7.11.2013

Procrastination

image from www.chalkboardmanifesto.com 



 procrastinate: from Latin, of tomorrow

I can be a procrastinator.

There. 

I admit it. 

I can put things off until…whenever. I can delay. I can come up with excuses. I can opt to do the easy rather than the hard. I can opt to do nothing at all rather than the something.

I’ve always had times of procrastination in my life, even when I was very young. My mom used to call me lazy. In an accusatory, disappointed tone of voice, I might add. That hurt. And it wasn’t accurate. Being “lazy” is something quite different—at least to my mind, anyway—than being a procrastinator.  To me, being lazy is very much the same thing as not caring, being resistant, being idle.  And that’s not how I’m feeling when I’m procrastinating. When I procrastinate doing a thing, I’m actually thinking about that thing a lot—I care deeply about that thing; I know I will be facing that thing head on; I want to do that thing as well as I possibly can. That is, when I eventually—finally—get to it.

When I’m procrastinating, it may appear to others that I’ve gone AWOL . Sometimes my form of procrastination manifests as napping, daydreaming, shopping, or cleaning. And if the thing I’m supposed to be doing is shopping or cleaning then I might procrastinate by working, walking, exercising, or something else. And if the thing I’m supposed to be doing is working or exercising, then I might be petting the cat, organizing the clothes closet, or something else. You get the idea. So, I wouldn’t say my procrastination is laziness at all. Rather, it’s distraction…it’s an alternate view...it’s a means to getting my focus back. Very often while I’m procrastinating I’m strategizing, planning, thinking, creating, and preparing. For what? For the doing of the thing. For the achieving of the thing. For meeting the challenge of the thing.

Some bouts of procrastination last longer than others; some things that need to be tackled can be fraught with fears or doubts; some can be fraught with tension; some can be fraught with boredom. They will get done. They do get done. Eventually. But  not until I'm ready.

What I’ve come to recognize about procrastination is that it's a part of a process that I need very badly to stay focused, productive, and engaged with my work, my writing, my life, and the world around me. Procrastination is my means of recharging and regrouping, of taking a deep breath, my way to take a time out so my mind can wander around until it comes back to center. 

 (c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC

31 comments:

  1. Love this! I think there's a difference between true avoidance behavior and the kind of emotional/psychological gathering of thoughts and mental resources to tackle a project. But you're right: when occasionally I come across TO DO lists from two or three years ago, it's always the case that all items have been crossed off, and I've moved onto other things. It does all get done! Thanks for sharing. And one to go!

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    1. Thanks so much, Lorin! I've had the same experience...I used to keep a "someday" list in the back of my desk calendar (pre-Outlook!) and I came across it years after I'd written it, and could cross off just about everything on it!

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  2. I can relate. It was my Dad who called me lazy. Something I believed about myself until fairly recently. As a human doing rather than a human being, I am not lazy. I may not be on that particular track - the one I 'should' be doing - at that point in time, but I'm spending a lot of time on it in my head.

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    1. Ah, those parental voices that drive us well into adulthood! I like that notion of a human doing rather than a human being. Thanks, Sarah!

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  3. Thanks so much, Emma. You just justified my entire day yesterday most of which was spent looking out my window to find the right words to get started on the next chapter of my WIP. This was the best explanation of procrastination I've ever seen!

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    1. Thanks, Linda! Looking out the window can be remarkably creative!

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  4. What a relief to know I'm not alone! It can take me a LONG time to ready myself to tackle a challenge. But things do always, eventually, get done. Thank you for helping me to feel less guilty about my periods of procrastination.

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    1. Cheers, Deborah. I feel relieved I've finally admitted that I do this -- because it ought not to be so rife with so much darned guilt!

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  5. Thank you, Emma, for putting into words what I think we all struggle with at some point. I have to admit though, that when I first saw the title of your post, I thought, "Not Emma. That's impossible." :) If you ever need a procrastinator buddy, since we appear to switch for the same type of activities, please let me know. We could have a cats play date. :)

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    1. Merci, Nathalie! When I am focused on something, I can be an energizer bunny...but I definitely need my down time between those energized times. Happy to know there is a procrastination buddy out there!

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  6. I really liked your post, Emma. I'm glad you didn't add guilt to the equation, because I think you are on to something. Procrastination can serve a healthy inner process -- perhaps it is driven from something deep within we are consciously/unconsciously listening to. I find I procrastinate more now than I did when I was so crazy busy. Sometimes we just need to sit with things for a while.:)

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    1. Yes, yes, yes! We pile too much guilt on ourselves for taking our time-outs! I love your image of needing to listen to something deep within.

