When The Procrastination Gorilla Had Me Pinned To The Wall

Morning time is meditation time. So there I was, sitting on my low cane chair, back to the wall. I took in the view from my bedroom window- a panoramic view extending to miles ahead. The tall trees nearby contrasted by the skyscrapers on the horizon make for a pleasant sight.

After the exhilarating experience of  having dissolved into my meditative zone, I opened my eyes. My creative thoughts peak just about at this time: most of my story ideas, poetry and quotes that I create arise then. Having penned down a few of these thoughts, I was trying to weigh my productivity, assess whether I was actually making progress.

Pending-WorkThe initial surge of excitement was giving way to dread. Please no, not all those ugly pending tasks now! Can always set aside time for them later. Look, I am being productive with all my creative work. It was not that I was just whiling my time away doing nothing. Yet, I knew this was not ringing true, that I was fooling myself. The satisfaction derived out of my work was thus hollow. Was trying to mollify myself without any success when a pink box the size of a huge shoe  box popped up right in front of me.  I noticed it had ‘In-Tray’ marked on it. Aw, this is a trick to push me to complete my pending work! My Bipolar mind playing games?

Right before my eyes, the Box suddenly multiplied in size and  giving it company, there was this small green box on its right, marked Out-Tray. Try me out, I  am not going to give in to these pranks my mind is playing on me. Was rattled by a roar from the pink box and saw a pair of grizzly paws at the top edge of it and  the top of a gorilla’s head! The pink box was getting larger by the moment and it had almost reached the ceiling. Feeling suffocated by being trapped between the box and the wall, my mind raced to find some solution, before the gorilla managed to get to me! ‘In-Tray’ and ‘Out-Tray’,  yes there was the solution! 

Scrambled to my planner and I said to myself: this mess is of my making, only I can undo it.  As quickly as I could, I scribbled down some of the top most pending tasks that I had been indefinitely putting off. Looked up hopefully, is it helping? Nope. How can I get rid of this Pink In-Tray? What now, racked my mind. Commit time slots and a schedule for completion. Voila! The pink box shrunk and the gorilla quietened down.  Felt relieved. At the same time the green box had grown larger, was now translucent and I could spot a small beautiful fawn inside.  There’s no point coming up with excuses: work that has to be done, has to be done! I am committed to allotting more time to ‘routine, boring work’ rather than allowing myself to get bogged down under its mountainous burden, I resolved.

By then, the green box had shed its transparent cover and the fawn had grown into a beautiful deer. Where was the green box with the terrifying gorilla inside it? Vanished into thin air..The deer walked towards the window and just floated out. Hypnotised by this liberating experience I walked over to the window. I spread my arms wide open, upwards to the skies and said to myself.

This is freedom!


What does this story tell you? Why is it on this site?

‘Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy’ Wayne Gretzky

Dr. David Burns in his brilliant Book on Depression, ‘FEELING GOOD‘ shares how Depressives have an inherent tendency to procrastinate and then buckle under the sheer weight of unaccomplished work. I counted myself among the more disciplined set of people who do not like an untidy mess of things pending. That was until Bipolar struck. The energy and will to work, to focus my mind and the motivation to keep going, all took a hammering.  For years there was a lull in my productivity when survival and well being became top priorities. Nevertheless, I admit that one tends to find excuses easily and one chooses to procrastinate.

Procrastination is the gap between your true potential and where you languish today. This awareness begins to gnaws at your confidence and it affects your performance. Agreed that we Bipolars have a creative streak and we do not like to be bogged down by mundane work. Now there’s the catch: the attitude we adopt in one area of our life generally percolates to everything else. If you are lackadaisical in finishing important work because you find it draining, you are hardly likely to be fully committed to consistent, disciplined output in your creative endeavours too. Even if you manage to o so, will you feel fulfilled? When I began Blogging less than two years ago, my friend and mentor, Puneet Bhatnagar gave me one of my most powerful mantras for success in life:
‘Genius is worthless without discipline’
Couldn’t agree with you more, Puneet!

Whatever success I have had as a Writer, Blogger and now a self appointed messenger for Bipolars, the primary reason for my progress has been my trying to adhere to my friend’s advice. How did I cope? I have had my share of problems too. Like many problems or attitudinal issues, this too can be solved by adopting a multi-pronged strategy.

‘I feel threatened by all this work, how am I going to ever do it?’
Self pity never helps. While being very harsh on yourself is counter productive, be pragmatic.
I look up to an icon like Helen Keller for being a role model in this respect:
‘I am only one but still I am one. I cannot do everything but still I can do something. I will not refuse to something I can do’
What can I crib about then? Almost always, it is not the work that bothers you but the thought of the trouble you’ll be subjecting yourself to.

“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” ~William James

‘I’m overwhelmed! No, I can’t bear the pressure anymore!’
This is because you let the Gorilla grow out of control!
Break down your tasks into simple to do lists. You don’t have to complete the whole backlog in a day.
Take up what’s most urgent or that which you initially find manageable.
At the end of each day, tick mark what you have completed. Even if it is just three out of five tasks listed, its better than none.
Add a smiley for good effect. I even maintained a diary, which I used to update in the evenings, to note down only the positives of each day. Its a huge mood booster and makes you feel worthwhile. A large chunk of this was devoted to tasks I had managed to complete: however trivial they were.

‘I have become absent minded, I tend to forget things’
Create proper schedules in a Planner, look it up everyday, set triggers in your Smartphone, put up sticky notes where you’ll find them. Use a whiteboard with colour coded tasks on it. (In addition, I make mental notes of my important tasks for the day each morning.)
Watch your productivity jump!

Nothing can be as motivating and as inspiring as setting Goals for yourself. Short term, medium term and the larger Long term ones. Begin with something as simple as I’ll walk for thirty minutes a day, I’ll smile at two strangers every day..
Extend yourself to something more concrete, for example my medium term Goal is completing my Book.
Make your Goals SMARTSpecific. Measurable. Attainable.Realistic. Time-bound

Leap-Of-FaithAt her Workshop which I attended a few months back, International Life Coach, Malti Bhojwani’s encouragement boosted my morale. ‘Vijay is a doer’ Malti said.  Obviously that raises the bar of expectations you have of yourself and goads you into action. Yes, Malti, you helped me take that vital step.

All this was about mundane, routine tasks, right? Wrong!
Being disciplined here shapes your destiny in your creative work too. After all, progress can only follow action. There is immense satisfaction in  living a balanced, responsible life. Of being an accomplished doer.
I have experience this myself.

So what are you waiting for?