I’ve been thinking a lot about how I go about doing things in my daily life. From my work habits to my rest habits, I’ve been examining the patterns and looking for explanations… or ways I can improve.
One of the habits I have, that I’ve had my reservations about, is procrastination. I tend to wait on doing things like tasks and obligations and things I HAVE to do, often until the very last minute. Sometimes it introduces stress to my life, and it sometimes makes me a little ill. I also sometimes get in trouble, almost missing flights and being late on deliveries. And at tax time, it’s always interesting as I realize preparing my taxes is a lot more involved than I anticipated.
I’ve tried to change this for years. It’s caused me trouble that I think I can avoid. And I have felt like there was something wrong with me, for procrastinating.
But you know what? I don’t really feel that way, anymore. I’ve realized that procrastination actually serves a purpose with me — it gives me a certain control over my time, a certain latitude, that I don’t have, when I’m working on other people’s timeframes. Sure, I could start early on things and get them done. But then someone would give me something else to do, and I’d never get any rest. Especially at work. I’m not in a position where I can just tell people “No, I’m not going to do that,” without consequence. If I finish one thing, people are going to give me more crap to do, and then when will I rest and recuperate?
The way I do things — tending to the things I want to do first, and then taking care of other people’s stuff — actually works for me. And if I don’t get too wigged out over the pressure, I can actually do well. The pressure focuses me and it gets me involved, so long as I don’t let it get to me. If I tell myself I’ve messed up by waiting till the last minute, I make things harder for myself, because then I spend all this time feeling badly about myself and using up valuable time and energy being hard on myself.
And that’s no good.
If I just let myself be, however, and I just go with what I’ve got, things work out much better for me — and everyone. Obviously, other people aren’t all that pleased that I’m moving at my own pace, but I can’t be driven like a mule, just to make them happy.
This is a bit of a breakthrough for me. I can’t tell you how much time and energy I’ve spent trying to “turn this around” and keep myself from procrastinating. I’ve gotten so down on myself over this habit, telling myself that it threatens my success and well-being. I’ve convinced myself it’s unprofessional and slacker-like. But that’s not true. I just do things on my own schedule and in my own time. I do get things done — just not in this neat, tidy little package that makes everyone else comfortable and happy.
See, here’s the thing — I’ve also been thinking about this — people get anxious. They get scared. They get nervous, and they want assurances. It’s nice to be able to allay people’s fears, but it’s not my job to make sure everyone around me is feeling good and fine all the time. If people are nervous, they’re nervous. If they’re afraid, that’s really on them. It doesn’t reflect on me or my value or abilities as a person. If my boss(es) are anxious and frustrated, it may not have anything to do with me, so there’s only so much I can do to allay those fears and reservations. The main thing is to keep lines of communication open with people, so they can know what’s going on. But bending over backwards to make sure everyone else has peace of mind… while my own peace of mind suffers… not good.
So, I’m changing my mind about procrastination. It serves a purpose, letting me spend time on what I want to do, before I start serving the needs of others. It also provides valuable focus and impetus, when I’m “late” with my projects. So long as I don’t let the pressure get to me, I can make really good progress and do it in short order… and be reasonably rested and mentally prepared when I start a project.
My time needs to be my own. My time IS my own. When I lay claim to it, defend it, and manage it the way I want to manage it.