Apologies for being late with this blog; I have been meaning to write it since last Monday, but every time I thought about doing so, something more urgent cropped up. Something more urgent like: loading the washing machine; paying the gas bill; cleaning the bath or cutting my split ends out.
I think this tendency to cut out split ends can be traced back to university days. I had Rapunzel-length hair back then, and, being a student, couldn’t justify the expense of a hairdresser. So, when it was time to revise for Finals, out would come my nail scissors and I would happily waste an hour checking that my hair cuticles were unfrayed before picking up a book. My friends felt I was locked away in my room revising; this just added to my fear of failure because I knew I was a study fraud. They upped their hours of study to match those they felt I was putting in, and my nail scissors developed imposter syndrome. Thankfully I have tamed this hair habit over the years – along with my tresses – and my hair is now so short, that there is not a lot left to trim. I like to think that my procrastination back then led to some excellent First Class degrees in my peer group (sadly not for me, but then I was distracted by my nail scissors).
I have noticed that I only procrastinate when there is a risk of failure. You do not see me procrastinating when I book cinema tickets, a meal out or a hair cut (a professional was needed to sort out the crew cut that emerged from those student years, and I stand by my belief that it would be dangerous to ditch the expense of a salon now). No, procrastination only comes when there is a spreadsheet to populate, a report to author or a blog to write. Research around this shows that I must be anxious about the negative consequences of my actions when I attack these types of tasks. Too right – I really don’t need a professor to tell me this, but I welcomed the procrastination involved in researching these findings.
So my sudden desire to load the washing machine and conquer a mountain of ironing instead of attacking that prickly budget spreadsheet, is because I’m trying to take a long run up before the big leap of faith needed to complete the task. I really can not fail when I turn on the washing machine and, although no laundry is ever going to employ me to iron their customers’ shirts, at least I can plot progress as the ironing basket Mary Poppins itself into a stack of folded, starched clothes. I am just reminding myself that I am a completer finisher. Or at least a starter.
It may just be me, but I find that these mindless tasks sometimes have an uncanny knack of unlocking my creative side and solving some problems. Just as I have my best ideas when out running, when loading the dishwasher I sometimes find the introduction to a report that may have festered and defeated me for days.
Excuse me while I go off and dust the lounge. I will be back when I know where this blog is going.
So if procrastination is an irrational putting off, I need to be kinder to myself. I need to forgive myself for the delay and remind myself that I may be using this time to creatively incubate ideas. If I have a yen to alpha-sort my condiments, so be it. Doing ‘nothing’ can be exhausting, so show some empathy, please. In fact, I need you to be much, much kinder to me. I may look like I am just drifting away from my lap top, eating dry cereal from the box or painting my toe nails, but in truth I am limbering up mentally and emotionally. I am reminding myself that I will not fail, that I can create order out of chaos (just look at my kitchen cupboards now) and that David will slay Goliath…if we just give him time.
If I am a little lastminute.com, I can also acknowledge that I like working under pressure and never miss a deadline. Perhaps I am consciously procrastinating to waste enough time to create this pressure; my goodness, how impressive am I? (This thought just came to me while I was reordering my knicker drawer, by the way). I may think about producing a Gant chart to plot my procrastination.
Sadly, I haven’t quite got a sign off for this blog yet. I am thinking that now you understand my way of working, you may even be happy to help me out and come up with your own ending or indeed just wait a minute until my fear of failure subsides and I can get back to you. I have got a pressing engagement to organise my candles in height order across the mantlepiece and it is a procrastination that just will not respond to nail scissors. I am at its whim. Please manage without me.