…in the end, you only screw yourself.
That was one of the funniest sayings I’d ever heard when it was first told to me 14 years ago. Yep, I remember exactly who shared this bit o’ wisdom (Mike Dallas), where we were, and the conversation we had. Except I’ve censored it to “screw” where he dropped the F-bomb. It was definitely the shock value of the words that caught my attention but the weight of the message is what really made a lasting impression.
I didn’t always procrastinate. But somewhere along the way I started living the I can do it tomorrow mindset. Don’t ask me why I started because I really have no clue.
During my day job, my procrastination has to do with boredom–sometimes the tasks just aren’t as exciting as they used to be so I put them off to the last minute to create a challenge for myself.
The area of my life in which I procrastinate the most is fixing things. No, not like mending things with someone I’ve hurt or getting therapy for my issues. I mean the literal repair of something that’s broken. I really wish I knew why I do this, e.g. my car was vandalized in 2003 and I still haven’t replaced the missing antenna. I know, I know. Or, the stand alone freezer I purchased in August 2007 that quit working in October 2007, within its warranty period, yet still sits empty, not working, beside my fridge. Or, the eyeglasses I purchased on 11/3/2009, but they don’t fit right and squeeze my head ’til it hurts. I have 60 days from the date of purchase to exchange them. Do you think I’ve made it back into the office to do so? Nope, I sure haven’t. What the hell is that about?
I used to procrastinate about writing, but now, thanks to Think Sideways and some serious self-analysis, I know it was because of perfectionism, and I’m retraining myself and breaking that cycle. When I did procrastinate about writing, I would tell myself I couldn’t start because (a) I didn’t have a perfectly written outline, (b) I didn’t know if the idea was good enough, or (c) I had more important things to do. Yeah, I know, what’s more important than my passions, right?
In my quest for insight into these annoying behaviors of mine, I came across a ton of articles and I realized that I am by far not the only person who procrastinates. Whew! And maybe, just maybe, the one area in which I procrastinate the most – not fixing things as soon as they break – might not be that big of a deal…at least to me.
I read 10 different articles before I found “Good and Bad Procrastination” by Paul Graham. It was exactly what I needed to read. Instead of lumping all procrastinators into one category or several different personality types, Graham suggests that perhaps there are “three variants of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. That last type, [he]’d argue, is good procrastination.” The article goes on to discuss the people in his life, who are achieving great things, tend to be type-C procrastinators. Those people focus on the BIG things and let the little things like errands and housecleaning fall lower on their “To Do” lists.
Obviously, to some people, fixing the car antenna is an important item on one’s “To Do” list. But for me, it’s gotten constantly pushed to the side by the need to complete BIG tasks like homeschooling my daughter or writing a novel. What the above article really made me realize is that I’m feeling guilty over not completing those things because of what other people prioritize as important.
I used to feel that way about housecleaning until I realized I don’t have to live in a really clean house to be happy. My laundry might pile up for a couple of weeks. The dust might be visible for a couple weeks before I get to it. But my dishes are done on a daily basis and my bathroom is cleaned once a week and dustbunnies are swept up when I see them. I’m not saying I don’t want to fix things as soon as they’re broken. I’m just saying I’m not going to allow myself to feel so much guilt when I don’t get to them straight away, or even six years later. (Note to self: this does not apply to major repairs, like my roof, which I will tackle as soon as financially possible.)
I won’t be remembered for making a speedy repair or keeping an immaculate house. I will be remembered for being a good mom and a passionate woman–those are my priorities; my BIG things. Yet I continue making progress on my neverending “To Do” list, and instinctively, I’ve focused on the important items all along, so I’m finished feeling guilty for not getting everything done up to this point. And I’m done with feeling guilty that I do procrastinate because nine times out of 10, I choose to work on something of more importance to me.
What’s important to me might not be important to everyone else, but when have I ever lived my life according to what other people thought I should be doing? Psst! The answer is “rarely” in case you don’t know me.
So ‘fess up!
In which areas of your life do you procrastinate?
Does your procrastination affect your life in a drastic way?
Does your procrastination weigh heavily on your conscience?
Are you a writer who battles procrastination? Check out this handout on procrastination from The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/procrastination.html.
Are you a procrastinator? If you answered “yes,” The Mom Coach offers her analysis of the “8 different styles of procrastinators” at http://themomcoach.typepad.com/the_mom_coach/2009/07/are-you-a-procrastinator.html
Do you want a broad overview of procrastination? Wikipedia’s listing is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procrastination