Brace yourself for this bit of shocking information: Not getting stuff done doesn’t necessarily equal laziness.
That’s right – you can be a wet sock and lie on your bed for hours, accomplishing absolutely nothing, and still not be classified as lazy.
Let me explain.
Laziness is when you don’t want to do a thing, and so you don’t do it. You don’t feel guilty about it.
Then there’s procrastination.
Procrastination is when you don’t want to do a thing, and you keep putting it off, but you feel guilty about it.
Thirdly, and more to my point, there’s this term “executive dysfunction.” Basically, you really want to do a thing, but you can’t. You feel guilty about it, but no amount of guilt can make you get up and do a thing.
I’m no expert, but I’ve done my fair share of reading about this subject in the last few months after wondering why I was suddenly incapable of getting things done.
The simplest way to explain executive dysfunction is to compare your mind to an internet browser. In the case of someone who has anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc., you only get to open so many tabs.
Say you have anxiety.
You get seven tabs (that’s about as many things as a human can hold in their mind at once). You’re worrying about your homework, you’re wondering what you’re going to do with your life, you’re thinking about something you said 11 years ago.
Once those seven tabs are open, you don’t get to open any more.
Your brain cannot handle adding any new activities, and so you are stuck lying in bed like a limp noodle.
As I understand it (again, I’m not an expert, so please don’t take this as medical or psychological fact), it works similarly for depression.
One of depression’s symptoms is no longer enjoying the things you used to enjoy.
Here’s where executive dysfunction comes in. You can be lying in bed and wanting more than anything to write (OK, that’s maybe just me) or watch TV. However, your brain already has too many things going on.
You physically and mentally cannot make yourself sit up and do those things. It doesn’t matter if your laptop is right next to you and all you have to do is turn it on.
The point is, your brain is incapable of starting a new activity.
That’s all fine and dandy, but what do you do with this information? What do you do if you’re struggling with executive dysfunction?
Everything I’ve read about it comes down to being patient with yourself.
Recognize that you at least want to do a thing, even if you can’t physically make yourself do it. In this case, it’s definitely the thought that counts.
Be nice to yourself. Ask yourself why you can’t do a thing. If you can’t answer that, then ask yourself when you’ll be ready to do it.
Try not to feel guilty about it. It’s not like you’re flat-out choosing to be a wet sock. Executive dysfunction, like other disorders, isn’t something you choose.
I’ve found that the feeling of complete incapacity eventually passes. Maybe it doesn’t pass as quickly as I would like, but I always remind myself that at some point I’ll be able to get up and move on with my day. And at some point, I do.
As for those of you lucky enough not to experience this, be kind to people who are. We’re trying super hard to get things done. We already feel guilty about it without you piling on.