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  7. thanks for posting, Emma- makes me feel a little better that I am not alone.

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    1. You are so not alone in this, Lyn!

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  8. This makes perfect sense to me. I go in spurts, and when I reach the end of a spurt, I need a battery charge. A creative, or psychic refilling of the well. I used to feel guilty about it, but it's just me. Good to know someone as over-achieving as you has a similar tendency. :)

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    1. Thanks, Martina! I hardly think of myself as an over-achiever of any kind; I achieve things, but I don't over-achieve. Not like some busy, busy, hands-in-everything people I know and admire! But I think it's time we recognize that as creative people, we all need the psychic refilling of the well,as you so aptly call it!

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  9. I love this post, Emma! You have so perfectly articulated what procrastination means to me. And I too was called lazy as a child, though by my babysitter, not my mother I'm happy to say :)

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    1. Thanks, Susanna! Lazy, indeed! Pshaw!

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  10. Love this post. I couldn't have said it better. I am a firm believer in procrastination. It has served me well throughout my life. I very much need down time, thinking time, let-my-brain-heart-and-subconsious-figure-things-out time. Procrastination is a good time to look at things I "should" be doing out the corner of my eye. I don't like "shoulds" either. Or guilt. Thank you from Procrastinators Anonymous for putting yourself out there and admitting to what is NOT a problem.

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    1. Thanks, Traci! I felt I finally had to face facts, admit the truth about myself--and I love how much camaraderie and understanding this has generated! We should start a support group...

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  11. I needed to read this today.
    Thank you so much!

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  12. I agree, procrastination is part of the creative process. Sometimes, I feel like I put off working on something because all of me is not there yet. Like I have to wait until all the workers that are me are present and accounted for and then I can move forward. For instance, I wanted to read this post when it first arrived on the 11th but here it I am on the 13th, finally ready to absorb it...and it was worth the wait!

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    1. Yes, that's exactly right. If we're not bringing all of ourselves to the task, then it probably means we need to regroup, take that time out, whatever we need to do to re-center and get all of ourselves aligned again. Thanks for your comment!

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  13. A-men! I feel your "pain" as I am EXACTLY the same way. And my procrastination tends to be very cyclical. Perhaps the creatives of the world are also the procrastinators. You know, I think there are 2 kinds of procrastinators: the putting off until you're ready kind, and then there's the putting off until the last minute kind, the panic before the deadline kind. I think we're the former. Not just a waiting until you're ready, but the active planning and prepping until we're ready, which is way better than the "some day..." mind set. Thanks for sharing. What an enjoyable read and connection.

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    1. Thanks, Christie, for your great comments. I quite agree on the two kinds of procrastinators - and we creative types are definitely the ones planning and prepping until we're ready to act. But act we do!

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  14. Sangeeta7/18/2013

    I admit that I procrastinated w/reading this blog post (by bookmarking it for later) but wish I hadn't. I would have felt justified last week when I was so overwhelmed, all I could do was everything but my actual work! Thank you, Emma, for reassuring us that putting off work until we're prepared isn't at all the same thing as being lazy. Luckily, I did meet my deadline in the end!

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    1. Thanks, Sangeeta! Sometimes we just need to regroup and allow ourselves the break from work in order to do the work better when we get back to it!

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  15. How in the world did I miss this?

    What a wonderful post—I feel so much better!

    And free to continue my procrastination just a little longer . . .

    ;)

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  16. Anonymous7/09/2014

    First of all I want to say awesome blog! I had a quick question which I'd like to ask if you do not mind.
    I was curious to find out how you center yourself and
    clear your thoughts before writing. I have had difficulty clearing my mind
    in getting my ideas out. I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15
    minutes are generally lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips?

    Appreciate it!

    Here is my website :: Google

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    1. Every writer has to figure out, own, and honor their own writing process. If it takes 10 or 15 minutes to gather thoughts, and find the calm needed before you can begin writing, then rather than fight it, just allow those 10 or 15 minutes to happen so that the writing can start to happen freely. Some authors do deep breathing, some do yoga, some take a walk. When I am in a dense writing project, I often will get up and pace for a bit to get rid of excess energy, stretch, and then get back to the writing. I will say this: if it only takes a mere 10 or 15 minutes for you to center yourself enough to begin writing, then I'd say you're doing just great!

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