Sunday, July 27, 2008


I have been a procrastinator since I can remember.  Of course, as a little kid, you really only have things such as school work, and maybe room cleaning, to put off.  But I did it.  If it was required of me, I would wait until the last possible moment to start the task.  As I've grown up, I've expanded the practice to more and more applications.

I had a conversation about this recently with a teacher of my daughter's with whom I have a lot in common.  She claimed that the procrastination was a symptom of our perfectionism, that folks like us put off doing things for fear of getting it wrong.  Now I would suggest that perfectionism is about as maladaptive as procrastination, but that it is a trait that sounds somehow more praiseworthy.  I therefore liked Mrs. S's theory, and it even rings true in one or two categories of things that I routinely put off.  However, for the most part, I think my procrastinating has little to do with my perfectionism.  I believe, rather, that these behaviors have to do with my poorly developed self discipline.

I sometimes try to convince myself that procrastination is not a bad thing.  I tell myself I am simply choosing to do a task at a later time, and that in fact I perform better with the pressure of a fast-approaching deadline.  This makes me sound in better control than I am, and is comforting, but it isn't true.  Procrastinating stresses me out.  I don't really like it.  But I guess I'd generally rather read a book.  So it is indeed a choice, but not a carefully thought out, nor a sound, one.

One interesting consequence of having procrastinated for 30 plus years is that I now also become uneasy on the rare occasion when I am prepared well in advanced.  I don't quite trust myself to get things completed ahead of time.  I assume I've overlooked something or have done it poorly.  (Here is my perfectionism shining through.) Lack of stress can just make me nervous.  Yes, I need help.

I am in the middle of such a situation.  We are moving in about 10 days.  At the beginning of the summer, I was nervous.  I had a lot to do, and not much time to do it in.  Then I had a medical hiccup that took about two weeks out of my life.  Then I had one week feeling well, and was off to Girls' Camp for a week with my oldest girl.  I came back and was constantly on the verge of an anxiety attack.  Now there was way too much to do and not nearly enough time.  But I pressed on, and with the help of my mom tackled the rooms and closets that were going to be the most difficult for me to pack.  Larry has spent a bit of the week working on packing up his stuff that I'd have no idea how to sort through.  The end result is that since Friday afternoon, I have felt quite comfortable about the state of the packing.  

That's good, right?  Well, mostly.  Except for this background gnawing in my gut that I must be misjudging the amount of remaining work.  If only I'd procrastinated, I'd be CERTAIN that I had more work than time.  See how much more comforting that would be?  I hate uncertainty.  

I really do need to get some help.  Maybe someday I will.

5 fishy comments:

Kelly said...

So either we became good friends because of the same procrastinating trait we have or I just spent way too much time with you during my "formative years" that you have rubbed off on me because I relate to every single word you wrote. - Good luck getting settled once to move is complete.

CaJoh said...

Depending on your resourcefulness being a procrastinator may be a good thing— but the combination of being a perfectionist and a procrastinator makes an interesting combination.

My wife tends to feel anxious when we are in the middle of the holidays and nobody has gotten sick or had something bad happen to them.

But you moved in spite of your procrastination, so be thankful that you made it.

veronica said...

I must say, I am really enjoying reading your thoughts in these posts. I love your description(s) of if you'd only come up with a way to make me stop procrastinating I'd be eternally grateful! :)

Lolli said...

I am SO with you here! I procrastinate...but I don't think it's ever because of perfectionism. I also lack discipline. Sometimes, I'm good. Other times, I'm horrible.

Jeanne said...


Procrastinating is a very hard habit to break!