Hi, my name is Kim and I’m a procrastinator. Not only am I a procrastinator but I am a wizard level procrastinator.
The basic definition of procrastination is the practice of delaying or postponing the completion of a task. Advanced procrastinators don’t simply delay a task they often replace it with a less important activity. This less important activity is usually something that really doesn’t need to be done, and certainly not in the time frame of this very important task that clearly has a deadline.
When I was in college I am pretty sure that I had the cleanest closet during finals week at my university. Every semester like clockwork classes would wind down and I’d find myself organizing my closet. Of course, I always had a good reason. At the end of the fall semester, I told myself that with the holidays coming I needed to get it taken care of. Where would I hide gifts? At the end of the spring semester, I justified it by reasoning that I needed to be able to find my sandals or other summer gear.
It’s a problem with perfection, and it’s not that we, as procrastinators, think we are perfect or that we do things perfectly. It’s that we have illusions of grandeur. We can imagine perfection, and it looks really good. The only problem with perfection is that it’s well, perfect. Even if we ignore the idea that different people are going to have varying ideas of what is perfect, we are setting the bar exceptionally high.
As my father, all around smart guy and my junior year Honors English teacher, would tell me, “It’s hard to be perfect and on time.” At the time I just thought he was talking about me, but since then I have found that this is a universal truth for procrastinators. You start with a task that needs to be done and then you come up with this great idea and you are really psyched about it. It’s going to be amazing, and groovy and maybe even blue and…wait. What now? There’s a deadline. Perfection and punctuality, fantastic, two of my favorite things, really. Awesome. Ok.
At some point, it turns into perfect or punctual, one or the other but not both. How do we choose? Perfection is fairly subjective, you ask a random sample of people a single question and you are going to get different answers. I think Chris Hemsworth is pretty close to perfect but I know a few people who are not impressed at all. Punctuality, however is definite, Thursday at noon means the same thing to everyone. (Yes, I know there are different time zones that could cause confusion but we all knew what I meant.) Clearly, the deadline is going to win over a fleeting chance at perfection.
The deadline is the deal breaker but as a procrastinator we are then obligated to justify the lack of perfection. How can we be perfect when we have had such a busy day? And, yeah, sometimes we invent things that have to be done right now. It’s avoidance at its best, perfection takes time so we allow ourselves to be distracted by various shiny alternatives. When we triumphantly meet our deadline we can point to all of the distractions and pat ourselves on the back for doing so well in such a short amount of time.
Here’s my shiny example, while writing this post I got an email letting me know that I had earned a $15 rewards certificate to a national shoe store chain. I stopped writing to go look at shoes. Do I need shoes right now? Nope. It is summer and I have a plethora of sandal options to choose from. All I thought was, “Wow, $15!” and I sprinted off to see if there was anything that I absolutely needed. Did I find anything that I needed right now? Nope…although I did find a darling pair of slouchy pull on boots that are on clearance, the avoidance thing, it’s not always bad.
Is there a cure for procrastination? If you climb a mountain in Borneo and talk to the wise man…yeah. No, there is no cure. You can only treat the symptoms. Like perfection, treatment options vary among the procrastinator population. When it comes to writing, schedules work for some people, block out the same time every day to write. Setting a timer is another favorite, set it for an hour and keep writing until you hear the ding. The best treatment, in my humble opinion is to drop the idea of perfect in favor of ideas like fun, inspired, heartwarming or relatable.
This post originally appeared at the RWA Chapter of Contemporary Romance Writers Blog.