Ponderings on Procrastination

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My last Newsletter started with a sincere hope that I still have – that everyone of you is well and keeping safe; that you are managing physical isolation while maintaining social connectedness.

Conondale Fishbone Fern EV1-6 ©Jacky Lowry 2020 Collagraph Print with Relief Roll

Image left: Conondale Fishbone Fern, EV1/6, ©Jacky Lowry 2020, Collagraph Print with Relief Roll.

Like so many others, I’m using Zoom meetings more frequently, and in some ways feel more connected to interstate and overseas family than before!  My art groups are using Zoom for monthly committee meetings as well. In my Newsletter I noted how the current health crisis, with its attendant physical distancing, was leading to an increased valuing of social connection, which got me pondering on the contradiction of my erratic Newsletter and blog post writing. I wondered what was going on with this procrastination, and what the basis of the underlying fear might be.

So I did do a little writing around the issue, to gain clarity around what might be happening, and to find some solutions.  Perhaps this experience may speak to some of you, and prove helpful. This opportunity for reflection is one good thing to come out of Corvid19 lockdown.

 Wild Raspberry 1_2-7 Jacky Lowry 2020 Collagraph with surface roll

Image right:  Australian Wild Raspberry 2/7 © Jacky Lowry 2020, Collagraph Print with Relief Roll.

First, I think this tendency towards procrastination is rooted in an exaggerated sense of responsibility to perform.
I think the roots of my procrastination may go back to a very early childhood decision that I have to perform and win approval, in order to be loved.  I know for sure now that this isn’t true, that God loves me, and that performance is not needed.  It is truly an unconditional love. But a little child does not know this, and can’t think at that level, in any case.  It took a long time for this understanding to seep into my mind and be truly believed.

Add two developing fears – a fear of being judged, and a fear of never being quite good enough.
I grew up experiencing  quite a lot of criticism
, which would have reinforced that performance was necessary for approval.  With criticism comes a fear of being judged, and found wanting.

Giant Maidenhair Fern EV 1/8 ©Jacky Lowry 2020 Handcoloured Collagraph Print

These  fears were reinforced with schooling.  Academic success was very important to my parents, and they believed, mistakenly, that we children would be spurred to greater effort if our achievements were downplayed.  Instead, I learned that my best efforts were not good enough, and so, at a subterranean level, the fear that I, as a person, was also not good enough, and couldn’t be loved became embedded.

I think this fear may have become generalised, leading to a sense of hopelessness around any activity where success was uncertain, projects that felt difficult, or were new, so that the risk of failure seemed greater. There is no point in doing something if at a semi-conscious level I expect to be judged, criticised, and seen as not good enough, even if it is my best effort.  I suspect that such fears, developed when very young, are particularly hard to let go of, even when they are not appropriate or true, because  taking note of fears is part of or our innate survival kit.

Image above: Giant Maidenhair Fern EV1/8 ©Jacky Lowry 2020 Handcoloured Collagraph Print.

Fresh Growth: Treehaven Farm Bottlebrush EV1/4 ©Jacky Lowry 2020 Collagraph Print with surface roll

There is one other thing of fairly recent origin, that anyone who has been very fatigued may relate to.  When I was very tired with chronic fatigue, I coped by just putting aside things. “I don’t have to do that now” became a routine way of thinking. There was just way more to do than what I could manage, so I would put it aside. During that time so many tasks accumulated, that in some ways a sense of overwhelm never went away, even though recovery is now very good. There is still so much that needs to be done, and the default “I won’t do that now, later, some other time” comes up all too easily.  And especially if the project feels difficult or is new.  The old subterranean fears of being judged, which still lurk around tend to kick in, and I procrastinate once again.

Image right: Fresh Growth: Treehaven Farm Bottlebrush EV1/4 ©Jacky Lowry 2020 Collagraph Print with Relief Roll.

Rough Maidenhair Fern EV1/6 ©Jacky Lowry Handcoloured Collagrph Print

In the past I have worked on my issues and learned a lot about dysfunction and behaviours I wanted to change (and that learning is still useful). But procrastination wasn’t much of an issue. I just followed my interests and made art.

