Errand paralysis

A recent article on millennials and burnouts coined the term Errand Paralysis. Errand paralysis refers to millennials’ inability to complete quite minor, mundane tasks, such as calling to make a doctor’s appointment or replying to an e-mail. This then results in endless procrastination and consequently feeling guilty for not completing such simple tasks.

Being a millennial, surrounded by other millennials, there is no doubt in my mind that this is a very real phenomenon. But I can imagine that if you haven’t ever witnessed a blood-coughing millennial telling him- or herself that nothing’s wrong, only to avoid having to make a phone call to the doctor, you may find the phenomenon of errand paralysis and its relationship to stress and anxiety a bit confusing and possibly unbelievable.

To these skeptics, I would like to present the following evidence: A Facebook group for police checks for bicycle lights. This Facebook group, that appeared on my timeline last week, exists only to give people a heads-up where there might be police giving out fines to people who are cycling without adequate lighting on their bicycles.

On first glance, this actually seems like a rather handy and easy way to avoid having to pay a 50 euro fine. All you have to do is check the page whenever you’re going out to cycle in the dark and adjust your route accordingly. Easy, right? Except that there is a much easier alternative, namely going out to buy bicycle lights for a couple of euros and then no longer having to worry about this problem.

To me, this is a classic case of errand paralysis. Apparently, the members of this group, mostly students, would rather go through the process of checking the page and taking a detour each time that they go out, than run one little errand. Now these small detours may seem like relatively little effort, but imagine for a second if you were to replace every errand that you ran with a slightly more labor-intensive task aimed at avoiding having to run that errand. Imagine already being so stressed and occupied by all of the mundane tasks that you don’t even have time to deal with the real issues in your life. Is it silly? Yes. Is it unnecessary? Probably. But I’m afraid it is simply the millennial reality.

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