That is, procrastination.
I've written about this before but I want to spend more time on it because it's a big part of losing your serenity at work: You delay delay delay, you focus on what you can't control instead of what you can, and you end up feeling powerless, victimized and frustrated with yourself.
For a brutally honest look at this condition, let's check in with Psychology Today. In a 2003 story, the magazine looks at 10 facts about procrastination. The most interesting for the purpose of this post is this one:
Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don't take a lot of commitment on their part. Checking e-mail is almost perfect for this purpose. They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure.
Ouch. And true.
The magazine goes on to identify three flavors of procrastinator:
* arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush.
* avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.
* decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.
Any of these sound familiar to you?
It makes sense: Want to avoid big, hard feeling? Feeling particularly vulnerable or insecure about your capacity to make it as a self-employed person? If you have even a little bit of an impulse towards self-sabotage (and who doesn't, at one time or another?), spending all your time answering email or sending email instead of dealing with your underlying fears is a great way to do it.
I don't say any of this to be shaming or judgmental. I love writing this blog but there are plenty of other things I could be doing with my business hours. And I love the email as much as anyone else. I say this to underline the fact that clarity about your motives for doing things that you don't like about yourself at work goes a long way toward deactivating them.
So spend some time today just observing and becoming mindful of where you procrastinate and what feelings are underneath it. As a friend of mine says, "It's not about the email." So if it's not about the email for you, what is it about?