Tag Archives: procrastination

Putting Off

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There’s a song that begins “Anticipa-a-tion…you’re makin’ me wait…” When that tune runs through my head, though, the word is “procrastination,” rather than “anticipation.” It slides right in there, and is much more in line with my life. I’ve always been a procrastinator…long before I knew the word, or understood the concept.

Even as a small child, I put off everything, right down to necessary body functions. I was the kid in the play yard squirming, holding myself and sitting on my heels because I desperately had to pee…but didn’t want to take the time. My sister Brenda, always the sensible one, would chide, coax and encourage me: “It’s not gonna go away, you know;” “Just run and go, then come right back;” “If you wet your pants, you’re gonna get in trouble!” My mother would scold, shame, and warn me about the harm I was doing to my body. It was certainly an uncomfortable feeling, and Brenda was right, it didn’t just go away; still, I was a pretty big kid before I quit trying to put it off.

Bedtimes were another issue when I was a child. I’d argue about staying up, beg for a little more time, dawdle and poke through all the nighttime rituals, then remember that I had to pee…or needed a drink of water…or had an ache or pain that warranted attention.  That tendency has never gone away. I still put off going to bed, and then I fight sleep. No matter how tired I am, no matter how full the day has been, or how much I need my rest for the day ahead. Sometimes I call it insomnia, but I wonder if it’s just another way procrastination manifests itself in my life.

Far beyond just bedtime, procrastination affects my life. I have long lists of things to do in my house, yard and garden. There are projects to finish – and others still in just the conceptual stage – in the studio, the sewing box and the crochet basket. There are books to read, things to learn, places to visit, people to see. All of it is impaired by my tendency to put things off.

“Procrastinator” is one of those low-respect tendencies, like “hypochondriac,” “kleptomaniac” or “airhead.” It carries with it the air of judgment, and the idea that it is based in a lack of effort. Roget’s Thesaurus offers these measly synonyms for those of us who put things off: dawdler; dilly-dallier; idler; loafer; loiterer; lounger; poke; straggler; slow-starter. From my own experience, I know it is often linked to laziness. Still, it is a real inclination that affects many lives, and is not an easy thing to change.

I once read that procrastination and perfectionism went hand-in-hand. The idea is that perfectionists will never be satisfied with the finished result, so they put any task off until the last minute, so that lack of time will remove the torment of aiming too high. That makes sense regarding my penchant for delaying serious work on every single research paper – in my entire college career – until the eleventh hour. Not so much when it’s just a matter of running to the bathroom when nature calls. Comforting, anyway, to see a positive spin on what is widely considered to be a bad habit.

Books on procrastination abound. They have titles that reflect common thinking, pairing it with addiction, equating it with laziness and offering a “cure.” So, obviously, this is something to “get over,” but what are the reasons behind it? What causes procrastination? Well, according to one book, there are four main causes: lack of clarity, overwhelming tasks, lack of urgency and bad habits.

The last one – bad habits – just offers more of the negative self-recrimination I’ve lived with all of my life. Of course it’s true, but it’s only helpful in the sense that we all know bad habits have to change, and most of us have some skills – gained over a lifetime – in how to implement that change. The other three offer insights that may prove to be really helpful.

I used to write, year after year in my planner, under Goals, “finish house.” That directive not only lacks clarity, but – if you know my house – is absolutely overwhelming…and offers no timeline. It kept company with other massive and vague objectives like “get in shape,” “write book,” and “travel.” Now, goals are divided onto separate pages for house, garden, art, writing, and self-enrichment.

The page for house goals has a long list that breaks everything down into manageable tasks: paint window sills and frames of kitchen windows; woodwork around doors and closets upstairs; baseboard in living room; paint stair treads; put up new light fixtures…and on, and on. The list is long, but each item is clear, and do-able. As things get done, I put a line through the item with a highlighting marker, so that I can be encouraged by what I’ve accomplished.

I’m working on the “lack of urgency” aspect by moving specific tasks into my monthly calendar. So far, that’s meeting with less success. I’ve now moved the same three items forward on my calendar through January and February; at least two of them will accompany me into March. That’s okay. As it goes with changing any habits, in my life it’s always a long, slow effort. I just keep plugging away.

Time Out For Art

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I have come to the conclusion that I never jump into a project with as much enthusiasm as I do when I am doing it in avoidance of another project.

I didn’t just conclude this.

I probably first noticed it fifty years ago, when a homework assignment took on monumental urgency and importance when faced with the job of cleaning my room.

Or, vise versa.

I probably spent several years in denial…convincing myself of the necessity of one thing rather than the other…justifying the clear hierarchy of task importance.

I think I finally spent time pondering it long and hard – and thus finally concluding it – while trying to avoid some other pending deadline.

(Maybe I have A.D.H.D.!)

I have been pretty lax in my blog writing, lately. I planned a blog to say that I have recovered from my “funk” and thank you all very much for your kind and generous thoughts…but I went right from my “funk” into a “fit” of activity that left me no time for writing anything.

(Manic-Depressive?)

It started with a desire to get my bedroom in order.

