Friday, March 7, 2008

Is Your Email Obsession Something Bigger?

This week, I've been writing about the scourge of email obsession and how to cope. I'd like to bring this around today to the bigger picture.

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?

1 comment:

Lisa Bakewell said...

Thanks for the great posts. I recently found your blog and it's quickly becoming one of my favorites!