Posted by Retta Casavant
I promised Homer that I’d put up a blog piece each Tuesday, while he was away on vacation. Well, it’s Tuesday….but this piece belongs to LAST Tuesday. I apologize, Homer. I’ve let you down.
What exactly is “crastination” and why am I such a PRO at it?
Well, firstly let’s take a look at what the word actually means and then we’ll inspect how we get so good at it. The word crastinus apparently is recorded all the way back to 1588 and the word procrastinationem all the way back to 1548. Pro means “forward” and crastinus means “belonging to tomorrow”. Apparently, people have been doing this thing ages before you and I got good at it.
So, what makes us decide things are okay “belonging to tomorrow”? For writers this can be an especially insidious vice.
1. Thinking a job is bigger or scarier than it really is. This is when you have a project or job to do and you keep putting it off because the task just seems too overwhelming to even start.
2. Thinking a job is so small that it’ll be easy and quick to do right before it’s due.
3. Thinking a job or task is not very important
4. Plain laziness
5. Too many other things to do
How to Start Stopping
It’s important (as in the other parts of our lives) to first admit we have a problem (yes, I am admitting this right here). If we don’t accept what we are doing and take a good look at it, we can’t change it or find ways to deal with it. Take a good look at how you complete jobs and handle your workload. Are you constantly rushing to meet deadlines, even though you’ve had enough time to complete the work? When you take on a project, do you start it right away? How do you prioritize your workload?
The best way to overcome the first reason for procrastinating (thinking a job is big and scary) is to break that job down. I attended a seminar on office stress some twenty plus years ago and still carry this gem with me: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! Break that big job into sections and attack one at a time without thinking about the next section. You only think about the next section (bite) when you are done the first one.
On the flip side, there are the jobs that seen so easy and small that we can knock them off right before they are due. So, we put them off. Then life happens and we are in a panic over a small, simple job! There are about 1.1 million things that can happen to make that little job impossible to do on time when it’s been put off: power failure, computer failure, internet failure, the cat getting sick (knock on wood, Homer), the in-laws dropping by right before your deadline……..there are more things that can go wrong than there are things that will align perfectly in your sweet vision of “oh, it’ll be a breeze to do later”.
For the jobs we put off because we don’t think they are important, it’s a good idea to take a look at why we’ve got them on our list of things to do. Should you stop accepting those jobs? If they aren’t important, do they need to be on your list causing you stress? Before you answer that, I will tell you that YES, washing the dishes does still have to be on your list as no-one else will be doing that for you. For the jobs you cannot take off the list, no matter how unimportant you feel they are, scheduling can simplify their completion. A simple time schedule for the day or week that includes ALL your tasks can help you manage your time and take the stress away. There’s not much to be done about pure laziness when it makes us procrastinate. Perhaps adding in the “veg time” you need into a schedule can help you kick that habit. The same goes for when you have too many things to do. Scheduling can be THE answer. Just be very honest with how long it takes to do things when you work out that schedule. Re-assess and re-do until you’ve got one that actually works for you.
Get on With it
Practical application is everything. We procrastinators must put these ideas into actual use for them to work. Now class, let’s get out our daily planners and prioritize today’s work and decide which bite we shall take of that elephant.
“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” ― Douglas Adams
“You may delay, but time will not.” ― Benjamin Franklin