But a few years ago it became obvious that our limited retirement income could only fund very limited art expenses. If I wanted art materials, or to frame art, the art would have to at least partly pay for itself.

So began the idea of building up an art business, and learning what was needed.  I enrolled in some online courses and built myself a website (still a work in progress).  Everything I tackled was new, and much of it was hard.  For the first time, my propensity towards procrastination became both obvious and a real problem.

Image above: Rough Maidenhair Fern EV1/6, ©Jacky Lowry Handcoloured Collagraph Print.

Wild Raspberry 2 1/7 ©Jacky Lowry 2020 Collagraph Print wirh Surface Roll

      So working on these courses brought a problem to the surface. But they also had within them some solutions.  I learned – and am still learning about planning, and scheduling, and organising my day.  This provides a structure that lets me see very clearly when I experience resistance to a task.  The structure has not only improved productivity; it has also encouraged me to notice when purposelessness arises, and to challenge the resistance.

      Writing about my procrastination also helped me see some other unhelpful ways of thinking.  I have a tendency to see projects in their entirety – an overwhelming point of view.  Being sick and tired could get me out of tasks, but it is a most dysfunctional solution.  No longer an option! Learning to break projects up into smaller tasks has been most helpful.

      Image right: Wild Raspberry 2,1/7 ©Jacky Lowry 2020 Collagraph Print with Relief Roll

      I also saw I expected control over the outcomes of my actions, and to somehow feel that if my desired outcomes were not achieve it was my fault. I actually do know intellectually that I can only control my own actions and responses, but this does not always translated into behaviour and feelings.  If what I was doing was hard and/or new, I just wouldn’t to the work.  I’m having to take ownership of my thinking and beliefs. The writing that I did helped me see that I really am responsible for changing unhelpful thinking patterns, and for doing the work, even if I can’t control outcomes.

      So that is where I am at – planning my days, doing the work, challenging resistance, and asking God for help. It’s early days, and I am making progress.  Writing this blog as planned is a win, because writing is one of the “hard” tasks (although ironically, once I get going I enjoy the process; it’s something in the mind before I start).  And importantly, now that the issue is being faced and is out in the open, no longer lurking as a vague, subterranean fear, the hard tasks are actually not as hard as I expect.  I am receiving the help I need.  I am grateful.

        Details of the art pictured above.
        All these fine art original prints were made between January and April 2020.

        Please Contact Me to arrange a purchase..

        Fresh Growth: Treehaven Farm Bottlebrush EV1/4 ©Jacky Lowry 2020 Collagraph Print with surface rollFresh Growth: Treehaven Farm Bottlebrush EV1/4 ©Jacky Lowry 2020 Collagraph Print with Relief Roll.
        Image size:  29 cm  x  21 cm
        Paper size:   49 cm  x  38 cm
        Paper:           Somerset Velvet 250 gsm, Antique
        Price:             AU$205 unframed, plus P&P.

         

        Conondale Fishbone Fern EV1-6 ©Jacky Lowry 2020 Collagraph Print with Relief RollConondale Fishbone Fern EV1/6, ©Jacky Lowry 2020, Collagraph Print with Relief Roll
        Image size:  19.5 cm  x  15 cm
        Paper size:   35 cm  x  29 cm
        Price:             AU$110 unframed, plus P&P.

         

         

        Giant Maidenhair Fern EV 1/8 ©Jacky Lowry 2020 Handcoloured Collagraph PrintConondale Maidenhair Fern EV1/8 ©Jacky Lowry 2020 Handcoloured Collagraph Print
        Image size:  19.5 cm  x  15 cm
        Paper size:   35 cm  x  29 cm
        Price:             AU$110 unframed, plus P&P.

         

         

        Rough Maidenhair Fern EV1/6 ©Jacky Lowry Handcoloured Collagrph PrintRough Maidenhair Fern EV1/6, ©Jacky Lowry Handcoloured Collagraph Print
        Image size:  19.5 cm  x  15 cm
        Paper size:   35 cm  x  29 cm
        Price:             AU$110 unframed, plus P&P.

