If I were a superhero, my special power could be The Power Of Procrastination. This is not *always* a bad thing, as I do some of my best work when I’m up against a deadline, churning out work. I work well under pressure. But there are sometimes when it would be *awesome* if could kick myself in the pants and get started early! Now this is not to say I don’t plan: I am most definitely a planner. But I plan and contemplate what I want to do for a long time, and then rush through the actual task at the end (though again, sometimes, I can spit it out in good form in short order exactly because I knew exactly what I was going to do). But still, I was recently prompted to analyze just why it is that I do that. And I came to the conclusion that there are two main reasons why I am Procrastinismo, Master Of Last-Minute Tasks:
I am a perfectionist. If I can’t figure out a way to make it just so, I often dread doing it (and sometimes avoid it entirely, because, the thought process goes, why bother if it’s not going to be done right?).
Fear of new things. I often work myself up to a low grade anxiety when I am exploring new territory. I don’t even always know when I’m doing it because when I think of psyching myself out, I think of the more intense version (reserved for things like going to the dentist). But there is a milder version somewhat akin to jumping in a pool: you’re excited to go swimming, but you hesitate to jump right in because you KNOW initially that water is going to be cold. Once you’re in, you adjust and everything is great. But sometimes you have to talk yourself into it.
The event that had me looking deeper at my procrastination patterns this weekend was a prime example of the low grade anxiety variety; once I did it, I had a lot of fun, I want to do it again, and I overall loved the experience. But that cautious streak in me had to know that it was going to go well before the rest of me could get on board with the enthusiastic participation component.
Now I know that not all things require Enthusiastic Participation, and some things that you’re really *not* going to enjoy just have to be done anyway, excited or no (see: dentist). But this wasn’t one of those things. This was a thing that was right up my alley, but still, that fear held me back from doing it until I absolutely had to.
So, I’ve formulated a plan (see? I plan). At least in regards to things that I’ve identified as Things I Actually Enjoy And Need To Get Done But Perfectionism And Uncertainty Keep Me Back (I love to title stuff, can you tell?). I’ve actually plotted out stepping stone goals in my calendar. So, if I’ve got a project due in three weeks, I’ll plot out part one’s deadline in week one, part two in week two, and the whole kit and caboodle in week three. If I have an ongoing task to perform, say, listing new items in my Etsy shop, I’ll write in my calendar “x number of Etsy items due this month” (or week, or whatever). I actually find having planned mini-deadlines forces me to get it done, because they hold the same “deadline” weight in my head, whether it’s the “real” deadline or not (or if there even is one or not). If I force my brain to think of it as Due Now, it goes into that works-well-under-stress overdrive that has served me so well over the years (*cough*schoolwork*cough*). It’s kind of like the advice they always give people who tend to run late (*cough*me*cough*): set your clock ahead so you think you’re late when you’re really not, and you’ll be on time. Except this actually works (if I know the clock is 20 minutes fast, my brain subtracts 20 minutes, because it knows the clock is a LIAR).
Seems like a simple concept, but it’s been a point of frustration for me for many years. I always feel so much better once the task/project/etc. is done; I seriously get a happy productive high generally no matter what I’m doing (dishes! laundry! paper! work!), and I definitely feel worse the longer I put things off. The happy productive high is even greater when I complete a task that I have been procrastinating on for a long time (I finally mended my shirt and can wear it again! woohoo!). So this way, I get little happy productive highs on a regular basis, not just when I whack myself upside the head and force myself to Quit Procrastinating And Just Do It. Which not only gets stuff done, but adds to my happiness levels.
What do you procrastinate doing, and why? Figure out a workaround, and give yourself a happy productive high! Au naturel, my friends – who needs drugs? Just do it. 😉