Smash the Snooze: Crush Procrastination Part 1

Smashthesnooze

A couple of months ago, I accidentally broke my digital alarm clock.

The alarm went off.  After a moment or two, I staggered out of bed, then lurched across the ten foot expanse between said bed and the stand I keep the clock on.

the rewrite chronicles public domain blog michael allan leonard

When I was groggily fumbling to slide the tiny switch on the back to make the shrill, electronic bleating cease, the device went tumbling about a foot and a half to the hardwood floor.

It landed directly on the rectangular snooze bar across the top, cracking the ‘button’ in irregular halves, as you can see in the photo at the top of the post.  When I picked the clock up — still bleating, but perhaps now with an undertone of indignant, inanimate anger — both plastic shards of the bar came loose, and fell off.

My first thought was, well . . .

qbert02

Thank you, Q*Bert.

And my second, following a mighty sigh of exasperation, was: “Great.  I’m going to have to replace that. ”

Later, I examined the clock and found there was nothing wrong with it . . . except the fact that with no snooze bar, that particular functionality was gone.

The alarm still worked.  The LED face still displayed the correct time.

It just wouldn’t let me ‘snooze’ anymore. No getting that one-touch, ten minute reprieve from actually getting up and starting my day.

I decided that wasn’t entirely a bad thing, . . . because the snooze button was why I was keeping the clock a good ten feet out of arm’s reach, on the other side of the bedroom, in the first place.

flash

I’m not sure exactly when my addiction to the snooze button actually started, but I can say I have, for as long as I can remember, not been an easy one to rouse from slumber under any circumstances.

When I was a kid, getting me up and ready for the school bus in the morning was an absolute chore for my mother.  My morning ritual usually consisted of my mom yelling up the stairs several times, growing a little more testy with each incidence, and then finally tromping up the stairs to physically separate me from the mattress.

Except on Saturday mornings, of course, because there was the carrot of cartoons on the end of the stick to get the pajama-ed mule to throw off the Super Friends sheets and hit the floor running.

itssaturday

This was in the Dark Ages of the late 1970s and early 1980s when we didn’t have several different networks that ran animated programming 24/7.  We barely had several different networks, period.

Nor, at least in my household, did we have a VCR to record them to watch at a more reasonable and convient hour.  You wanted your toon fix, you got it from being in front of the TV from about about 6 A.M. to maybe 11 A.M. or noon on Saturdays.

Adult Swim?  Nickelodeon?  Cartoon Network?  Toonami?  Disney XD?

toons

We got Fred and Barney Meet The Thing and we were damn happy to have it.

Fred_and_Barney_Meet_the_Thing

Okay, maybe it was the three heaping bowls of Fruity Choco Atom Bombs and the resultant sugar rush that just made us really tolerant of the junk we were stuffing into our brains . . . or made us too jittery to realize that outside of the title sequence, Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble never did actually cross paths with Benjamin Grimm: they were two seperate segments, each in their own respective universes.

But they could have a crossover at some point, so we kept watching.

Every week there was that possibility that Doctor Doom would show up to trash the Water Buffalo Lodge and declare himself Grand Poobah, and then it would be Clobberin’ Time, Bedrock-style.

feardoomangryfreddoomisnotamusedbarneyexplainsdocdoomrockthefirstavengerdoomsdone

Anyway . . . my parents decided that perhaps it would be a valuable lesson to learn if I got an alarm clock and learned how to wake up on my own.

Being maybe six or seven, I was skeptical about this whole responsibility thing.  Didn’t seem like it was going to be much fun.

Until I saw the clock they got me:

batclock

A Batman one, and it TALKED.  And for whatever reason had a purplish pink Batmobile that was nothing like the highly detailed and accurate one pictured on the box.

Back then, we as consumers did not have the ability to tweet our outrage to the world in hopes of shaming the manufacturer to make good on their promises.  We just accepted the junk we were sold, the planet kept spinning, and life went on.

Odd Batmobile color variant aside, this clock was one of the most awesome relics of my childhood.  My mom was no fool and knew my obsession with superheroes had gotten its hooks in and in DEEP.

Being a good parent, she encouraged that, because it made me very easy to manipulate . . .

. . . and she probably assumed that at some point, I’d grow out of the fixation.

goodone

Sadly, though, even the valiant Dark Knight and his faithful Boy Wonder couldn’t consistently get me up and motivated, although it was a good idea, in theory.

As I said, I don’t recall exactly when the snooze button started to be a ‘problem’ for me, but it was in my mid-twenties that I started to recognize there was a problem.

Most people might use the snooze function on an alarm now and again, get just ten or — with a double-tap — twenty minutes more in bed on a day they felt particularly exhausted.

Me, I was hitting it half a dozen times on a regular, almost daily, basis.  I think my record is maybe thirteen or fourteen consecutive taps.

boromir

It was completely irrational, I know: if I wanted to sleep in that long, I should’ve just changed the setting of the alarm to go off an hour later, instead of being woke every ten minutes, six times in a row, just long enough to reach over and slap a button.

The snooze button wasn’t about getting a little more rest; it was about procrastination, plain and simple.

