What is the difference between procrastination and having a jolly good reason for not getting on with something? As I walked the dog this morning, was I procrastinating? I don’t think Tilly, my cocker spaniel, would think so.
Actually, it was a very muddy trek that wasn’t very enjoyable so maybe it doesn’t fit in with the definition that Wikipedia gives for ‘procrastination’…..
‘Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be accomplished. It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, or carrying out less urgent tasks instead of more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time.’
Strangely procrastination can be a way of avoiding both possible success and failure in life. If you never get on and finish that task, that book, that job application, that move to a foreign land etc. then you can’t be seen to have failed if it doesn’t work out the way you had hoped. But at the same time, you can convince yourself that if you’d got round to it you would have been the great success you dreamt of, and indeed keep the dream alive by promising yourself that you will get round to it one day.
This is especially true if along with being a procrastinator you are also very secretive and rarely share your dreams or goals with others. Is the reason for this is you don’t want to be questioned on your progress towards your goal? If you keep your plans to yourself you can hide the fact that you aren’t really getting anywhere in these areas. Procrastination can take over your life. There are always things we can site that need our attention before we tackle that big issue. I hate getting all the paperwork together each year for my tax returns. Every year I promise myself that I won’t leave it so long the next year. I set myself a target of having it all wrapped up by the end of May – but this year it was mid-December before I finally got down to it. But the relief and delight I felt when my papers were all in order made me wonder why I had put it off for so long.
When I was trying to finish my first book ‘Where is Emma Butler’s Life Plan’ I procrastinated a lot, but I had made the mistake of letting my husband know that I was working on the book again – albeit sporadically – so he would ask me on a regular basis, ‘how are you getting on with your book?’
I would often answer with a list of things that I had been doing instead. They all needed doing. Is that really procrastination, or is that just being realistic about priorities?
Of course, one could make writing the book, applying for the new job, etc. the highest priority in your life, but then what do you do at dinner time when there is no food in the fridge and the washing hasn’t been done, the dog is looking at you imploringly as it hasn’t had its walk, and the breakfast things are still all over the work surface in the kitchen. Surely it’s not procrastination if these things really need doing? But where does it end? The cushions really don’t need plumping on the sofa, Facebook can manage without you for a few hours – yes really! It has to stop somewhere, but can we be trusted to be honest about where?
In my book, Emma Butler herself engages in procrastination on the day that she is supposed to be phoning around her contacts in the search of a new job. One of the many things that she decides has to be done, before she can get down to the important task, is to rearrange her herb jars in alphabetical order. I found myself doing just the same thing yesterday. Life imitating art and all that. I didn’t put them in alphabetical order but I did clear out my herb and spice draw as I was finding the chaos that met me every time I opened the draw a bit annoying. One could argue that this didn’t really need to be done quite when I embarked upon it but as I’m not a great one for having a tidy and organised house I really feel I have to grab the opportunity if and when it occurs for a burst of tidying. I was very proud of the herb drawer when I had finished. I even called my husband over to admire it. He resisted the temptation of asking me if I had read the emails he had sent me with links to websites about promoting my book.
However on leaving the house this morning, he couldn’t resist asking me that question. I answered slightly petulantly that I had read some of them. I wasn’t in the throes of procrastination, I was about to do Transcendental Meditation . Now that’s interesting because I would never see doing TM as procrastinating. It’s just something, like brushing my teeth, that I wouldn’t dream of starting the day without. It is the basis of everything else I do in the day. I’m sure you may have your essential things that you can’t do without, maybe yoga, meditation, pilates, a visit to the gym or just a strong cup of coffee. So I would say that doing TM isn’t procrastinating but might concede that organising my herb jars might just be. But now that they are done I have no excuse, well apart from a blog on procrastinating that needs posting.
So don’t delay, get writing that book, applying for that dream job or finding your home in the sun. There’s no time like the present unless you have messy drawers too!