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Apr

12

2010

Healthy procrastination

I like junk food. I love Kit Kat bars and triple chocolate cheesecake. I like soda.

About a month a go, I stopped drinking two sodas each day. I would get to work in the morning and drink a Mountain Dew for the caffeine. Then I’d have a Coke with lunch. If I was going out that night to eat with friends then it would be another Coke plus at least 1 or 2 refills.

Then I stopped, but not completely. I’ve had three sodas in the last month. I don’t think I’ll ever stop completely because I like soda. I like a lot of things that have no nutritional value, but I don’t eat Kit Kat bars and triple chocolate cheesecake with dinner every night.

That’s why I don’t think I will ever stop procrastinating. Although junk foods have little nutritional value, they taste really good. Like junk food, I have junk activities. I enjoy these activities immensely but they do little to advance my quality of life. Television is enjoyable but it’s just junk food for my life. It fills up my time but has very low life value.

Eating enough junk food on a regular basis makes us unhealthy. If we do enough junk activities consistently, we develop low self-esteem. We can feel our life congealing around us like extra pounds added to our body. It’s a slow process. We don’t wake up one day and we’re fat much like we don’t wake up one day and have low-self esteem.

Procrastination isn’t the real issue

When we procrastinate, we avoid doing something we feel is unpleasant. However, everything I’ve ever procrastinated on I’ve completed on time. I make my deadlines. I get the results I need. It may be stressful for a short period, but short bursts of stress is healthy if spread out of over time.

The real issue is what we do when we procrastinate. For example, let’s say we have four hours to clean the house before guests come over. We know it will take 30 minutes. It’s our activities during those 3.5 hours before we clean that causes problems.

We start filling that time with fillers. Time fillers are like white bread. White bread is all calories and no nutritional value. Time filler activities suck up time without adding life value. Doing them doesn’t feel like a junk activity until we ask how has that activity improved our lives while we were procrastinating.

How procrastination really harms us

All activities fall into four categories.

Urgent/Important – Things we’ve been procrastinating that we’ve almost run out of time to do.

Not-Urgent/Important – Quality of life activities. Critical activities that have high consequences that we still have of time to get done. Stuff that gets procrastinated.

Urgent/Not-Important – Phone calls from people. Life drama that diverts our attention.

Not-Urgent/Not-Important – Time fillers. Taste great but life-fattening activities.

When the deadline for the activity we avoided comes close, we work hard in short bursts to achieve the results required or face consequences. This doesn’t cause issues unless we need do it again right away.

When INFPs procrastinate, we go into avoidance mode. We seek comfort in the Not-Important activities. It’s our reward first for our short burst of frenzied work later. Meanwhile the Not-Urgent/Important stuff that’s time sensitive starts creeping into the Urgent/Important category. So it feels like were always stressed from going from one crisis to another. Those repeated short bursts of stress-filled activity starts wearing us down day after day until we shut down.

Procrastination seeps self-esteem. Self-esteem comes from how we feel about what we do. INFPs do realize that even though we may enjoy video games, playing World of Warcraft 12 hours a day doesn’t improve the quality of our lives, it only alleviates the current quality of life. Mass consumption of time with Not-Important activities is like eating cheesecake all the time. Eventually, we stop feeling well.

Procrastinate with high quality of life activities

When we’re not doing something that has a deadline, we’re doing something else. Improving our lives comes from doing something else with a high quality of life value instead of time fillers that are all empty life calories.

Anything that falls into the Not-Urgent/Important category is something we don’t have to do later. Doing those items keeps us from procrastinating on those items later. If we fill up all our procrastination time with high quality of life activities, our self-esteem will never feel starved from lack of psychological nutrition.

Doing what’s left isn’t healthy

If you enjoy cheesecake and ice cream as much as I do, stopping makes no sense. Why stop doing something you like?

The question is how much and how often?

How much cheesecake do I really want to eat? How much television do I really want to watch? Often times, we eat what we have left in the kitchen. Sometimes, what’s left may only be condiments.

