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What it’s like being an overachiever who is inherently lazy

PHOTOGRAPHY BY BILL CHEN
Words by Sophie McGrath

I want to achieve it all, but I also want to do nothing at all.

My number one flaw is that I want to do and achieve too much. My to-do lists are too long whether for work or personal goals; I make declarations that are so far out of reach and I can guarantee that only 20 per cent of those dot points get achieved within whatever ambitiously short timeframe I have granted myself.

I gave up on new year’s resolutions when I didn’t make any leading into 2020, not because I wanted to but because I never got around to it, or more realistically due to just being tired of my year in, year out goals that I’d yet to fulfil. I do think I’m naturally lazy, but I can push myself to produce when necessary so you could classify me as a wannabe overachiever.

I think this just comes down to me not accepting the status quo and not wanting an ‘average’ life. But this is so subjective – what makes life ‘great’ for someone might feel decidedly ‘average’ for another – and it’s dangerous territory to veer in to. To put it simply, I’m either extremely busy or doing nothing at all.

There’s no balance, no middle ground. This is something I’m currently working on as it benefits nobody, including myself, and isolation has been very insightful, to say the least.

I’m ambitious by definition. I set myself goals and dream of success and going places. I ’d like to think I was destined for great things but I also sometimes just stare at my screens aimlessly whether it’s the phone, computer or TV and the hours that I could otherwise have spent achieving those goals are now behind me. So, am I inherently lazy or is there something else holding me back?

Sure, there’s elements of fear, perfectionism, self-doubt, impatience and my number two flaw: control or fear of lack of control. I can’t do it all but I try and maintain as much as control and ownership as possible and often the goals that I’ve taken steps to achieve are then put aside once I need to relinquish control. The goal then comes to a standstill.

Speaking of control and order, I’m fantastic at keeping a daily to-do list. I can’t start the day without one or I enter frazzle mode and ideally my to-do list is set the night before. Weekends have one too.

There’s a daily and a weekly version and a more general ‘fluff’ list including personal goals and admin, and as I’ve already brought to light, there’s a fat chance of achieving everything on them.

A perfect example is my ‘Iso to-do list’ – it’s a page long in size 10 font and I’ve only crossed off about six items off that list. It’s too long. But eventually, over time (maybe years) I’ll continue to cross it all of, just not right now (when I have all the time in the world).

My fatal and final flaw in all of this? Procrastination. There should be a picture of me next to this word. I can often be putting things off until the last minute and I can do what seemed like a four-hour job in one with the added incentive of time pressure.

The procrastination is a constant daily battle but dare I say it, popping a load of washing on is a necessary task, it just happens to become extra necessary when I’ve got other things to do. Don’t judge.

A great example is me sitting down to write these articles – when the topics don’t resonate as strongly as they have in my other pieces, they get put off until the last moment. Am I thrill-seeking deadline junkie? I don’t think so, because I genuinely hate these moments.

I’ll put it down to me being a misunderstood perfectionist with a hint of fear of failure. I want everything to be perfect but I’m also equally terrified of a new project or a blank page. So, here are some steps I have put in place to balance the achieving with the stillness and the persistence of goals and wants with my lack of necessary action:

1. Making rest and relaxation a goal along with all the other goals in work and personal life

2. Retraining my brain to be more positive, especially in self-talk – changing ‘have to’ into ‘I’d benefit from’ and so on

3. Being honest with myself as to why some items across the to-do lists are ‘stuck’ and never been achieved – have my goals changed or am I not willing to do the work and why is that?

4. Deleting items from a to-do list and being totally okay and guilt-free about removing them

5. Disconnecting on a regular basis – from my phone and from work and checking in with myself to avoid the haze of the mundane day-to-day to-dos

6. Creating daily rituals and routines – taking ‘me’ time very seriously and bookending my days with activities that benefit me like going for a walk

7. Discovering what’s important to focus on in the short term and long term

8. Blocking out the time to ‘do’ or ‘be’ – doing the work I say I am going to do or making time for mindful activity to benefit myself emotionally

If this period of isolation has taught me anything, it is to give myself time to be completely unproductive and doing so without guilt. As we all now know, when I overpack my day or life with tasks, however big or small, I ultimately set myself up form failure but being unproductive is absolutely 100 per cent, okay, and that’s something I’m learning to accept.

Acquaint yourself with the research that shows periods of doing nothing help maintain a healthy state of being and refuel your creative and analytical tanks and find that ease and equilibrium between the downtime and the ambitious or ‘ego self’.

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