Monday, November 10, 2014

procrastination, part II

I almost got this finished last night, but the need for sleep got the better of me. Of course I've now left it until nearly bedtime to try to finish it off, some habits are hard to shake...

Well I'm making a start, however I'm also hungry, and it is lunchtime... I'll be back later, I promise!

Right, so where was I? Ah yes, procrastination. Something I've been an expert at for many years. I could get a degree in procrastination, oh wait, I've already got one of those, well not in it as a subject but as a study method. Well it worked didn't it?!

I arrived in this world about 10 days late and lets face it that is around the time when the word 'induced' starts being bandied around by the medical profession and there's still nothing like a deadline to get me moving! I'm also pretty practiced in being stubborn in the face of authority, or as I like to call it now, speaking truth to power. I managed to arrive just before the end of evening visiting hours, so contrary to the rules of the time my dad was given special dispensation to stay in the maternity hospital and wait in the nurses' rest room so he could see me (and probably more to the point, my mum) before he went home. So I was already aiding and abetting breaking the rules of convention as I took my first breath.

As many of the texts I read as part of my Early Childhood Education training point out, it is the early experiences of life that shape what follows. Well with that start to life I was obviously destined to a life of leaving things to the last minute whilst thumbing my nose (I never did learn to suck my thumb properly...) at the powers that be. Speaking of powers that be, that reminds me I need to sort out my visas again, I'm fine as long as I don't leave the country, so it can wait a bit longer, right?

Soooo, procrastination. See, I can't even get to the point without putting it off, wandering around the houses and going off at odd tangents - a bit like Ronnie Corbett rounding off The Two Ronnies, sitting in that big chair that looked like they'd borrowed it from the Mastermind set. Ooooh, is that the kettle I can hear boiling? Must be time for a cuppa.....

Mmm, that's better, tea and chocolate. You can put the world to rights over tea and chocolate, there obviously isn't enough of it around in places of Government. You know I never did read the article editorialgirl referred to at the beginning of her post, I probably should before I go any further.

Just as well I did, as on the one hand it matches my modus operandi, yet on the other it just so isn't me. I suppose I'm one of the 'predictably irrational' people who knows my own weaknesses. Picking up on the studying research mentioned, for my ECE Grad Dip I found myself several times with three assignments due in within a few days of each other several weeks ahead. Knowing my propensity for procrastination I would set myself self-imposed deadlines of one per week over three weeks.

Week one, I'd usually have the first assignment finished early. But then I'd take a couple of days off before starting the next one, as technically those days were still allocated to Assignment 1 and I felt like I'd earned a break. Assignment 2, well it would be harder to get going again after those two days off, and I knew I should really have got cracking straight off whilst the momentum was there, but.... And I'd end up dragging it out, finishing it some time on the last day of the allocated week.

Assignment 3's turn, and I'm feeling really hōhā about all this and am totally over it. Who on earth thought writing thousands of words in short spaces of time was a good way to train teachers anyway? Didn't the university actually read the stuff they were setting us? It was a dreadful way to learn, it becomes meaningless and boring, students disengage from the subject etc. etc. etc., if I could be bothered I could find the APA referencing for the texts that prove my point! So, yup, Assignment 3 is the one that involves sitting up until at least 2am on the last night going crossed eyed checking the commas and italics in the aforementioned APA referencing and descending into absolute panic mode as the internet decides to throw a hissy fit the moment I'm ready to submit my last assignment with about 5 minutes to spare. Ironically of course that is the assignment I'd get the best grade for. Which is why any attempt to convince myself that there is a better way of studying was always halfhearted and destined to fail.

But on the other hand unlike the other examples given, I have ridiculous amounts of will power (aka stubbornness...). I can budget over a year and live off a very small amount if I have to. I can manage my diet and shopping in such a way that I avoid what is bad for me, although admittedly knowing something will make you sick is a far bigger deterrent than just knowing that 'junk food isn't good for you'. I was totally the kid who can wait 15 mins for the bigger reward. I learned to save at a young age, both pocket money and chocolate. I was the child who made my Easter eggs last for weeks if not months, whereas my brother thought he'd done well if they lasted hours. Yet I'll still leave things I don't want to do until the last minute.