         

         

        Wild Raspberry 1_2-7 Jacky Lowry 2020 Collagraph with surface rollWild Raspberry 1 1/7 Jacky Lowry 2020 Collagraph Print with Relief Roll
        Image size:  19.5 cm  x  15 cm
        Paper size:   29.5 cm  x  21 cm
        Paper:           Somerset Velvet 250 gsm, Antique
        Price:             AU$110 unframed, plus P&P.

         

         

        Wild Raspberry 2 1/7 ©Jacky Lowry 2020 Collagraph Print wirh Surface Roll

        Wild Raspberry 2 1/7 ©Jacky Lowry 2020 Collagraph Print with Relief Roll
        Image size:  30 cm  x  19 cm
        Paper size:   50 cm  x  38 cm
        Paper:           Somerset Velvet 250 gsm, Antique
        Price:             AU$195 unframed, plus P&P.

          10 thoughts on “Ponderings on Procrastination

          1. rosalind

            Just followed my own advice, have had to dig a trench to fix water pipe from river, just doing a little at a time I have unearthed the pipe and will be able to repair it in the next few days, not bad for an old woman

            • Jacky Lowry

              You are wonderful, Ros.

          2. rosalind

            Dont try to achieve too much at once, if you are feeling overwhelmed just identify a tiny part of that project whatever it may be and just work toward finishing that piece. I have to do a lot of work on the farm on my own and that is how I achieve it

            • Jacky Lowry

              Hello Ros,
              Thanks for reading and sharing. I think you are correct. One of the tricks I am learning is to not schedule too much into a day. That’s a sure way to fail..

          3. Anne Poremskis

            Hello there Jacky,
            Thank you for sharing your personal experience of living with procrastination. Your incite, openness & honesty are quite commendable and inspiring. I too suffer from bouts of procrastination and have long suspected feelings of overwhelm, fear of criticism & a sense of not quite having what it takes, may be responsible for the repeated postponing or complete derailing of my progress. I find the subsequent failure to execute only serves to further exacerbate my confidence. A perplexing, resource wasting cycle.
            Fears are often a frustrating, debilitating consequence of experiencing life acutely. I even wonder if these sensitivities are fully achievable without side effects. I certainly hope so, as I happen to feel quite privileged to have been gifted with such awareness.
            Hooray to you & here’s to your ongoing progress.
            Stay well & happy,
            Anne

            • Jacky Lowry

              Thanks for your very kind comments Anne.
              I do agree that it is the emotional thoughts, the feelings, that drive and sustain procrastination. Bronwen, the first to comment below, also thought so. And they definitely can feed into a cycle, as you have noticed.
              I also agree that having the sensitivity to experience life acutely can have debilitating consequences, especially if our childhood thoughts and feelings are mishandled. Parents, especially young parents, don’t necessarily know. I hope my children forgive me!
              Anne, I hope you find the satisfaction of solutions.
              All the best, Jacky.

          4. Hi Jacky
            I am very good at procrastination. I am also good at meeting deadlines – but if I don’t have a deadline, procrastination always wins!
            I have done nothing in my studio while in isolation – however I have been sidetracked by a small embroidery course so maybe when that fininshes (or the novelty wears off) I might have a good idea and turn up in my studio to do something about it. Maybe.
            Take care.

            • Jacky Lowry

              Hello Jenny,
              So good to hear from you. Deadlines can certainly help. I usually meet them too. As you say, it’s the self-directed activities that tend to be affected by procrastination. I hope you do get to the studio. I’d love to see
              anything you make.

              XXX Jacky

          5. Bronwen

            Hi Jacky
            thank you for sharing your procrastination experience with such openness and honesty
            I once read that procrastination tends to have an emotional element to it, so I have adopted the approach that when I notice I am putting something off and off and off and really there’s no excuse now then it is is time to check in with what emotional resistance I am bumping up against. If I sit with it and wait it will reveal itself and I can proceed with compassion for that.
            Congratulations for all that you have achieved!
            Bronwen

            • Jacky Lowry

              Hello Bronwen,
              Thank you for reading my words and leaving a comment.
              I agree with you. Without a strong emotional component such unhelpful behaviours would not be so persistent.
              And I like your solution. Mind you, I never did like sitting with an uncomfortable emotion, but it is definitely something that I could try too.

              Go well. XXX

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