I’m not a chronic procrastinator. As a general rule I get my stuff done.
That is, until recently.
These days I’m working on edits of my manuscript. I have a deadline and I want to meet it, yet I am finding so many reasons not to work toward it. Big things like, checking to see if my skin looks older (younger?) in natural light than it does under sixty watt bulbs, or seeing if someone emailed me, by chance, in the last five minutes. Or keeping close tabs on Jennifer Lawrence’s growing-out-a-pixie-cut journey.
This isn’t like me. It is like my kids, but not me. So I’ve tried to put my finger on the reason(s) for my recent slacking, and here’s what I think is going on. I notice that I procrastinate more often when
- I am anxious. When I come upon a section in my manuscript that I know I need to pare down or pump up, and I cannot figure out how to do it, it scares me. I worry that I won’t ever be able to see how to change things so that they flow properly. I see myself failing, and I hate to fail.
- I am overwhelmed. Sometimes the editing job seems too big and I don’t know how to “chunk” it–to create bite sized segments of work on which to focus. I find myself wanting to avoid this feeling at all costs so I tell myself that I’ll get to it after I text my sister a funny writer quote or give the dogs more loveys.
- I am mentally exhausted. No one gets to think one or two thoughts per day, least of all moms. I wear several hats and my brain is on warp speed all day long. I make this reality infinitely worse when I comb the internet for useless facts about people I don’t know. Of course, sometimes they aren’t useless facts. Sometimes they’re horrifying facts about the world melting down. So, naturally, I just stew about them and gut grind. Then, the idea of taxing my brain further by trying to shut out the world and concentrate on my work makes me feel like falling asleep. Or watching ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ on Netflix.
These realizations have helped me as a homeschool mom to feel more compassion for my kids when they procrastinate in their own work. Though it sometimes boils down to sheer laziness in them (and, OK, me), other times my kids’ dragging their feet comes from anxiety, brain overwhelm, and exhaustion.
Knowing this makes me (A). better able to pinpoint what’s getting in the way when they aren’t finishing, or starting, homework, projects, etc., and (B). more likely to find a solution to the problem. If it’s anxiety, we can talk about it. We can pray about it and face it head on. If it’s overwhelm, we can take a sheet of math problems and focus on just one for the time being. If it’s exhaustion, we can examine our days and see if we’re trying to cram too much into them–too much information, too much TV, too many activities. We can look for ways to cut back so that we aren’t running ourselves ragged.
Addressing the reasons behind my kids’ procrastination, instead of just calling them lazy, is helping them get their work done in a more timely manner.
And, yeah, I think it’s helping me get my work done, too.