Writing

The Procrastination Factor

While getting ready for NaNoWriMo, I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to clean out my basement.  The basement I had been meaning to clean out for three years.  The basement I had resigned myself to thinking of as an eclectic, artsy display of, “Our Life — Through the Ages.” 

The urge was strong, but I was able to pull myself together and ignore it.  I knew this (sadly) out-of-the-ordinary obsession with cleanliness was in disguise — merely a 2nd cousin, and a few steps away from sloth-like avoidance.  Yes, I knew it was the Procrastination Factor.  

Given the magnitude of this feeling, I decided to procrastinate further research what information was out there was for those of us who suffer from this sometimes chronic and counterproductive quirk…

“Scientific” Findings: Some psychologists say procrastination can be seen as a coping mechanism to stress.  Um, no surprise there!  A few sites even proposed that it may coincide with frontal-lobe activity akin to findings with ADHD.  Nowhere, however, was there conclusive evidence that procrastinators are born, not made.  Bummer.  I thought my gene-pool might be able to take another hit in addition to my (lack of) height and bunions.

Environment: Those years of watching big brother get straight A’s with little to no prep work could have left an impression.  Or, was your household too controlling, or not controlling enough?  And, hypothetically, was your mom a clean-freak who always had everything done weeks in advance, and arrived unfashionably early everywhere…or not?  These experiences from childhood can play into future habits.

Personality Traits: Are you a perfectionist?  Do you have a fear of failure or success?  Do you have poor time-management skills?  Do you (believe you) work better under stress?  Or, are you just plain lazy?  Cut yourself some slack, but be honest.

Procrastination has been a familiar crutch for me.  I’ve been the one finishing papers fifteen minutes before class starts.  I’ve been the one traversing among the delirious fools out shopping on Christmas Eve.  I’ve also been the one right by the place that holds something I know I’ll need in a day or two, and yet I choose to (sigh) come back another time.  You see, because there’s always going to be another (and enough) time. 

And, that is the silver lining in the procrastination equation — procrastinators are often overly optimistic. 

Well, that’s something.  We’re just so darn tootin’ that things are going to get done not only on time, but fabulously right, that we float along on our blissful, positive-attitude happy clouds.

Except, I’m not always on a positive-attitude, happy cloud. 

Optimistic? Yes!  But…I still get stressed.  I still curse myself for not doing things when I had more time.  And, when an out of the norm deadline or event looms (read NaNoWriMo), I suddenly find myself interested in learning/starting/finishing something else — anything other than the task at hand.  Like, I’m thinking this month might be an excellent time to take up crocheting.  Or, professional ice fishing.  Or, maybe even beetle fighting.  

Yet, all sources seem to believe that procrastination is a behavior that can be changed, albeit with heaping amounts of discipline, coupled with some rocking organizational skills.  You should look into all of that organization-type stuff…someday.

Fortunately, my tendency to procrastinate began easing up as I, ahem, matured.  I hand things in early now — interesting topics, and the promise of a paycheck can work wonders.  Having children can also force you to become more disciplined with time — too many bowling balls up in the air can come smashing down on your, or someone else’s, fragile toes.

And, as for this NaNoWriMo…,well, I plan on becoming a raging pessimist, lest my optimism finds me at 11:00pm on November 29th with 48,000 words to go.

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Not all agree that procrastination is a negative.  Procrastination.com boasts that, “[It’s]… no longer a character flaw, but a lifestyle alternative.”   Hmmm…check it out.

28 thoughts on “The Procrastination Factor”

  1. But…how’s NaNoWriMo going, really? I hope you know I’m going to check up on you daily to make sure you’re on task. (And cheer you on if you’re not…)

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  2. aaaaaaaaaH!

    We were separated at birth.

    Yes, yes, yes to all accounts.

    I have thus fair emptied out the Tupperware cabinet to match all lids with containers. All in vain attempts to NOT do what I should be doing: which is that crazy room full of 4 loads of unfolded laundry.

    Procrastination, thy name can sometimes by twitter, the blog, email…..

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  3. Great post. I’ve fought against procrastination my entire life. It’s better to resist than to give in. Resisting eventually makes a difference. I’ve never totally eliminated procrastination, but I will keep trying. Blessings to you…

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  4. I’m right there with you, Amanda…I was still crocheting the wedding gift for my cousin two hours before the wedding!

    Perfectionist…check. Fear of failure…check. Work better under pressure…check. Lazy…check.

    On Sunday, I folded about ten loads of clean laundry…finally couldn’t stand it any more!

    Jim is a procrastinator too, so it makes things even worse!

    Wendy

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  5. I always feel lacking when I don’t have the self- discipline to push through procrastination and just recently a friend shared this quote with me; I thought it was an interesting way to look at procrastination.
    “What is the definition of procrastination? It means: I can feel within my Energy sensor that this action is not in perfect alignment with my being at this time. ~Abraham Hicks.
    Naturally I am speaking about procrastination in general not to your current writing goals.

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    1. I’m too embarrassed to tell you what my highest fine has been. The librarian couldn’t even believe it…so she cut it in half. It was still sky-rocket high. Mortified.

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  6. I’m more of a pessimistic procrastinator, as in, I totally know I’m avoiding doing something. But procrasti-cleaning is a definite benefit to the overall appearance of my house. Still, as I’ve gotten older I’ve become much better at firmly telling myself to just put my butt in that chair.

    Best of luck with your word counts! Keep us posted.

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  7. Did I write this post and forget? 😀 This is sooooo me, including not buying everything I need while I’m there because “I can get it next time.”

    BUT if we HAD discipline and organizational skills we wouldn’t BE procrastinators. Yeah, I’ll get those … someday.

    Loved the post.

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  8. I can relate to this post.

    It could explain why I’m rushing out to buy cookies for my son’s class party the night before, I’ve got piles of laundry that keep me up late on Sunday night (the socks and underwear from the week before are still in the basket – clean, but never put away), I’m reading blogs instead of working on my writing…

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  9. I am a master procrastinator, but I am trying to keep the beast in check. I did start cleaning my office yesterday and organizing all of my kids’ art stuff into folders (a task that has been sitting in a box for at least a year). I should have been working on my nanowrimo novel. And again this morning I find myself surfing the web instead of getting to work.

    Looks like the beast is back… with a vengeance!

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  10. I should be decorating my bedroom – well, actually I should be tidying the bedroom, prior to decorating (I keep putting it off).
    What am I doing? Reading your blog and listening to old Bon Jovi songs on Youtube. (Blaze of Glory at the moment, if you’re interested :))

    Good luck with the writing. Reading about it means I can put off things I should be doing.

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  11. I, too, am a master procrastinator. In some things, it works for me, as I tend to over-think and over-do things if I have too much time to think about or do them. Unfortunately, I can’t apply that reasoning to tasks such as doing laundry or picking up milk. Having kids afoot for over ten years has helped, but the biggest thing that has gotten me moving has been being married to the King of Procrastination. If getting things done relied on his time management, we’d still be working at picking out songs for our wedding.

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