I know, the organized folks, the ones who finished their Christmas shopping while the rest of us were enjoying 4th of July fireworks and had their Christmas cards out before the Thanksgiving sweet potato pie hit the table are shaking their heads. I know, if I just did what I was supposed to do when I thought to do it, I'd be less frazzled as I approached a deadline. And Dec. 31 is quite a deadline - looking at the last page of the calendar and considering all those things I had planned to do over the past 365 days. We even got an extra day this year and I've still got projects yet to do.
"Stop procrastinating" is the simple answer, right? But its not that easy. I might argue that its not even necessary. Almost every month, there's some magazine article with tips on how to be better at completing tasks and getting things done NOW. The psychological, organizational, and time management experts act as if those of us who put off tomorrow can be re-organized with 10 easy tips. Let me explain why those tips don't work, why those articles keep coming out.
1 - A true procrastinator will never finish reading the article. I've dog-earred articles, torn them out and set them aside, book-marked them, never to look at them again. Exactly - I put it off to read tomorrow. And the few I've actually looked at, I got bored by tip number 3 and set it aside, to return to after I finish crocheting a scarf.
2 - According to all the experts, people procrastinate because they want to make sure they do whatever it is perfectly. This is also referred to as fear of success and fear of failure (I'm not sure how it can be both). The alternative is to be okay with things not being perfect. That's good advice for someone who is wired to expect things to be a certain way? Complete a task in a way in which you are not too happy with it. Uhh, no. Then the next problem would be a lower self-esteem because you are constantly reminded of your unmet potential.
3 - Procrastinators don't really mind pulling all-nighters and do feel like they work better under pressure, just like do-it-now folks like getting 8 hours of sleep and need extended time to do the task properly. The advice to combat this "problem" is to break the task down into smaller tasks, with intermediate deadlines. Okay, so this kinda works to not have an entire project backed up to the deadline, but it doesn't really end procrastination. It just breaks it into smaller segments. I will still put off until each mini-deadline to finish the sub-task. So now, I've got multiple times to stress myself out about the same project. That's a little bit inefficient.
4 - We're going to put off not procrastinating until tomorrow! (Fellow procrastinators - have you made it this far, to number 4? Good for you! Thanks for hanging in there, because I'm sure there's something else you are supposed to be doing instead. A few more lines and then you can go off to find another distracting activity.)
Why do we act like procrastinating is a character flaw that we must be cured of? We don't bother people who are early all the time or never seem to have 13 projects going on at the same time. We don't encourage them to change their ways and wait a few days before starting their exercise plan or writing that report. In fact, instead of bothering the over-scheduled, sliding into the finish line folks, we need to encourage the too calm, strolling along unfazed people to find some more to do, help out the folks who obviously have too much going on.
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