No, it started with a string of writing commitments.

I had agreed to write an article for the Spring and Summer Newsletter of the Beaver Island Association. Another for the Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative. Plus reports for the Northern Islander, the Beaver Island Forum, the Beaver Beacon and Beaver Island News on the Net on the Archipelago Meeting I attended in Lansing last month.

That got me thinking about getting my bedroom organized.

Which led to the necessity of digging out the (non-working) vehicle that I use for storage (a sort of garage-on-wheels), to get to the shelves I had stashed there. Which led to  the decision that the shelves that really belonged in the bedroom were the ones holding cookbooks and gardening books in my kitchen. What followed was a scenario worthy of a full length feature starring Laurel and Hardy.

The kitchen bookcase went upstairs. The kitchen wall got a fresh coat of paint…which forced the decision to put up the nice white shelves that used to be on that wall (because weren’t they just the best?) despite the fact that three of those shelves were now working shelves in my studio, and two others were employed as my desktop in the dining area AND that fitting the shelves in the kitchen would involve moving the all-wood 32 drawer cabinet out of the kitchen (wasn’t it always too large for that small room anyway?) and ultimately out of the house (because there is not another spot it will fit!). Which means that I had to build a new desktop, cut new shelves for the studio and empty the contents from thirty-two drawers!! I have only two shelve up in the studio, as all of this re-structuring left me short on shelf brackets, and they won’t get to the island until  the first boat runs in April. I have the contents of 32 drawers in boxes and bags on my kitchen floor. My dining room table is laden with overflow from drawers and shelves and desktop. Ditto, the kitchen counters. The bedroom is possibly the only room “in order” at this moment.

(Crazy???)

Soooo…faced with all that, of course I got very inspired to get busy in the studio…and then to blog about it.

I’ve been totally negligent about posting art on Thursdays for months now.

In fact, though I’ve had quite a few things underway, I haven’t gotten many things finished in the studio this Winter.

Faced with the disaster I’ve created around me, art-making took on epic importance.

It is Time Out for Art Thursday, after all!

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Snow Day

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We have about five inches of fluffy new snow here on Beaver Island.

I had the day off.

With two bits of business writing I was determined to get done, a new exercise routine planned,  several things underway in the studio, and a living space that could use a serious once-over…procrastination was the order of the day.

The sun was shining.

Yesterday’s winds had calmed.

The dogs were in perfect agreement.

Morning, just after coffee, I bundled up and headed out.

Down the driveway to the Fox Lake Road and a short jaunt over to Cotter’s Trail. We followed the trail about halfway in, then took the drive that leads past two pole barns and into the wide path through the woods back to the Murray’s summer home. Usually from there I’d go up the driveway to the road, and home from there. That’s about a 45 minute walk.

Today, we circled the yard, walked past the pond and re-traced our steps back through the woods. Back at the Cotter’s Trail, we veered to the right. We continued down the trail past Crazy Larry’s old campsite, past the deer-camp sign, Tom Mann’s little shelter and the cabin that used to be Cotter’s (and so will always be known as Cotter’s, though the ownership changed nearly thirty years ago). We continued into the woods toward the West Side Drive.

The dogs were willing to continue our adventure, but my legs were burning from the long walk in deep snow. I made my turn before we came out into the clearing, and we headed back home.

By the time I was ready for our afternoon walk, the snow mobile riders had been out. Their runners firm and pack the snow, leaving a nice path. They had followed the power lines that run parallel to Fox Lake Road. That’s the way we walked. First south, through the meadow and up to where the road makes a sharp turn, then north, past my house and on to where the power lines cross the road, and home from there.

I still have my long list of things I should have done today.

There’s still time.

It was a great day to be out in the snow!

This Lazy Day

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It’s not that I haven’t accomplished anything today. Actually, that list is quite long and runs the gamut from regular daily chores to stripping beds and washing blankets; from sealing several collages in my studio to making home-made dog treats. The problem lies not in what I’ve done, but in what I haven’t done.

Procrastination is not without it’s benefits. When trying to avoid one activity – in this case, rearranging my kitchen to fit my new 32-drawer apothecary cabinet in it – I can find tremendous energy for many others. So, I’ve answered letters that have been waiting weeks for my response, I’ve read a magazine that has been sitting unopened for two months and I wore the dogs out with two long walks.I’ve gone through old photos; I’ve cleaned out old files. I have dog treats baking and my bread rising, soup on the stove and fresh sheets on the bed.

My fear is – no, not a fear, but sure knowledge – that once I start emptying shelves, I am going to be in an even bigger mess. I can’t figure out how to do this in an organized way. If the cabinet was here, I could be filling the drawers and putting them in place. As it is, I’m filling the drawers and moving them from my laundry room floor to my dining room floor. The mess is just spreading! The cabinet cannot be brought in until the old cabinets…and counter-top, shelves and table…are moved out. There is no garage. It’s winter! This stuff is heavy!

So, now it’s almost seven PM. Time to feed the dogs, get myself a bowl of soup and a glass of wine, and re-think this project.