when you don’t want to do anything

When it comes to procrastination and burnout, we have a tendency to assume it’s because of laziness and/or improper self-care. Actually, even placing procrastination alongside burnout seems to be an attempt to tackle things too distinct from each other. Procrastination is almost synonymous with laziness, while burnout is often paired with workaholics and cynical doctors.

However, strange as it may seem, they both share a perfectionistic root. The New York Times recently came out with a fantastic article on procrastination. Read it, you won’t regret it.

While reading it, I kept listing all of the people I wanted to send it to. I.e, all of my procrastinator friends. Generally, I try to avoid sweeping statements on gender because I feel like the differences are largely exaggerated, and cross-cultural psychological experiences are hard to pin down; however, the heaviest procrastinators I personally know tend to be male.

As the science indicates, we procrastinate because we feel poorly about ourselves and we prioritize the short term over the long term as a means of survival, but it just makes the long term miserable. In a world that highly censors male emotions and communication about their feelings, my personal hypothesis is that men tend to use procrastination as an outlet for the negative emotions they are pressured to not exhibit.

On the other end of the spectrum it seems, you have burnout. I think we all realize that burnout happens across the board, but certainly, certain careers have a much higher rate of burnout. We think of people like doctors, lawyers, and clinical psychologists who have to work insane emotionally-draining hours with people who are always struggling in some fashion.

So, what causes burnout?

Mayo Clinic isn’t as exciting a read as the NYT, at least not in the same way (if you count diagnosing yourself with fourth stage melanoma because of dizziness when you stand up after a long period of time as ‘exciting’ and not ‘paranoid hypochrondiac delusions late at night’), but it’s reliable enough for basic information. They suggest burnout is likely caused by a lack of control of one’s work, unclear expectations, poor workplace dynamics, extremes of activity (either super monotonous or super chaotic), lack of social support, and work/life imbalance.

But on the more individual scale, there are emotional factors that lead people to burn out more readily. In short, if you try to do too much and the world doesn’t try to accommodate you or fix your schedule. The eager overachiever tries to make the world a better place but then they realize change is much slower and not as wide-governing as they want it to be.

Humans get deeply frustrated. We try to put in effort, and we try to trust that our effort matters. When it seems to not, it fundamentally exacerbates our existence into something miserable.

The reason I grouped procrastination and burnout together was that both have similar solutions: take care of yourself.

Forgive yourself. Let yourself rest. Let yourself relax. Sometimes we find ourselves doing things we don’t want to do, and recovering from it takes us more time than it does for the things we love. We do what we can to create a life where we find meaning and passion, but that’s not always possible.

You are human.