03 Jun 2020

The art of procrastination ...

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Tomorrow is a mysterious country, where 99% of the motivation and tasks are. There are plenty of times for me to think that I didn’t want to do something in my life. Things I’ve dodged, decisions I haven’t made, or even put off problems for so long that they’ve solved themselves. There have been many more times when I honestly forgot things.

Since my diagnosis, I have looked at myself and others a lot. Self-study, but in a literal sense of the word. I often compare behaviour. Not only from myself to others, or from others to me, but certainly also difference in behavior of myself. How can you learn to deal with yourself when I don’t know what you’re doing. I’ve known about my procrastination behaviour for a long time, it’s not new to me. Is it a beautiful side? Certainly not, there’s going to be enough trouble saying it’s a harmful trait…

From procrastination…

If I’m good at something, it’s procrastination. How many times I keep telling myself “I’ll do it tomorrow” or excuses like that, I’ve noticed a source. If I’m doing well, I’ll deal with things right away. No delay, unless it is necessary of course, but otherwise I prefer to do things as soon as possible. Then it’s out of the way and I can get on with my life. But on days when I’m having a harder time, it starts postponing. These are often the small things first, bringing a plate to the kitchen for example. I would do that right away, but the worse I feel, the longer it is postponed.

There is a Spanish saying; “Tomorrow is the busiest day of the week” and I think it’s very appropriate for me when I’m not doing so well. I postpone a lot of things as long as I can get away with it. There are times when you’re “forced” to do something. Like doing the dishes, for example, or taking out the garbage. Those are things you can only put off for a certain amount of time.

I myself have started to think why I sometimes postpone so much. Why do I do that? What’s the underlying reason? Because the excuses I have, when I feel good, I can’t talk straight. Of course there are times when, in my eyes, I am entitled to delay. When I’m sick or when I’m tired after a long day. However, that would mean that I can do the task the day after. Still, sometimes I postpone it.

If things don’t go so well

After some self-reflection and reflection, I have noticed that postponing becomes worse when I don’t feel well. So for me it is a signal that things are not going well. For me it is then a matter of finding out why things are not going well. Do I feel tired? Has something bad happened? How’s my structure? Why am I delaying things that need to happen?

All these questions come to mind and now I’m trying to challenge myself. Because even though things aren’t going well, things have to keep going. The procrastination behavior sometimes indicates to me that my structure is gone. Going to bed too late, getting up too late, forgetting to eat or drink and so on. It’s all signs on the wall that I’m in a less good mood.

Maybe this sounds strange to people, but I need these kind of signs to know how I am doing. When someone asks me how I’m doing, the reflex answer is often “good”. This answer hasn’t been thought about. I’m trying to take a step back and really ask myself how I’m doing. And don’t answer right away, but first think about the past hours and think how I am doing. Are there things I’m struggling with? Do I still have something to do, what I’m postponing? What thoughts are going through my head and why? I really have to consciously think about myself and answer these questions. Then I can give a real answer to the question “How am I doing?”

Not later, but now!

Trying to do better

Look, I know I’m good at procrastinating. It’s a trait that comes to the fore when I’m not feeling well. When I notice by myself or others that I am showing (a lot of) procrastination behavior, it is time to find out what I can do to feel better. Partly this is in doing things I like. The danger is that that way can also be a way of postponing. Why should I stop doing something that makes me feel better?

But a bigger, underlying problem is the structure. If I start to lose my structure, I postpone more. The most important thing for me then is to regain my structure. This sometimes also means that I have to give myself a kick in the ass and do a task that is necessary. Or leave things that give me pleasure, to make sure I go to sleep on time.

This doesn’t always work out, but the first step has been taken. Recognizing the problem is that step, because then I can start working on a solution. Or at least, limiting the problem. Now I am busy looking for and trying to find solutions. Looking at what works for me and what doesn’t. Exploring when I need to show myself rest and love, and when I need to be the “strict parent” for myself and give myself a kick in the ass.

It’s quite an art, and I’m busy learning this. So today I’m going to put myself to the tasks I’ve postponed and try to finish at least one. Probably more than one. I know it’ll make me feel better once I’ve done those. Even though it still feels like a chore.

Do you have any tips or tricks? What works for you guys to get things done? How do you maintain your structure? I’m curious! Let me know and maybe we’ll learn from each other.

Thanks for reading
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Tags: autisme sociaal-gedrag stress spanning ritme werk 
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David Westerink
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I am David, born in 1984 and I'm autistic. I write blog posts and advocate for autism acceptance. I'm willing to talk to anyone about anything.

I have my own podcast (in Dutch) about autism and neurodiversity! Checkout the AutCast!

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