Monday, May 2, 2016

The Power and Pain of Procrastination

Seeing as it’s Monday, May 2, my posting day, and I’m just now writing this, the title is completely appropriate. 
In most things, I am of two extremes. When it comes to food, I’m either totally committed to a healthy, self-controlled diet, or I eat everything with abandon and gain 10 lbs. in about a week (true story from last week). When it comes to deadlines, I either tackle the project immediately and get it finished and returned early, or I put it off until the absolute last moment (for example, this blog post).

When it comes to writing “have-tos,” I find that procrastination causes me a lot of pain. Not because I’ve put something off (again, this blog post) and have to rush to get it finished, but because often I procrastinate out of fear. Edits are too scary to look at. Contest scores are too terrifying to analyze. Editor suggestions are too overwhelming to peruse. But the reality is that none of these things are incredibly difficult once I commit to dealing with them. Edits are rarely as scary as I think they are. Even when every page is covered with note after note, many are simple fixes dealing with mechanics or rephrasing. A few are more complicated regarding motivation or reader confusion. But overall, the work involved isn’t nearly as much as the time I spent putting off the task! And the worst part is, I’ve probably lost sleep and relaxation time because my brain has stressed over the undone task of dealing with those edits or critiques or whatever else I’ve put off until “later.”

And that is the power and pain of procrastination.
The longer I put off dealing with something, the bigger it grows in my mind. The more daunting the task becomes. And each time I decide NOT to tackle that task, the bigger the fear grows. Even when it’s something as simple and safe as replying to a friendly email, when I put it off, it slowly turns into something I dread completing. And with the need-to-take-care-of task hanging over my head, I’m stressed, whether I’m conscious of that fact or not. I don’t sleep well and I check out by choosing to read or play games until I CAN’T put it off anymore.

As I said before, the task is rarely—RARELY—as difficult as I’ve built it up. But fear feeds on fear. As I given into the fear, all I accomplish is making the fear-monster bigger and harder to face. Harder to defeat. Yet, when I finally do face the fear-monster, he’s not that hard to slay. And yet, as often as I’ve been through this procrastination process, I can’t seem to get it through my head that the avoiding is ten times more painful than the actually task. Maybe a hundred-times more painful, depending on how long I procrastinate. But I do it again. And again.

But as we go into summer, the time of year when Alaska is all sunshine and light and hope exists in the world again, I’m committing to not procrastinating any longer (and to not eating everything with abandon, but that’s another subject). I want to enjoy my summer without the fear-monster lurking in the back of my mind. Instead of avoiding, I will act.

Do you procrastinate? What kind of power and pain has procrastination caused you?

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