Hi, my name is Jean, and I am a procrastinator. In sophomore year of my undergrad, my roommates chased me down the hall as I literally ran away from a paper that was due the next day.
It’s a problem, but I don’t think I’m a chronic procrastinator (at least, let’s hope not–that article is Mean). Despite the antics, I always had assignments in on time, though maybe at the expense of sleep, meals or exercise. My college mantra became “I always get it done. It’s just a matter of how painful I make it for myself.”
Like many people, I tend to procrastinate less if I’m excited about what I am doing. (And my quest for a self-styled life is in part an attempt to avoid disinterest and make sure that I’m almost always passionate about what I’m doing).
However, even tackling something that excites me, like an essay on any topic I chose, I sometimes still procrastinate. Discussing this phenomenon with a friend recently, we made a discovery. We are both perfectionists as well as procrastinators. Might there be a correlation? It seems likely. Some procrastination is linked to anxiety about not being able to meet the rigorous standard we set for ourselves. To get over that self-imposed pressure, we might realize that often our “good enough” might be considered “great” by many people. You can’t always operate at 120%. Sometimes, you just need to get ‘er done.
If I want to build a self-styled life, I know I can’t sit on my ass and wait for it to happen. Being proactive is key. Making a living out of doing a bunch of little things I love will take some serious effort. Proactive… and productive.
But it’s easy to get diverted, and sometimes productivity can put us in a trap of quantity over quality. I often engage in what I call “productive procrastination.” For example, to put off something pressing like a research paper, I would instead do something also important, though considerably less so, like cleaning my closet. Useful with an immediate payoff, but not as important as the paper. Pondering this, I’ve come to think that the immediate satisfaction of having completed the task (however useless to finishing the paper) gave me confidence in my ability to complete something—confidence I needed to tackle the more important task.
Am I simply justifying bad behavior? Well, maybe, but it has come with a lot of self-reflection. I used to see this procrastination as a Big Flaw. Focusing on that flaw took a lot of energy and ate away at my self-confidence. In realizing a positive flip-side to these seeming flaws, I can focus on and be proud of those, or develop better solutions to the underlying motivations behind my procrastination.
And maybe some discipline comes with age—there were fewer all-nighters in grad school than in my undergrad.
Working from my reflections, I am procrastinating less by shedding the desire for perfection. I have also begun to embrace some of my procrastinating behaviors (within limits). Sometimes I really just need to clean my desk because I am less productive when it looks like a FEMA disaster area, covered in dust and debris. So, I gain encouragement from the immediate payoff of my cleaning efforts, and I can be more productive in a calm, aesthetically pleasing space. Double win.
Are you a procrastinator? A perfectionist? Reformed and now super productive, proactive and just generally awesome?