And procrastination, I have come to realize, has been a chronic part of my lifestyle.

thedoctor

The snooze button was just the most simple and direct manifestation of that trait.  I just wanted to put off getting up and getting out of bed as long as possible, and got some little subconscious thrill out of it — even if I knew delaying myself in that manner was going to be an issue if I had to get myself ready and do a specific task at a specific time, or leave and be at a specific place.

I would have to rush and stress myself out in order to be punctual, and I hate experiencing that sort of anxiety . . . but I kept on doing it.  The only concession I eventually made was to move the clock out of arm’s reach so I couldn’t just flop over and slap the snooze.  I’d at least have to get up and get completely out of bed to do so.

Didn’t stop me, and the inconvenience barely even deterred me.  I just adapted my routine to include an angry half-conscious stomp across the room several times before deciding that the doorway is right there almost directly in front of me, I should just get up and get the day started.

You know and I know that the snooze button on an alarm is completely psychological.

earlysnooze

And, at one point, cutting-edge luxury tech.

Once you’ve been woke to the point where you are moved to action to quell the ringing or binging or bleeping or what have you, you’re not really getting any quality sleep in that ten minute interval before the snooze repeats the alarm.

That ten minutes is NOT going to make a physical difference one way or the other.  You’re not suddenly going to be any more effective at whatever tasks you’ve got to accomplish just because you got ten or twenty more minutes’ worth of rest.

But in your head . . . completely different story.

That ten minutes is like a leisurely, relaxing, week-long cruise upon the cotton seas lounging about the deck of the Good Ship Sweet Dream.

It might make you feel good to curl up in the blankets and snuggle your head deeper in the pillows for just a little longer before facing the day — and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Some people seem to function better when they don’t leap right up, but kind of gradually get the machinery in motion.  These people, I think, take the snooze into account and set the alarm just a little earlier to accommodate the slow start.

Me, I seemed to be content with finally waking up enough to realize that I shouldn’t have slept in that long, cursing myself and the world in general, and now it’s going to be a race to catch up with whatever routine I need to get underway for the day.

feelsgoodtho

Earlier this year, when I decided to start my little revolution against all the dumb things I manage to do that keep me from achieving my goal of being a professional, full-time writer (which you can read about here), one of the very first things on the agenda was to isolate, identify, and formulate a plan to deal with the bad habits, flaws, and just plain old faulty mental wiring that was providing obstacles to trip me up.

Procrastination was right smack on the top of the list.

From what I understand, it’s a common fault many writers seem to have. Possibly it stems from the fact that we’ve chosen a profession where nearly every possible time-wasting distraction can be justified as ‘research’.  We can do nothing overtly constructive, but still feel a sense of accomplishment, because that fooling around can get slotted in a story somewhere, right?

calvin-and-hobbes-procrastination

The success of our next novel, short story, comic, or screenplay, all the fortune and awards and acclaim, may all hinge on us being able to accurately portray the struggles and subtle nuances of a protagonist who is really, really good at finding the most bizarre @#$% online via Google, got a really fantastic deal on that copy of Nu No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on Amazon (with free shipping!), and has done all that while having simultaneously watched every last episode of Knight Rider in a near unbroken pseudo marathon on Netflix and demolishing a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos one-handed as a cherry on top.

James Bond:  your days are numbered, friend.  Meet the modern, multitasking, always-connected action hero.

What exactly is procrastination, though?

Is calling someone, or one’s own self, a procrastinator just a more polite way of saying ‘lazy piece of crap’?  What causes people to start procrastinating in the first place?  Just how deep does this particular rabbit hole go?

What I found with just a little bit of research was, I have to admit, more eye-opening than I expected, because some of it certainly ran against the grain of what I considered to be a ‘common sense’ approach to the topic.

To be continued . . .

— mal

spidey

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3 Comments

  1. Great post! Ugh it’s true… for most of us we are our own worst enemies! It does seem to be particularly true for writers or people who are involved in more creative pursuits, because we don’t have people harassing us when we don’t get things done (at least not in the same way) and as you said, almost everything can be justified as ‘research’. I do love the freedom, however, even if it is a double-edged sword! I find routine helps and the more you force yourself to just get on with it, the easier it becomes. Procrastination is a very strange thing…

    • Thanks! I was really surprised with what I found out just doing a brief fact-finding mission on the topic, which will be in the next installment. It definitely didn’t match up with the preconcieved common sense sort of notions I had, and has been really illuminating in trying to devise counter-strategies and get to the root of the problem. Procrastination is almost a sort of ‘genetic’ condition that people with certain personality and behaviorial traits are predisposed to fall into the clutches of, and knowing what those ‘triggers’ are is a key element. Looking at it from that point of view, it’s easy to see why creative types end up battling it, because some of the same traits that enable us to do what we do, or at least push us in that direction, are the culprits.

      Forcing yourself into a routine does indeed help, but the problem I find is that establishing a routine is very difficult — my ‘day’ non-writing pay-the-bills job has a very variable schedule, so I need a solution that has adaptability built into it. Makes it more challenging but certainly not insurmountable.

  2. You’ve done well. The first step of sleep rehab is admitting you have a problem.


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