We do activities that we have left. Filling the pantry of our time means having goals we feel are worth accomplishing. It means having goals we can act upon now. Without these goals, what’s left is television and Googling things we wish we could have one day.

Rewarding doesn’t work for INFPs

Conventional wisdom tells us to reward ourselves after we’ve accomplished something or have cheat days where one day a week, we can eat whatever we like.

For INFPs, this doesn’t work. INFPs are defined by doing what we feel. If something feels good, not doing it feels like lack. It feels like denial of who we are.

This means that anything in the Not-Urgent/Important category must make us as feel as good as our time fillers. This takes reframing. Shakespeare in Hamlet said, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Everything is about how we interpret it.

For me, eating vegetables doesn’t taste as good as eating cheesecake. However, the feeling I get from knowing that every day my health is improving, that I’ll be able to do more and keep up with my kids as they get older, feels just as good as the sense of decadence I get from a really good triple chocolate cheesecake.

For an INFP, anything we do that’s Not-Urgent/Important has to make as feel as good as watching television or whichever junk activity we like best. If we cannot reframe how we feel about these high quality of life activities, then we’ll always feel like we’re not being ourselves when we do these activities.

Why not stop altogether

Because it feels good. Junk activities feel good as they should. However, they shouldn’t feel better than the high quality of life activities.

This way when we choose an activity to feel time, we aren’t choosing between what feels good and what doesn’t. We are choosing between what moves us forward and what doesn’t.

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24 Responses to “Healthy procrastination”

  1. Ellen

    Apr 12, 2010

    6:58 pm

    Things don’t like to do, but must, I procrastinate and then do as quickly as possible. Things I do like to do, I linger. I’ll be the late for the next appointment. I’ll be the last one to leave. Another kind of procrastination, perhaps 🙂

    [Reply]

    ockhamdesign Reply:

    I do that too sometimes. If I have an hour to something that takes 15 minutes, I can spend the entire hour making up stuff to do make it better. It’s especially bad if I’m working on a website I really like. I spend extra time tweaking stuff that the client isn’t really paying me for.

    [Reply]

  2. Kim

    Apr 12, 2010

    9:48 pm

    Interesting. I can definitely relate. Are there any techniques that work well for “reframing” the Not Urgent/Important activities?

    [Reply]

    ockhamdesign Reply:

    I try to reframe towards my highest values: personal development, learning and family. If anything I do can be about those three things then it makes it easier for me to do them.

    So everything I do, I try to approach a learning and development opportunity. If it’s something new I have to do, I approach it as if I had to teach a class on it the next day which keeps me focused and ask good questions. Almost every task, I ask how does doing this make me a better person. If the answer is that it doesn’t then I start thinking of ways to get rid of that activity from my life.

    And example of reframing around values is my new health kick. I use to be in great shape. Now I’m about 22 lbs overweight. I want to be 140 and I’m 162. I was 166lbs 15 days ago. I started eating right and exercising again. The reason for this was I started my personal blog to prove that INFPs can change their lives in significant ways and that we aren’t stuck. So I don’t really make losing the weight a just health issue. I make it about personal development that I can blog about to prove my point.

    [Reply]

    Kim Reply:

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

  3. Zkairos

    Apr 13, 2010

    11:58 am

    I could really relate to that. I also have this problem at work, I tend to spend too much time doing tasks that I like to fill up those long eight working hours, then I do the repetitive boring tasks (which happen to be the core of my job) at the last hour or so…

    I guess, as people get older they learn to eat their veggies and clean up after themselves regularly, and that is true for the INFPs, as we get older we learn what’s important in order to maintain our balance in life.

    and I like the new look of the site … it’s more sleek

    [Reply]

  4. Catherine Vibert

    Apr 15, 2010

    6:01 am

    I know the procrastination rut OMG! I’m doing it right this very second actually. Your blog is my current junk food. 🙂 But I like your attempt at a value system (systems were meant to be broken, right?) to help redirect the downward spiral of heaviness. When I get creative, which is all the time, my house becomes a major disaster. When I have a deadline to procrastinate on, the best thing I could possible do to improve my quality of life, and clear my brain in order to effectively meet said deadline, I clean like a wild banchee. I have major ads to get done today for my upcoming art show in two weeks. I best go get the kitchen clean. 🙂

    [Reply]

    ockhamdesign Reply:

    I’m also a cleaner when I procrastinate. I figure as I long as I’m not doing what I’m suppose to be doing, I might as well do something that I won’t have to do later.

