Monday, August 7
Why did it take me several weeks to follow the exciting (and secret!) invitation to join this blog? Because I'm a professional procrastinator, of course. I don't think that this is a big secret in academia, but I have to confess that I make considerable efforts on a daily basis to hide my true nature from the vultures circulating over my head, the most voracious of all being my bad conscience (this is where faking your own death doesn't come in handy, dear Scarlet, since you'll always know your own if anyone has an idea on how to hide from oneself without the use of psychotropics, please share it with me!). The vultures are always particularly aggressive on Mondays. I hate Mondays! Every time a Monday comes around, I feel like some evil troll is holding a mirror up to me, asking me in a gnarly voice: "So, are you proud of yourself now, Wisteria?" The arrival of any given Monday is a proof of my failure to fight procrastination. Here's a recent (er, ongoing) example:
  • Nice flattering letter from big name journal on June 3: "Dear Dr. Wisteria, we're asking for your expert opinion" etc. etc. "To allow for a speedy turnaround, please submit the review by July 20."
  • Thinks Wisteria: Piece of cake! That's, what, 3 or 4 months from now. I have plenty of time to squeeze that in. Forgotten is my past experience in which I started suffering from cold sweats, pulsing headache, mild to severe nausea according to the degree of menace in the tone of the once sympathetic editor the further the due date disappeared in the past (but, unfortunately, never went away). So merrily I reply with an enthusiastic "Yeah sure!"
  • On July 13 I find a polite reminder email in my inbox. There still is plenty of time. However, I can now start using the pending review as an excuse for other tasks to be queued. As in: "I'm awfully sorry, but I can't do xyz because I'm working on this review".
  • On July 20 I find a polite reminder email in my inbox. That's right, the review. I understand, I understand. Don't rub it in my face: "The review is now due". But today is Thursday, and that's almost Friday, right? And Friday is the beginning of the weekend. What editor in their right mind would make a fuss over a tiny little weekend extension? Monday's as good as ever. So I grant myself a tiny little weekend extension. This means that I have ALL WEEKEND to read the paper and write the stupid review.
  • On July 24 something terrible happens: It's Monday. I haven't started reading the paper, and the week tumbles upon me with a million distractions.
I'm going to spare you the details of all the torments I've gone through, but today is Monday again, two weeks later, and no progress has been made. Am I the only one who suffers particularly on Mondays? Are there self-help groups that deal with this kind of issues? Could one solution be to just abolish Mondays? Or rename them?


Clear said...

I'm not sure what it says about me that I empathize greatly with this message, only my big problem is with Saturdays.

Love the choice of Wisteria, btw. It was well worth the procrastinating-from-work time to add you immediately to the sidebar.

Anonymous said...

Hah! You're only a few weeks behind, dear Wisteria. I've been battling with something of this sort for several months now! MONTHS! Now what in the world is so difficult about reading a few papers? (I have more than one to go, but still.)

I mean, seriously, how can I let things slide for so long? It is painful. I am so with you. Unfortunately, I don't just feel it on Mondays. I feel it every day, including the weekends.

You'd think, just the reward of having my weekends back would be enough incentive to get this stuff done. But no. I suck. The situation sucks. I don't want to think that I suck. But how is this not totally sucky behavior?

Well, I'm clearly not much help here, but obviously I sympathize.

(And now I'll go look up whether Clear or I is/am/are in the right in our use of empathy vs sympathy.)

Turquoise Stuff said...

I think in English both sympathy and empathy work in this situation.

In several other languages a derivation of sympathetic is a really useful term with a very different meaning. "Sympathique" in French refers to someone who is a neat nice person that you feel an affinity to.. or some such thing. It's really really hard to translate. It's a word that would be really helpful to have in English.

In any case, Wisteria, I like the name as well, very fun, very appropriate! I'm sorry that you're feeling wiserable in all this. It's fascinating (although I guess not shocking) how often the theme of procrastination comes up on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this! I feel slightly better about my failure to do anything at all about the email I got (also at the beginning of June) telling me I needed to schedule a thesis committee meeting immediately.

thistle said...

I just got out of a meeting to begin a research project that my advisor got a small grant for. It's a small grant, a relatively small project, should only take a few months, and doesn't require any superhuman abilities. But I'm already totally terrified that I'll procrastinate on it and fall behind and then dread it.
arg arg arg.

wisteria said...

