Monday, May 14

After all, tomorrow is another day!

Procrastinate: To defer until a later time. From Latin, pro - "forward" and crastinus - "belonging to tomorrow"

Procrastinators put things off until tomorrow. Today has something else to occupy our time. Tomorrow, we'll be able to better tackle that project. The problem is, tomorrow becomes today and we eventually run out of tomorrows before a deadline arrives. A procrastinator still gets things done, but they don't generally get things done early.

  “The future is always ideal: The fridge is stocked, the weather clear, the train runs on schedule and meetings end on time. Today, well, stuff happens.”
- Hara Estroff Marano in Psychology Today 

As I explained in my housekeeping philosophy, procrastination brings with it an energy, an adventure, and a deep satisfaction with a finished project. Some might posit that balanced approaches to living require less energy for basic tasks and yield more energy that can be applied to passions and pleasures and the adventure called life. They might be right, but I haven't investigated that angle much yet. I'll do it later.

In the mean time, I read an article recently with much to say about self-control, which is really the heart of the problem, isn't it? "I know I should write this report now, but I'd like to check facebook, my email, news headlines, and my latest game apps first." We're choosing between responsible behaviour and pleasurable behaviour.  Salad or cheesecake. Of course we want the cheesecake now. It tastes amazing! What we forget is that, when done right, salads are actually quite nice. And we forget that, when eaten at the exclusion of healthy foods, cheesecake actually leaves us feeling quite miserable. We see the now and forget the future. Or we see the future, but imagine it better than reality allows. 

One interesting point in the article is that feelings of social exclusion impair self-regulation. In other words, when we feel lonely or unwanted, we don't use self-control nearly so well. On an unexplored level, we're saying to ourselves, "If no one really cares about me, what difference does it make if I make healthy decisions?" So, if self-control is a problem for you, it is probably a good idea to make yourself spend some time with other people. Get out of your house. Go talk out loud to real people. 

If you like that sort of thing. 

And if you don't (I sometimes don't), it's still best to force yourself to get out there anyway. It's not healthy to hole up, comfortable though it may be.  

Another interesting point the article makes is that too many decisions or exercises in self-control can exhaust us and make it harder for us to perform well. So, when I have a review to write, the more I try not to focus on the entertaining things around me, the less focused I am able to be on the task at hand. I have learned this about myself already. First, I know that there are some nights when my brain just will not gather my thoughts up properly and I'm actually better off to put it delay it a bit longer, so that I can produce a better quality review. Adrenaline certainly increases as my deadlines loom and I am able to focus better. 

That sounds terrible, I know, but there is a beautiful point in there. The article says that we run into trouble when we are struggling to control ourselves and our decisions and that we'd be much better off if we could switch ourselves to auto-pilot. Obviously, exhausting or not, it is necessary to control ourselves. While I certainly believe that God expects us to use some sense and exercise self-control, I really believe that "auto-pilot" is a state of dependence on Him. Decisions aren't so very hard when we are seeking answers in prayer rather than our own power. The article I've linked does NOT bring God into the picture. In fact, quite the opposite and, on second thought, you probably don't want to read it.

Second, because there is always the possibility that my less-focused night will fall on the night before a review is due, I set false deadlines for myself. If you know you're prone to procrastination, I'm fairly certain you're not actually going to be able to change those habits any time soon, so the best thing you can do is to learn how to regulate it. I have a deadline of May 14th, so I put a deadline on the calendar of May 10th. Sure, I know that it's not really due May 10th, but I know it's coming up and I work on it. I generally will finish the project on May 11th or 12th and I have at least a day to spare! 

 ...although almost everyone has problems with procrastination, those who recognize and admit their weakness are in a better position to utilize available tools for precommitment and by doing so, help themselves overcome it.  -Dan Ariely "Predictably Irrational"

Overcome it? I doubt it's possible, though there are hundreds of books on the market that say otherwise. How many of those books would you bet have been purchased and then shelved, their owners intending to read them very soon. 

One last point in the article: blood sugar affects performance, ability to focus, and self-control. As long as you're not trying to control your food consumption, this is handy advice. Go eat a banana. But I think I recognized this already. I have a tradition for my work time: After the kids go to bed, I set a treat and a beverage in front of the keyboard, to enjoy as I work on bills, lesson plans, blogging, etc.  However, this tradition can create some late nights and sometimes my beverage of choice is a glass of wine, so this is probably not the best routine. The article stresses that lack of sleep and alcohol can decrease focus and self-control, making me more likely to stray towards facebook when I'm supposed to be researching history lessons. 

So, to sum up:
1. Some of it is personality and no self-help book will "cure" you.
2. Some of it is a self-control issue and could probably use some prayer
3. Some of it is stress/mind-clutter induced and could probably use some prayer
4. If you know you procrastinate, find a way to deal with your tendencies. Sure, keep trying to improve and change bad habits, but in the meantime, be practical and set up some safety deadlines.
5. Eat a banana. Or better yet, a handful of walnuts and a glass of water.
6. And don't forget that salads are quite nice.

How's that for a ridiculously long introduction? The rest of the week will be much more simple.

Now, if by some chance you are reading this in hopes of adding more procrastination pleasures to your life, here is a small sampling of my list of current favorites:

This post is part of a week-long blog carnival featuring much more helpful and thought-provoking posts than mine. To read the others, be sure to check out the TOS Blog Hop:


Nezzy (Cow Patty Surprise) said...

Great advice sweetie!!!

I've heard all the buzz 'bout Pinterest but haven't allowed myself to enter. I fear I'd go in and never come out again! Heeehehehe!

Lord only knows I let bloggin' eat waaay to much time already. I set timers link ya would for a little kid. Heck, I've always said, "I'll never grow up!"

Wonderful read sweetie!

Have yourself a marvelously blessed week! :o)

Joelle said...

You've got me hooked, as I can certainly empathize. Ill be back tomorrow!

Walking Fruitfully said...

All right, having a salad for my lunch--you convinced me. Besides, I had cheesecake yesterday. ;)

Neha said...

Wonderful read. And I prefer salad over cheesecake anytime :)

Andrea said...

As the old saying goes, "Life's unpredictable, eat dessert first."

A good, healthy, early morning dose of "Draw Something" never hurt anyone, now did it? *grin*

Sara @ Embracing Destiny said...

This was a fun read. Love the Gone with the Wind photos. I was reading the whole thing with Scarlett's accent in mind. Fiddle-dee-dee.

I was going to comment earlier today, but I didn't get around to it until now. Ha! You had to get at least one lame procrastination joke for a comment, right? =0)

Melissa said...

love, love draw something - definitely helps with procrastination :) Looking forward to hearing more!

Jenn said...

Neha, I need to be more like you when I grow up. I reeeeeeally like cheesecake.

Sara, I love the procrastination. And I'm right there with ya. I meant to answer comments last night. But it's so much more fun with fresh coffee.

DrawSomething is definitely my favorite distraction of the month. I don't understand why though - there is no winning, no losing, no opportunity to humiliate your opponent. This isn't the kind of game I generally play. But I love it.

Unknown said...

Jenn..we must quit procrastinating and get together one of these days already!! Great article. I enjoy a bit of a treat and a glass of wine when I am working and lo and behold, I have a terrible time focusing. Whooda thunkit?!

Jenn said...

Agreed! I was up there yesterday for a library and Sam's run. I was out of everything in my pantry and had serious late-fees at the library. But we had dinner plans and had to hurry home.

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