    [Reply]

    Marjorie Reply:

    You are singing my song! Nothing like a deadline to get the house clean. My theory is we would really be OCD if we found the time to organize things, but we think it is a waste of time, so never quite get around to it. To get around this, I try to have on organisational day a week to just get it all out of the way in one day, bills, phone calls, cleaning, laundry. Get it out of here! And then I don’t have those tasks to procrastinate from doing when I should be doing the more important things. (some people find cleaning and organization to be the important things, yikes!!!

    [Reply]

  5. Sharalynn

    Apr 25, 2010

    11:29 pm

    I operate the same way with procrastination. I’m an INFP as well. I’m not completely with you on the junk food thing (I’m nearly a vegetarian nowadays), but I LOVE sweets and reward myself often enough. At least I can bake…….otherwise, I’d be broke. Oh, wait. I was broke before I got married while living in my apartment. I’d spend most of my money being a foodie and going out to eat. Good times. : )

    [Reply]

  6. Jennifer M.

    May 9, 2010

    8:24 pm

    LMAO – this is so me. Hahahaha. One Saturday awhile back, I was feeling particularly stressed, so I played my favorite video game, The Sims 3, for about 8 hours straight, instead of actually going laundry, etc, like I needed to be doing. The longer I played, the more I wanted to procrastinate. As I was playing it felt great!, but afterwards I felt so heavy and lethargic – “fat” in the emotional sense. And then I proceeded to do a whirlwind tour of my house, cleaning dishes, laundry, scrubbing the toilet – all in about 10 minutes I did most of the cleaning that I’d been putting off all day! Lol. It was great to not have that procrastination hanging over my head anymore though.

    [Reply]

    ockhamdesign Reply:

    Unfortunately, I had to stop playing video games when I had kids. I love video games still but I find that I only have a couple of hours every few months. Now when I procrastinate, I either exercise or write for my blog.

    [Reply]

    Natalie Reply:

    Hahahahhaahh ! I think that the sims 3 it’s the game for infp … We got the control of everything! ..that we should have doing … We put our ideal self on sims , and I hate it because what I’m doing I should have been doing in the real life … At the same time I love … I hate.

    [Reply]

    Simi Reply:

    I love this game too, that’s so true. Also they say INFPs sometimes have a hard time making decisions because we see all the options, and in Sims you get to pick all the options. You want to be an artist one second, a musician the next, or maybe a spy. 🙂

    [Reply]

  7. NancyA

    Jan 20, 2011

    10:23 am

    Thanks for this post.
    For some reason, people laugh when I say that I’m an aspiring introvert. But I am! Meyers-Briggs typers tend to think I’m a flaming ENFP. With age I have cultivated the ability to be more inward and, hopefully, inner-directed. Hah!

    you write:
    “When INFPs procrastinate, we go into avoidance mode. We seek comfort in the Not-Important activities. It’s our reward first for our short burst of frenzied work later. Meanwhile the Not-Urgent/Important stuff that’s time sensitive starts creeping into the Urgent/Important category. So it feels like were always stressed from going from one crisis to another. Those repeated short bursts of stress-filled activity starts wearing us down day after day until we shut down.”

    I’ve been tortured in the last few weeks about (not) doing a freelance project that is hanging over my head in a conspicuous neon sign with marquis lights. Anxiety, city

    Today, my procrastination included googling “procrastination personality type”. Thus my visit to your site.

    “Filling the pantry of our time means having goals we feel are worth accomplishing. It means having goals we can act upon now. Without these goals, what’s left is television and Googling . . .”

    Is it possible that insight facilitates transformation? Does productivity loom?

