I have a dirty little secret. Actually, for those who know me well, it’s no secret at all. I am a procrastinator.
On the surface, I seem to be a fairly organized, decently put-together person. But, that’s all just smoke and mirrors. Because I am the queen of procrastination. I have been perfecting the art for quite awhile.
Origins of a Procrastinator
A much younger version of myself flirted with the idea of putting off simple tasks like cleaning my room, doing my homework, or taking the dog for a walk. I’m a people-pleaser by nature. So far be it from me to get into trouble for neglecting to get things done. But typically, I wasn’t overachieving in the “planning things out ahead of time” department.
When I hit high school and college, with more intense workloads and deadlines, I was on a first-name basis with the All-Nighter. We became good friends. Or enemies. I’m not quite sure which. I saved up projects I’d been assigned well in advance until I had barely enough time to complete them. I was proficient at studying for tests the morning of, sometimes even the hour before, I was to take them.
Yet despite my questionable work habits, I graduated as one of my high school’s valedictorians and cum laude from college. And trust me, I’m not trying to toot my own horn here. These bragging rights haven’t had any bearing on my life since. But if anything, my tendency to procrastinate never served up negative consequences during my academic career. In fact, I remember saying on more than one occasion that I worked better under pressure and that my buddy, Procrastination, was actually helping me turn out my best work. Mmmkay.
The Stressful Side of Procrastination
Once I started teaching, I continued to practice the exact skill I was preaching to my students NOT to do. I taught my students to be well-prepared in their time management at school each day. But then, I would go home to feverishly grade their tests just before the deadline for data input and to plan the next day’s lessons until well into the night. Singing Procrastination’s praises wasn’t really working in my favor anymore and this procrastinator was a big, frazzled ball of stress most of the time. I decided that it was time for Procrastination to pack up and get the heck out.
And that brings me to the present day. I keep waiting to kick Procrastination to the curb. It’s annoying, it often makes me late everywhere I go, and it’s inconvenienced me on many, many occasions. But now that I’m a mom of fairly small children, I have other personal improvements that require my attention. Patience, compassion, and filtering a STRONG desire to use profanity while mediating sibling rivalry have become qualities that take precedence.
It also seems that as a parent, it’s even easier to find avenues that lead me back down procrastination’s path. Case in point, I found myself assembling a horrendously large, pink, Barbie doll house at 11 pm the other night rather than working on my soon-due blog post. That’s right. I was procrastinating writing my article about being a procrastinator.
So what does Procrastination look like now that I’m in the parenting stage?
First of all, I am a procrastinator about getting out of bed in the morning. But that is a direct result of the fact that I have procrastinated going to bed the night before. My husband calls me a “dawdler,” and he’s right. I like to go to bed with a clean house under my belt, but I wait until late-thirty each night, following several episodes of Top Chef, before I decide to wipe down the counters, sweep the crumbs off the floor, and fluff the couch pillows.
Once my alarm goes off the next morning, I hit snooze, snooze, and snooze again. Then I procrastinate getting the kids ready for school. While they’re eating breakfast, I fold some laundry, add items to my grocery list, and delete fresh junk emails before they overwhelm my inbox. With ten minutes to spare before we walk out the door, it’s go-time. Brush teeth, pack snacks and water bottles, yank a comb through my 4-year-old’s tangled hair. And usually run out the door with my shoes still untied.
I procrastinate packing before leaving on a trip, scheduling dentist appointments, and for some reason, paying my water bill. Calling to refill prescriptions, finding time for a workout, and buying birthday gifts are also in Procrastination’s repertoire. But I’ve got to wonder: if procrastination causes distress in my life, why is the habit so hard to kick?
Tips from a Professional
According to an article by Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo in Psychology Today, procrastination is directly linked to perfectionism, another character trait of mine.
“People with perfectionistic tendencies tend to wait until things are perfect in order to proceed—so, if it’s not perfect, you cannot be finished. Or if it is not the perfect time, you believe you can’t start. This all-or-nothing mentality can hold you back from starting or completing tasks.”Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D.
Mind BLOWN. I’ve always attributed my procrastination to laziness, but in reality, it is a result of my unrequited quest for perfectionism.
She goes on to list many helpful tips in overcoming procrastination. She suggests scheduling time for certain task completions on a calendar and chunking out overwhelming tasks into smaller, more manageable parts. You can read the full article HERE, and I’d highly recommend it. But the tip I found to be most eye-opening was this: “Forgive yourself.”
Forgiveness = Productivity
How simple yet immense. Lombardo states that forgiving past procrastinations leads to greater productivity levels the next time around. Playing the blame game, even with yourself, helps no one.
Therefore, fellow procrastinators, if you’re feeling guilty for spending the entirety of the kids’ naptime binge-watching your favorite reality TV show rather than finishing your online grocery order, I get it. If you find yourself shoving that impending deadline at work to the back burner and browsing your favorite retail therapy websites instead, I get that, too.
But let’s be gentle with ourselves. Let’s enjoy the things that bring us joy. Let’s chunk and organize and better manage our time. And let’s forgive ourselves for all of those times we’ve honed our procrastination skills in the past. Our last-minute tactics won’t last forever. Soon enough, we’ll be the punctual people at the party. And we’ll have even bought our gifts weeks in advance.