Last Thanksgiving, I bought a Canon Rebel ti3, thinking that I would capture all of the priceless moments of my family’s life and make my home into a museum of memories. We’d have baby books for every holiday, and canvases of baby feet and pureed carrot covered cheeks adorning our hallways. I’d send personalized photo cards and calendars to all of the important folks in our lives. And oh- I’d keep the digital photos on the computer organized and duplicate free.
Kai was born six months ago today, and we have just two pictures of him hanging up. I’ve never organized a picture, never had those wrinkly feet blown up on canvas, and homemade birthday cards? Let’s just say they are perfect in my mind and my family would have loved them!
With each day that passes, I hang my head lower and lower when I think about how little I’ve gotten done, knowing that the only excuse I can give is the lamest excuse in the world: I’m a procrastinator.
Truth is, although I do a lot, and I make most deadlines, I’ve never done anything when it was supposed to be done (or at least when more organized and ambitious people might do it). I’ve always watched other people finishing projects that I had on my make-believe to-do list long before I’m sure they even knew the project existed. And until recently, I couldn’t understand my wait-until-the-last-minute tendencies. Why did I constantly hold off on things that are really important to me, only to then feel like a crappy maniac when I scrambled to finish what I knew I should have started well beforehand? Having rambunctious babies at home and working full time is enough to make me feel like I’m losing my mind at times, so why intentionally make it worse by ……….. waiting……and waiting……. and then rushing around like the world will end if I don’t get _insert important task here_ done!?!
Well, I recently may have found the answer. As I was flipping through NPR articles and I noticed an interesting interview with John Perry, a professor of philosophy at Stanford University, the author of the book The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing. Reading the interview and corresponding excerpt from the book immediately made me feel better about my P-word problem. According to Perry, I’m not a bad person because I leave things to the last minute (phew!). I’m what he labels a “structured procrastinator,” or “a person who gets a lot done by not doing other things.”
What may be the reason for procrastination? Perfectionism. Perry tells NPR that, “You set the bar so high in this first rush of enthusiasm, then you look at the bar and say, ‘I’m not going to try to jump over that.’ And the procrastination gives you permission to lower the bar.” Thinking about a new project is exciting. Having a hallway of the best baby pictures on Earth (painstakingly chosen from a pool of 3000) and handing out leather-bound photobooks at Christmas that make everyone teary-eyed with joy are things that I can make perfect in my head, but carrying them out and presenting them the way that I want them to other people is nearly impossible. So instead of starting on time, I wait, and fill my days with tasks I know I can do well: making animal noises with my boys, talking to my husband, writing lesson plans. And watching television. And stalking Facebook.
And the days will roll together into months, and months into years, and I’ll probably get that canvas of Kai’s carrot covered cheeks just in time for his senior picture photo-shoot. I may have found the reason for my procrastination, but a reason is just an excuse; it is not a cure. I’ll probably not start anything ambitious tomorrow, and I’ll probably feel badly about it, too.
Are you also a procrastinator? How do you try to prevent (or at least limit) the panic of having so much to do in just an inch of time?