As a New Year’s resolution, which I finally decided upon in February, I vowed to stop procrastinating.
I was on the back end of having procrastinated myself into a panicky walk-in, mammogram, where the doctors found nothing more than a benign cyst. The panic was unnecessary, but a good reminder that procrastination has, on more than one occasion, caused me undue stress.
Some might, in fact, tell you that procrastination is my defining flaw. The problem that stands between me and theoretical greatness.
I drove home, determined to turn to a new, non-procrastinating chapter in my life, and immediately completed some tasks that have been filed under “when I get to it” for quite some time. I went through my odds and ends laundry basket which for months had been accumulating robe belts, doll clothes, and items that required special washing. I returned a library book, previously so overdue I’d paid for it, which now sat in limbo between “mine” and “I don’t want it, maybe the library would want it back.” I wiped down the corner behind the toilet.
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Upon completion, I felt great.
What’s next? I asked myself. I was rollin’ through my list and a blistering pace, and ready for more. I’ll write a column about this! And I’ll do it early! And I sat down and started typing, and rapidly ran out of anything to say.
(Insert a week’s worth of elevator music, and me doing virtually anything but writing this column, chuckling to myself about the irony of it all.)
Just hours before my deadline, I finally reopened this file. The fire of the deadline burned hot behind me, forcing me to finally choose words and form sentences. But, as can happen when I’ve procrastinated long enough, my thoughts had changed. I no longer despised myself for procrastinating, and instead had come to value and respect the creative process.
Some things, particularly creative endeavors, require percolation, research, reflection, the leeway to change one’s mind. These things can sometimes best be achieved through procrastination. Refilling my coffee, checking in on Facebook, bathing the dog (all things I’ve done this morning while trying to finish this), even stepping away from a project for a few days, can greatly improve my perspective and help me sort through ideas, assigning each a specific place.
In fact, I believe solidly that the time lapse between the inception of an idea and the execution is where the magic happens. Completing a creative task too early — before it’s due — cheats the end result of quality. I may have missed an “aha” moment. For instance, in the last week, I had an “aha” moment about this column, when I realized that procrastination is an effective (if sloppy) time management skill that allows non-essentials to simply fall off my to-do list.
Of course, procrastination is not always good, and should sometimes be avoided. Some things should be tended to, on time, on a regular basis, without fail. The time lapse between mammograms will allow cancer, not some wonderful idea, to develop.
So, I guess I need a new resolution. One more specific, more focused on thoughtfully prioritizing, yet allowing room, flexibility and value for the creative process.
I’ll get to that later.
Emily Parnell lives in Overland Park, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org