The art of war: bad habits edition

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So a handful of months ago, I wrote an opinion on the dangers of minimal sleep. Particularly my own lack of shuteye.
But now I’m starting to wonder if the universe’s aversion to allowing me the sweet bliss of REM cycles is truly the reason behind my egregious levels of senioritis / inability to get work done.

Being that I’m (moderately) on the cusp of being a college freshman, I decided about a month ago to embark on a mission to discover the root cause of the long thread of wasted primetime productivity hours and 4am existentialism highlighting the better part of my high school years.

“Effects of sleep deprivation,” I Google for the umpteenth time, this time searching for any indicators that my lack of sleep was really what fuels my insanely slow productivity. Needless to say, I was not all too reassured by the results, especially in the longevity of the remaining years of my life.

I mean, when all of the articles are titled “How Sleep Deprivation and Insomnia Can Cause Your Death,” “What it’s Like to Die from Sleep Deprivation,” and “Can You Die from Lack of Sleep?” it’s difficult to escape that slightly panicky feeling that something must be really wonky with my habits to bring me to the brink of mortality in this way.

But I digress. My theory now is that not only is it minimal sleep that makes me feel like I’m down to my last two brain cells, but it’s actually that I’m at war with the entire screwed-over entity that is my habits. (A realization which, indeed, dawned on me as I was cursing myself to the nines one morning at 4am.)

To best explain the nature of said war, I recommend beyond all doubt that you all should watch Tim Urban’s TED talk on the mind of a master procrastinator, or read his two-part series on procrastination on his blog Wait But Why.

In any case, the quick run-down of Urban’s talk is that people who manage their time quite poorly are afflicted by this mental, imagined being called the Instant Gratification Monkey, which grabs on to that part of us that seeks instant pleasure and, for procrastinators, doesn’t let go.

The Instant Gratification Monkey then distracts the procrastinator from their current task, shooting them off into Wikipedia holes or YouTube binges.

Eventually, when the procrastinator realizes that it’s too late—that they’ve gathered all of that time they had, wrapped it up, and sent it to the Monkey—panic begins to arise, and this is where the Panic Monster meanders his way into the procrastinator’s life.

Often, Panic Monster will make you do your work, albeit in such a time crunch that (at least for me occasionally) you don’t even have a spare second to stretch. But everyone who’s encountered the Panic Monster knows it’s one heck of a jarring, revolting experience. So I’m toiling away on the battlefield on the daily, confronting Panic Monster, Instant Gratification Monkey, and Sleep Assassin mano-a-mano. Of course, Sleep assassin is what makes me stumble onto the battlefield in the first place, but once I’m there, it’s brutal.

I admit, I do plummet into Wikipedia holes and pursue instant gratification, but when I do, it’s like I’m being possessed by some celestial deity of mischief (a monkey, perhaps?). I literally feel like I’m on autopilot and I can’t shut it off, as I’m forced to watch time leave me over and over again like The Vow on repeat. And I am absolutely powerless to stop it, because Sleep Assassin kills my will to even will in the first place. After all, who can resist the beck and call of their bed when it’s five feet away from your desk, and your alarm promises to wake you up to the sounds of “Sunrise” in just five minutes? No mortal, I daresay!

That instant my head hits the pillow, my brain says five more minutes, but my body says five more hours. Therein might be why Panic Monster shakes me awake at 4am, calculus homework crushed underneath my blanket.

And then to drizzle some icing on the cake, I believe I’ve got an awful tendency to think I’m Atlas. I tell myself that holding my world on my shoulders every hour of every day isn’t that horrible. That it’s bearable, in some sensible, nonsensical sense.

Oh, how erroneous such thoughts end up being. Because not only am I targeted by Sleep Assassin, but then Over-scheduling Odis decides to join the party, packing my schedule to the brim with classes and track practices and work on weeknights.

And once again, I cry out to the void for Time in the exact instant that I necessitate her the most. She only shows up excessively on Friday afternoons when I find myself… not really requiring her company. Time is That Friend Who Appears Only When There’s Cake™.

The absence of time = the absence of the ability to do, well, school, most of the time.

Believe me, I’ve tried relentlessly to win this war. I’ve utilized Pomodoro, blocking off certain hours for certain subjects, the 30/30 technique, Tumblr’s “100 Days of Productivity,” 20oz of caffeine at midnight, chain-chewing gum, FaceTiming my dog (side note: that one failed), and still I find myself a puppet of my own malfunctioning time management. So for those of you battle-hardened folks who’ve slayed these foes: want to grab a cup of coffee sometime?

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