    I am in some despair about the degree to which I put things off. I was under the impression that you wrote somewhere about the need for resonance. . . may be not. I think there is some connection between my being on my own and procrastination. I don’t have people to answer to in the same way that one does in an office. No one is looking at my productivity levels with genuine interest.

    Of course my client is feeling a little abandoned — but he’s getting a pretty good deal for my services. I use that to rationalize the delays. This is taking the sort of risk that seems unwise.

    I think I’ll take your personality test now.
    ; )

    [Reply]

    Corin Reply:

    I think I procrastinate for two reason:

    1. It feels good. Even if it’s work I like doing it’s still work. And doing not-work feels much better than doing work.

    2. For some stupid reason, I feel that it’s more fulfilling to challenge myself doing work at the last second than using all the time I alotted.

    I’ve had that insight about myself for years. However, insight in itself doesn’t produce behavior changes. It really takes a habit change and some habits are very hard to break.

    [Reply]

  8. NancyA

    Jan 20, 2011

    2:38 pm

    With regard to insight & behavioral change, I present this insipid article from the Times:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/18/health/views/18mind.html?src=me&ref=homepage

    Feeling good is complicated. You’ve heard about the delayed gratification baby study? Check it out:
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/18/090518fa_fact_lehrer

    [Reply]

  9. Birdie

    Sep 1, 2011

    3:27 am

    For clarity’s sake: you say that in order to complete a goal we’ve set we must put high value on it? If so… how do we do that? How do we make ourselves value something that seems tedious, like… well, you used the example about veggies. I can know logically that broccoli is healthy for me and that I’d like to be healthy. However, I can still look at broccoli and feel absolutely nothing.

    Or, perhaps I misinterpret, and you mean that instead of avoiding broccoli and the metaphorical tedium it represents, we should seek out foods for the soul which are both healthy and tasty to us? Like squash (for me :P) or fighting for a cause?

    [Reply]

    Corin Reply:

    We rarely value the action. Instead, we value the result that those actions achieve. We don’t value eating broccoli. We value the result of eating broccoli and having a better diet which is health. If we don’t value the result than why bother doing any of the actions? Also, most people don’t recognize that their goal isn’t what they really value. Health isn’t the real value but what they think health will bring like feeling better about themselves or confidence or getting a significant other now that they’ve lost all this weight. It’s not better health that was end value, but the result of better health. Better health was us the means value and not the ends value.

    Same with getting a college degree. A degree isn’t the ends value. It’s what the person think the degree will get them, i.e. a job, respect, etc. Same with fighting for a cause, it’s not the cause but what the fighting for a cause will bring–a sense of self-worth, significance, direction.

    Once you figure out why you want something then it’s all about methodology. There’s always multiple methods to get to various goals. You end up finding the one that reflects your Creative Self-Expression. You choose the method that says, this way of doing it reflects who I am as a person.

    [Reply]

  10. Juls

    Jul 22, 2013

    1:46 pm

    I identify! I am procrastinating right now by reading this blog front to back; I’ve never read such thorough INFP information and I find it fascinating. I thought I had read it all, how did I miss this? Researching myself (always so interesting) while an independent film that I love plays in the background. Heaven! But – while I am happy for the moment, in the back of my mind lies all of the important tasks that have yet to be done: figuring out my retirement paperwork, calling a friend, planning a weekend for my partner and I, exercising my body, and landing a job that I can live with, happily. It is so much easier to procrastinate. I can watch TV and google to my hearts delight but in the end, it leaves me feeling rather dead inside. I want a social life. It is a good goal. Action. That’s the hard part. Changing direction to focus on the result, when I don’t FEEL like it. I am learning so much from this blob, you have no idea. Thank you Corin, you are a life changer.

    [Reply]

  11. BugoTheCat

    May 6, 2014

    9:53 am

    I am recently reading articles on procrastination and how to do the things you don’t feel like doing and I remembered your blog. That’s because there is an idea in some articles that some people mistakenly wait for the time to feel good about an activity, else they don’t do it. Some suggest that maybe we should try to act even on things that we don’t feel like doing at the time and maybe after the struggle that is against ourselves, we start liking them.