I appreciate both sympathy and empathy! For the record (and to receive more symp&emp), I'd like to point out that the review was really just one example for my procrastination behavior. Everything else goes through the exact same process: prepare that conference presentation (this time way before the conference! not in the hotel room instead of networking with my peers!), revise&resubmit a paper (last famous words: if I work on one paragraph a day, I can do this in a couple weeks), and, looming dark on the horizon, prepare my teaching for next semester. Oh well, there is still some time until next Monday.

Cerise said...

I had exactly that kind of Monday today, except that I KNOW nothing is getting done this week, because there are some things that have to get done or I will not survive until next Monday. Supervisors are not going to be happy.

Chartreuse Circe said...

I remember talking about my todo list, back when we were talking about Turquoise's list. Right now, I cheifly want to light it on fire.

Monday, any day, really, I feel a bit overwhelmed by how much I have to do. Oh the joy. And then, when you do get to work on something (when I do, anyway) half the time it takes forever -- I finally got to something yesterday that I'd been putting off for weeks. Should have been trivial (why do I ever even try to use that word?), and it's still not working and it's like a nest of vipers.

I hate Monday, too!

Chartreuse Circe said...

Oh, and welcome, Wisteria!

Pumpkin said...

I am truly staggered by (1) how much Wisteria's post reflects my own experience and (2) the knowledge that it is clearly not just the two of us agonizing in vain-- judging by the other comments here, so many others seem to be afflicted as well.

I procrastinate everything. In person, at parties --whatever-- I speak of this ailment lightly, but it is no joke. It's terrible, and I feel it deeply. It affects everything-- I just resist, resist, resist. Even with this blog: for weeks, I have procrastinated posting (for a while, I procrastinated even reading it since I knew I would feel guilty that I hadn't yet posted). Even worse, I consistently rake myself over the coals about procrastinating. Virtually everything, to me, serves as an example of how I should do things sooner (and, relatedly, better) and all the ways that I fail. It is a terrible way to live, and over the past few years I have been experimenting (half-heartedly-- often I don't have the energy, given all my self-flaggellation) with thought patterns to try to counteract the negativity and paralysis. Usually, of course, those don't work, but a few minutes of respite here and there are sometimes enough to get me by.

But enough about that for right now. What is completely remarkable to me, and more to the point at the moment, is that so many others feel the same way. My god-- we're all so isolated, and yet this is such a profound pattern. In my opinion, this is one of the most interesting results of this secret blog experiment so far-- that so many of us have already posted about the depth of our frustrations.

Chartreuse Circe said...

I wonder if it is a little bit self-selecting, in that the people likely to participate in this sort of blog are more likely to put off other things. I certainly do more blogging/ blog reading when I'm procrastinating.

Turquoise Stuff said...

Chartreuse, I think it's definitely a selection bias to some extent, absolutely! That said, there are enough of us here that it's obviously an issue that's not unique to just one or two people. Moreover, it sounds like at least some of the folks here are doing pretty well (or maybe I'm just assuming too much) so it's not as though the entire population of this blog is 10th year graduate students. So if there are successful people here who still have this problem then one possible issue is this: some academics put way too much pressure on themselves about productivity.. coupled with the idea that academia puts way too much pressure (and work) on people in the field.

Frankly, whatever the reason, I just want it to stop, even if only for a few days on occasion.

Welcome, Pumpkin!

Chartreuse Circe said...

Yup, Turq. I think you've got ahold of something -- clearly we're mananging to avoid it sometimes, somehow. I tend to think that sometimes it I just happen to be sufficiently productive -- and then I wonder how amazing I might be if I were getting more done, rather than "scraping by." Hmmm.

Clear said...

Pumpkin: I'm an optimistic procrastinator, and as such I've added you to the sidebar just now in anticipation of your posting sometime.

Mahogany said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mahogany said...

a good Southern name!
Mystical, heady...
humid, actually.
Are ya'll hot?
It's hot here!
(That doesn't give anything away. I think I heard an NPR story about Michigan melting and causing all the great lakes to run together.)

~ ~ ~ Welcome, Wisteria AND PUMPKIN, yummy

Mahogany said...

But *that* gave something away. I think should go back to typing without an internet connection. It looks like a good day for a.secret... or two... or three.

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