I have a confession. I am a gold medal winning, first class procrastinator. Just ask our fearless publisher/editor, or my husband. I don’t get how it happens. I make a plan, set priorities and timelines and then put it in the “must do” box in my brain. Then I get out of bed and the whole thing seems to self-scramble while I’m making coffee. I’m sure you understand.
I have thought that I should listen to the little voice in my head that warns I’m heading in the wrong direction and that, instead of procrastinating, I should back away for a while. Maybe take a walk or have glass of water. Then when I return to the issue, maybe I’ll be ready to begin with a brilliant solution. This hits me especially when I’m involved in creative activity and drives me nuts. Besides having senior moments these days, I’ve always been easily distracted. What if I wind up on one of the dreaded bunny trails that lead to only Heaven knows where and I can’t even remember that I was procrastinating? See what I mean?
I consulted a neighbour a few years ago who had licked the problem. We would chat over the back fence from time to time – I could never figure out how she accomplished so much and still have time to chat. I asked her what her method was, which was actually a trick question. I already knew what the answer was. Sure enough, she told me she starts every day with coffee and list making. Of course the first thing she wrote was, “Make a list” which I thought was shameless cheating but she said it gave her a feeling of accomplishment and motivation. The proof was that she ran a full time, successful business, had a gorgeous garden and a charmingly decorated house and entertained regularly.
So, I tried the list trick. It worked all right for a short time but then I would begin to get cocky and make the lists in my head, grossly overestimating my ability to stay focused without some concrete evidence of how complicated my life was. Back to square one!
Following some impressive self-castigation, I would search for metaphysical meaning in my actions. You know, try to find a lofty reason for putting off till tomorrow whatever I really should do today. I once heard a man wandering around in a garden saying to himself, “I coulda been a genius, I coulda been a genius.” I briefly entertained the thought for myself as a legitimate excuse but I do have a basic grip on reality and realized I was seriously unqualified. I had to face it. I was a plain, garden variety capital P procrastinator.
So, I still struggle with the problem. However, I have managed to work out a couple of strategies that aren’t a cure but they do help when I remember to use them. The first thing I realized is that I need a concrete deadline. Being raised in the fifties, I was taught it was not okay to let others down. If I did let folks down, at least I felt bad about it.
That’s why deadlines still usually work for me unless I’m having a passive/aggressive spell. The next thing is to break a chore up into bits that are manageable. When I’ve succeeded, I reward myself – not with food – I’m on a diet!
So, there you are! Now if I can only find the list I made yesterday…