Usually we equate procrastination to negative habits. We have a big project or even just a long list of little ones that we keep putting off. I like many others respond well to having a deadline because suddenly there is no time left for all the lures that draw our attention away from these jobs that must be done. We have to knuckle down and get to work. And when the last chore on the honey-do list is checked off we feel a lovely sense of satisfaction. Or when that big project is complete and we can show it off, there’s a great deal of pride in the accomplishment. So what was all the delay about in getting busy in the first place when we knew how pleased we’d be once we had gotten the job done?
I’m retired from the nine to five life, but since the day I left that world I’ve become a published author and now a whole new world of tasks sits on my desk waiting for me to get down to business. I have a series going, two books out, one coming out soon and three more in the works. I’ve also been invited to submit short stories to anthologies, visit blogs and I need to keep my own blog going. So there is always a writing project or several waiting for me to sit my butt in the chair and get busy. And just because I’m retired from a life governed by a clock and someone else’s agenda, doesn’t exempt me from housework, yard work and maintenance. If I kept my nose to the proverbial grindstone, my house would be immaculate, the paint would be fresh, the car would be washed and vacuumed and there would never be a dirty dish in the sink. I’d be cranking out books and stories and always seeking new and better ways to promote them. Yet, I procrastinate.
I got a Fitbit to start this new year off and so far, I’ve met my daily step goal every day but one. I’ve even increased that step goal on the first day of each month, so there is always that “Gotta get the steps in” lurking in my thoughts. I keep important appointments and places I need to be on my phone, which provides me with musical reminders, but I also own a slim calendar notebook where I can jot down things I want to get done for the year, the month and the day. And I use a highlighter to indicate when they have been accomplished. Being a listmaker, this is a satisfying way of keeping myself motivated and having a visual sense of progress. And still, I procrastinate.
But perhaps there is another side to procrastination, that just maybe offers rewards we would otherwise miss. Some of the most rewarding moments in my life can’t be added to a Honey-do list, logged on my phone or jotted down on that column of tasks on my calendar.
Consider this day: I’d met my step goal, there were no dishes in my sink, the dog had been walked, the laundry folded, my bills paid, my email checked and Facebook visited, yet each time I brought up my current manuscript and glanced at the notes I’d left for myself where I’d left off last time I worked on it, I started looking around for another task, procrastinating yet again on the work in progress. I reread the notes, stared at the screen . . . and then decided to go to the grocery store to get all three things on my current list of stuff that needed to be picked up next time I was out. I was on the way home when a flash of color caught my eye. It was late in the day and the sun was setting. I pulled off into a small park that overlooks the inland waterway and got out of the car to see the most fantastic display of color, perfectly mirrored in the stillness of the river. The magnificence of it took my breath away. Had I not been procrastinating, I’d have missed it entirely.
Sometimes the distraction is a passerby. I live on a corner and my dog doesn’t have the nickname “Mr. Sociable” for nothing. He not only wants to say hello to anyone going by, especially people we know, but he wants me to leave my desk and come out to say hi as well. He dashes into the house and nudges my typing hand until I get up and go out with him. And those moments that I spend talking with neighbors and strangers have been moments well worth the distraction from the business at hand. It’s not just about taking the time to smell the roses – it’s reaching out to touch other people, to connect, sometimes to listen and be a shoulder to lean on, sometimes to share a moment of laughter or appreciation. Sometimes it’s solace or a hug when I need it most.
So, I guess I have to say, Thank You God for procrastination. Thank you for distracting me long enough to appreciate the beautiful world you have created, and thank you for letting me ignore the “must do” list long enough to appreciate moments of laughter, tears and joy with the people you have sent into my life.