many crumpled sheets of paper,
Ramon put his pencil down.
by Peter H. Reynolds
Candlewick Press, 2004
accessed on Libby 5/8/23
(first electronic with audio edition
Weston Woods Studios, 2013)
Delaying work, projects, or promises that need attention is something I’m not proud of being good at. I’m finally getting to the nuts and bolts of this post on procrastination.
Rory Baden’s book Procrastinate on Purpose that I mentioned last week turned out to be a motivational exercise in time management, although, in his words, time can’t be managed. You can only manage yourself. Niké summed it up in three words: Just Do It! My mom had a longer version: First you do what you have to do, then you do what you want to do. Both phrases are useful ways to conquer procrastination.
Business Insider describes four kinds of procrastinators: The Performer, The Self-Deprecator, The Overbooker, and The Novelty Seeker. Ali Schiller and Marissa Boisvert, authors of the article, claim that if you find out which one you are, you can overcome the tendency to procrastinate and become more productive.
My procrastination feels like a rebellion against my mom’s wise but nagging words. And that sounds rebellious to me.
So I procrastinated by taking a test on the Psychology Today website. I answered 10 questions and got this message: “According to your results, you are somewhat of a procrastinator. Your score indicates that you either procrastinate significantly in a specific area (or areas) of your life, or are a moderate procrastinator overall.”
My specific area flares when I don’t want to do a task, job, favor, report…so that part’s true. But none of those four BI types address the rebel piece of my personality.
Back to Business Insider's procrastinator types. (Distraction can also be a problem!)
Performers claim to work best under tight deadlines. BI says this is a cop-out for perfectionism. If you only have a little time, you can’t produce a perfect “fill in the blank.” The biggest challenge, the authors say, is getting started. Their solution: commit to a start date, not a completion date. Once you get started, you’re on your way to finishing.
Self-Deprecators claim laziness is their problem. Since laziness is a personality trait, they’re stuck with it. Not so, says BI. These procrastinators are the opposite of lazy. They work hard and need a break. They need time to rest and recharge. When they’re rested, the work will flow. I’m skeptical, but then again, I’m a procrastinator.
Overbookers are mostly overwhelmed. Saying “yes” to everything makes setting priorities difficult. It’s easier to blame being late or not getting a job done at all on something or someone else that’s maybe more important. Chaos makes it difficult to know what should come next. The best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed, they say, is to understand why it’s so hard to say “no.” The problem is not so much the ability to prioritize, but to know what is really important.
Novelty Seekers are a little like a cross between a squirrel and mad inventor. They no more get started on a great new project when their attention swings to the next new idea. It’s hard to see results when focus shifts so quickly. Completion becomes illusory. BI's solution sounds easier-said-than-done. The authors suggest jotting down the new idea and saving it for when the job at hand is finished.
According to social scientists, most people procrastinate. Procrastination is a habit and we do it for many reasons. Habits are formed when we get pleasure or relief from doing (or putting off) an action. Over time, this tactic is rewarded because it makes us feel good, and through repetition, a habit is formed. But the habit is a short-term solution. When it begins to bother us or even interfere with our lives, we want to change that habit.
One of the best ways we can eliminate a bad habit is first to recognize we are doing it. Habits, by their very nature, are what we do without thinking. Discovering the reasons why we procrastinate can also help us get on task. Sometimes it helps to “Just Do It!” Sometimes it helps to promise ourselves a small reward. Sometimes external motivation (set a clock to chime at completion) helps. Putting off something unpleasant only works for a little while. Focusing on the benefits of completion sometimes helps get me going.
I grew up on my mom’s phrasebook and sometimes her words of wisdom conflicted with each other. Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today bumped into Look before you leap.
I know I do more looking than leaping.
Spending time to figure out the why of my procrastination seems like a good? productive? helpful? way to put off the unpleasant task of cleaning my refrigerator.
I’ll just put the fridge on tomorrow’s Do List, again!
I read The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat (Candlewick Press, 2022) winner of a 2023 Newbery Honor. I enjoy fantasy if it feels “real” and this one does. The main character, Sodsai Mudawan, is a twelve-year-old girl with a big secret. Her future depends on whether she can hide the truth of her low-life father and her past of poverty. She strives for her independence by winning an apprenticeship to a mapmaker. He takes Sai with him on a journey to look for a continent that is the subject of a popular myth. As Sai sails farther from home, she has to decide whom to trust and what sacrifices she is willing to make for her future.
While written for kids (ages 9-12) food for adult thought includes colonization, ecology, and racism. Recommended.
—-stay curious! (and Just Do It!)