Therein lies the crux of the matter usually. If I have to do something, I invariably find 101 other things to do first. If it is an essay needing written it is amazing how it is suddenly so important to give the bathroom a really good scrub. Yet if it is the bathroom really needing cleaned, well I could go and do some gardening instead... I can get stuck in a good book for hours and hours, and stay up all night if need be to finish it as I can't bare to put it down. But ask me to concentrate on anything else for the same timeframe and I simply can't do it. I zone out, fall asleep, end up doodling in the margins. No matter how hard I try I just can't focus on one task for that length of time. Even in the garden where I can while away an entire day it won't be solidly on one task no matter how big it is or how long it will take. To be fair to myself though books read like that I usually then reread almost straight away at a slower pace to pick up on all the details I've invariably not taken in in my blinkered dash to find out what happens next/in the end.

What seems to make the difference as to whether I procrastinate most is the element of choice - am I doing something on my terms, on my timescale, to my standards because I want to do it, or am I expected to meet someone elses? As soon as there is anything out of my control I seem to procrastinate. Not out of sheer bloody mindedness, but because if something isn't finished it can still be improved. Once it is finished it is there to be judged, and the perfectionist streak in me doesn't like that. So I'd rather be able to say 'it's not finished yet' which excuses any imperfections, than admit that my best just simply wasn't perfect. It's why I needed Natalie reminding me constantly through our Grad Dip that 'Cs make degrees' and 'good enough' was okay. As a strategy it obviously worked as we were both ended up A grade students! Something I would never have dreamed possible given my previous mediocre academic track record.

The other procrastination tactic is to not even start/attempt something; if I don't start I can't mess it up can I? Which is why so many sewing projects this year have stalled as soon as any maths has come into play as my head hasn't been very reliable at thinking straight. There's something so very final about taking scissors to a piece of fabric... Yet I can happily accept that my sewing will never be perfect and accept the fact that there will always be room for improvement. I know that if I strive for perfection I'll never finish anything so I pass the finished items on with the clear message that 'it isn't perfect, but it is there to be used, not framed, so please use it!'

I know that this year my procrastination has known no bounds. Given I can find some things hard enough to start/finish at the best of times you can imagine how it most definitely not being the best of times has made it far worse. And what is more my confidence has taken a battering to boot. So finding these articles has been timely as I start to feel more able to tackle stuff again, but so far only on my own terms, or with someone else checking it as back-up. My future self would love to be able to look back at the end of the year and see that in the end I did manage to write more blog posts than the previous year, or at least match the 38 posts of the last two! But as soon as more than a week goes by without blogging it becomes harder and harder to start a post or finish one, as I know it is becoming less and less likely that I'll reach 39, let alone 52... a target I set, that no-one else even knew about until they read this! And what is more it doesn't even matter whether I reach it or not, yet still I procrastinate as it is easier to accept that I failed from not trying hard enough than to try my hardest and still not get there.

So I need to stop being so hard on my future self, stop beating myself up for things that haven't even happened yet and might not, especially if I stopped procrastinating and just got on with things! I know I can do it, there are times when Cat's 'think it, do it' attitude kicks in and I just get stuck in and see something through to the end come what may. Like the time when we decided 15 minutes before the end of our shift to re-organize the linen cupboard, a task that usually took at least an hour! As for the day we decided to re-organize the pantries, well lets just say weren't popular with the next shift who had to cook tea in the midst of our chaos, but we stuck at it until it was done and all agreed that in the end it had been worth it. I must admit though it is usually my stubborn streak that over-rules everything else at times like this though, along with to heck with convention....


So I'll try to remember each time I procrastinate to consider whether that is fair on future me and aim to 'think it, do it' more often. Sometimes looking after myself has to over-ride any other considerations though, which is why I gave up proof-reading this last night and have returned to it now. I nearly put it off again as I'm tired and I really shouldn't have left it until this late at night, but I knew I'd be more cross with myself for not posting this today than I would be for not including all the things I meant to, but now can't think of as I'm too tired.... I just know there was more! But there's always another post and another day. And who knows, if I make this into three posts rather than one (or the current two) I might make that target of at least 39 posts this year after all!

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