, adjust our minds accordingly, and make really good use of the illusion.

With every illusion we are living within, there is an answer, an escape through metaphor. Metaphor helps us unlock the conundrum – rather like one I mentioned about the hourly gaps on the clock being akin to the gaps between the prison bars; and rather like seeing the world through a telescope not knowing what telescopes do.
So once we realise that the reality of our behaviour called procrastination is one we have made up, then the following conclusion can be very quickly drawn:-

There is no prison here at all – we are just inside an illusion.
Time, as man has constructed it, is also an illusion.

And I’d like to draw an elusive parallel here with some other illusions, namely – the sky, and the sea.
The sky is blue, as we know, yet when we look at it closely it is not blue at all. It has no colour. The sea also is blue, except that it isn’t. On days when the sky is blue, the sea is blue, also. When the sky is cloudy and grey, the sea also appears grey – yet we know neither of them are grey, or blue, or indeed any colour at all. Water is colourless, except for what is suspended in it. It is the suspension that gives it colour. The sky’s colour is caused by whatever is suspended in it also. 

Interlude - The Quotes
By way of a pause, I’d like to offer you a quote and a poem concerning the sky and, in particular, rain.

“There are holes in the sky where the rain gets in. But they’re ever so small, that’s why rain is thin.”  ~ Spike Milligan
“When it rains the sky doesn’t get wet. Only what appears gets wet – such as the earth or things on it or in the sky.” ~ Paul Hedderman

I’ve occasionally talked to people about the gaps between raindrops being dry. If we could dodge the drops then we’d remain dry too. We can feel the raindrops as they hit us, yet do we ever feel the touch of the dry gaps as they hit us? No – because the rain is suspended, falls and lands on us; dry is not suspended so we cannot see it or hear it. Yet - we CAN feel it, so perhaps it IS suspended after all?
What is dry, when all is said and done? Is it only an absence of rain or something more?

Now I’ve put these questions here for a purpose, with regards to my unconventional perspective of procrastination.

Procrastination is like a mirage or indeed any other illusion. We may see it as real, but it is like anxiety or confidence. It is not real, merely a construct suspended in time. Because it is suspended in time we see it as real. It is like the suspension that colours water or sky. Once we realise that it, too, is an illusion, then we are left with nothing.
And as we know – nothing gives us zero feelings of discomfort!

About Time
When we take time and empty out all the suspended stuff what are we left with? Empty time! And empty time is pure time.

And the only pure time is Right Now. The rest (the future and the past) we make up.
Time only appears real when things are suspended in it. We divide it up into episodes, give those episodes names and suspend them in time. We code up memories and suspend them in time to make them real. If we didn’t code them up then we wouldn’t remember them. We imagine sometime in the future and suspend things like forthcoming events in that imaginary time. In the act of suspension they become real, even though they haven’t even happened.
“It’s not like I imagined it would be!” – No, it never is! Because what is actually happening from moment to moment is a “live” experience!

Pure time, like pure sky or pure water, is an uncluttered medium that contains no impurities or suspensions.

What is the key element of suspension that hangs in Time, and so makes Time seem real for us?

Curiously enough, it is all of our own making – and the unimaginably simple answer is:
It is our thought processes; our thinking.
And you’d be amazed, because it gets everywhere!
When we feel discomfort – it is our thinking. When we judge – it is our thinking.
Experience, any experience including the “live” one, is as real as we want to make it – but that reality is made by a thought process. Without a thought behind it, how would we know it had happened? When “how we imagined it would be” compared with our experience is always different, it is because the thinking behind it was different. Nothing will ever be exactly the same, every second time around, for the very same reason.

You may have heard of the comment about when the tree falls in the forest; if there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?
Well, if there is no thought around to suspend in time – do we notice time at all?

Like sky, or water - the moment we become consciously aware of time, then we aren’t noticing time itself, we are noticing what is suspended in it. In other words, we are noticing our thinking. When we have no perception of time – when time seems to stand still for us – then there is no thinking suspended in it.
On some days time just seems to drag, whilst on others it really flies by – is merely a noticed perception of distorted time with varying degrees of thinking behind it.

In hypnosis, or meditation, or in The Zone or Flow State there is no sense of time and there is also little or no thinking.


So you want to stop deferring important tasks?
Ask yourself what stops you doing that X Right Now?
“The thought of doing it Right Now makes me feel uncomfortable.”
“Then don’t do it Right Now.”
“But I must, because it is important – and will be harder and more urgent tomorrow.”
“Then just do it Right Now.”
“But I can’t because the thought of doing it Right Now makes me feel uncomfortable.”
“You do realise that Right Now is the only time you CAN do it?”
“EH? What do you mean?”
“Well the only time you can ever do anything IS Right Now. Any other time in the future is just imaginary and hasn’t happened yet. And you can’t do anything when something isn’t happening. Can’t you? Tell me, will you be happy when you’ve done X?”
“Maybe – I know I’ll be relieved at least!”
“So why not Do It AND be relieved and happy Right Now? That way it’ll be ‘double’ worth doing?”
“Yea, I see. But ...”
“Just sit on that but for a moment. So what stops you doing it Right Now?”
“Because the thought of doing it always used to make me feel uncomfortable.”
“Well that’s because you ALWAYS used the same thought! Why not just Do It without thinking? Then nothing will get in the way of your doing it, will it?”

Ever woken up and thought “Where Am I?” We’ve all experienced that at some point in our lives. Next thing is we check what time it is. We are re-orienting ourselves in time and space.

Are you ever asleep in your dreams? Do you ever dream of sleeping? Are those two identical questions?
It is very easy to become too conscious about Time. Being too conscious about any illusion makes it super-real. When we do, we pay far too much attention to anything and everything suspended in that illusion.

And if you think that super-real is really surreal anyway, then you’ll know you can stop thinking that any time you like.

The audio version of this article is available on YouTube - just click on this link!

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