“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” – Mark Twain.
If you have a mother and a goal, you’ve probably heard some variation of the above sentiment. Mothers care and goals are pressing, and this combination leads wise mothers to advise their children to get a hustle on and be productive. Unwise mothers start to nag. My mother was very wise. Me, I’ve been a procrastinator ever since I started reading. No, there is not a contradiction.
Because my mother was so wise, I never procrastinated by loafing around. I would get a hustle on. It might involve reading a 500-page book in two days when I probably should have been doing schoolwork, though. Let me tell you, it was the beginning of something remarkable.
Why do something today when I could find out whether or not Alana really does become a lady knight, Frodo makes it to Mt. Doom, or whatshisface kills whatshername? Or, in the less-fictional realm, why do something today when I could do it tomorrow and learn all about Vikings, the War of 1812, pre-incarnate theophanies, or French cooking today? Then the internet rolled into my life, and there went any chance of normal productivity.
This isn’t to say I’m just a reading junkie. I have other hobbies. I love to lay ceramic tile, ride horses, chop wood, cook, write, create art, take photographs, play the violin, clean house, quilt, sew clothing, do calligraphy, study my genealogy, stretch out with yoga, sunbathe, listen to podcasts, and keep up a lively correspondence with several long-distance friends. And, you know, blog about stuff.
How do I do all these things as a chronic procrastinator?
Well, I believe in a practice I have dubbed ‘Productive Procrastination‘. I rarely allow myself to do something without purpose. If I don’t want to work on my novel, I don’t just sit at my computer mindlessly scrolling through social media and browsing Youtube (or, at least, not for very long). Nope. Not allowed. If I am supposed to be writing, but I’m not, then you can bet I’m painting something. Say I don’t want to clean house, well, then I might just sit down and write a new chapter. Don’t want to paint? Well, maybe now would be a good time to dust off the fiddle and play a few songs.
In other words, I spend my life avoiding doing what I don’t want to do and falling backward toward my goals.
To do Productive Procrastination successfully, a few guidelines should be followed. You can’t just go around flouting every single thing you don’t want to do ever. That’s a great way to not have any friends or any employment.
I am just like any other mortal. If I have a deadline, I buckle down, grit my teeth, and do the thing. I’ll even do some self-imposed deadlines for giggles (NaNoWriMo, anyone?). Yes, I have a day job and I am really good at it. No, I do not procrastinate when I am being paid or when someone is counting on me. If I have a photoshoot, I do the photoshoot. If someone needs me to edit photos pronto quicko, then that’s what I do.
But when it comes to the hobbies, the stuff of dreams and goals, sometimes just doing what you want to do is the best way to get it done.
I feel that Productive Procrastination grants me two great gifts in life which are responsible for constantly improving my mood, productivity, skill set, heart, and mind:
- I am always spending my free time doing something I want to do, or, at least, not doing something which I don’t want to do.
- Since so many of my projects are creative, allowing my subconscious to puzzle out the next plot or painting while I’m working on something else means that I come back with better answers than if I had just muscled through it.
How about you? Do you put things off until later, or are you always ready to jump on the ball?