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  • Diana Schneidman

Procrastination: let’s not put things off . . . maybe

I’ve been reading more than usual about procrastination lately. I think it has to do with the coming of the New Year, the making of resolutions and annual planning. Inevitably these lead to our assessment of what we did and did not accomplish in the way of last year’s resolutions.

The best resolutions strengthen our resolve in an instant. This instant may not coincide with the first of the year or the first of the month or even the stroke of midnight. Instead, an idea floats through our minds and takes hold without fanfare, causing us to throw out the rest of that uneaten cookie and stay away from said cookie for the foreseeable future, without this foolishness of a lifetime pledge we postpone to a future date.

Nothing will happen on January 1 to mend our ways if it hasn’t already happened. Sure enough, the exercise classes that are jam packed the first Monday evening of the year are back to usual attendance levels a few weeks later.

I’d like to share two memorable quotations on procrastination that I’ve run across lately. The two somewhat contradict each other, making them more interesting when paired.

First, “The stress of procrastination makes life miserable. Putting things off till later is self punishment,” says FlyLady It works for Flylady, who offers suggestions on how we can improve our housekeeping and eliminate chaos from our lives by practicing routines.

Yes, FlyLady has a point. There is something virtuous about tackling challenging projects. Getting to work makes us feel good about ourselves, while procrastinating prolongs self-loathing.

“You can do anything for 15 minutes,” says the Flylady timer that sits on my desk, and it’s true. Fifteen minutes is a long time when digging into a chore that needs doing. I often divide my writing periods into 15-minute blocks and successfully check off a predetermined number of work blocks for the day (perhaps three hours’ worth).

Then there is a totally different way of looking at the subject, suggested by Lisa Cherney Though I can’t find the exact citation now, my notes show her as saying, “Procrastination is ourselves protesting what we don’t want to do.”

Also so true, though this is more relevant in the world of entrepreneurship than in the realms of housework and clerical tasks.

When I procrastinate on an important project, it’s a message to me. My intuition is at war with the professional advice I am attempting to follow. The prescribed course of action may be right for many but not right for me at this time.

These two looks at a single concept appear to be in conflict, but actually they are not. Procrastination is a miserable, unjustifiable practice when it postpones what must be done. Like doing the dishes or starting on taxes.

Procrastination is a blessing when it forces us to look at what we don’t want to do and figure out why it doesn’t feel right. Hurrah for putting stuff off!

Originally posted 12-28-09

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