    Anyway, this reminded me one of the INFP characteristics, acting based on feelings. I mean, my logic tells me that some of the todo things might never feel good, so I just have to ignore my feelings and just do them. But my emotions put such a negative force against doing these things when I attempt to act upon them. This negative force I feel, even when I plan to sit in my desk and do the undesirable work, drives me away into procrastination. That negative feeling might make me weary and so I think at the time that doing a fun activity like gaming will calm me down and later I can start with better mood. But of course avoiding the hard work and falling into likable activities can make you more bored against the real challenges.

    So, yeah. I think there are people who are less acting on emotion and more on logic and manage to work frequently on things that logically have to be done, regardless what they feel. And then there INFPs struggling with this, cause an action Has to feel Right before they start to do it.

    Only trick I am trying right now is the “persuade yourself to do the undesired but important activity for just 5 minutes”. Tell him “Just do it for 5 minutes. What is 5 minutes? Just do it for so little and then I let you do whatever you want”. This way, the ice breaks, you start doing something and sometimes you start liking it more, you see it’s not so hard, you break that negative feeling, and you end up working on it for half an hour or more. It’s a good trick I am currently trying to play with. But not always perfect. Sometimes, I feel like I cheat on myself. I know that I am doing the 5 minutes trick but with real purpose to do the full work for half an hour or more. And so sometimes, I even avoid doing the 5 minutes, in order to avoid more lengthy work. Cause I know it doesn’t resonate with what I feel and I want to cheat on myself making him like it. But anyway, is not a bad start for a trick, and if it doesn’t work I just resort to the other trick, do some other life activities not urgent/important, urgent/not important, like washing the house and stuff.

    But I accept as a reality now, there are things that I won’t easily like (I might like the completion of them, but not the process) and at times I have to not always go with the “Must like to do” mantra, but find tricks to persuade me into being more productive with the “not like to do but have to” things. Also, far sought motivation (if I do this, will be healthy in few years) is hard to me. I always focus on the feeling I have right now.

    [Reply]

  12. Kireen

    Jun 16, 2014

    6:56 am

    Sometimes I feel like I have a psychological illness. I’m an infp as well but I’m still in the all day gaming phase. At least 80% of my activities are procrastination. When I return to the reality I’m really stressed about the works that have piled up, which again drives me back to procrastination. Such an absurd vicious circle…
    I guess this is also linked to being late all the time. And I often say no to interesting events because I have to study, but then end up wasting the whole evening anyway. It also doesn’t sit well with strong judging types. Because of this I have problems with my mom and my boss.
    So overall it feels like a constant bicycle break on my life. Like other people have normal bikes and I have one with stuck brakes (I once actually had such a situation in real life where I had to ride 20 km). No wonder I prefer to watch flowers over riding with that. But the problem is that I can’t get far that way and there might be waterfalls and beautiful forests that I just don’t reach because of it. Also the rain (or winter) is always coming (important tasks) and I should ride to some shelter, but I just keep on watching flowers hoping it would go past me… 😛
    Maybe I’m just whining and my bike is as good as others’, but because of the introverted feeling being dominant and posts like this I think there’s something to it…

    Anyway… This article was really interesting. I’ll try to work on linking tasks to my values (infp strong side :P). I think that was a good advice and I hope it works. After all family and financial independence are important to me and this isn’t helping either of them at all.

    P.s. Learning about Myers-Briggs types and ascribing them to people (real or fictional) is one of my procrastination hobbies lately (I even have excel tables!)…

    [Reply]

  13. London

    Mar 7, 2016

    12:31 am

    Wow, this is a great interpretation of what procrastination is and how it relates to INFPs. Your analogies and perspective gave me great insight. Although your wording was a bit abstract, you were really helpful in providing practical advice, suggestions, and recommendations.

    [Reply]

  14. Shanny

    Jul 13, 2017

    12:27 am

    Wow I needed this! Thank you so much 🙂

    [Reply]

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