Procrastination: What are you waiting for?

Posted by Allen Rucker in Life After Paralysis on June 19, 2020 # Lifestyle

Do you procrastinate? Of course, you do. We all do. I’m procrastinating right now writing this blog on procrastination. Why? Maybe I’m lazy. Or maybe I’m just too depressed with the country falling apart, day after day, that I can’t block out all the bad feelings swirling around like the tornado in “The Wizard of Oz.” Remember that scene? Dorothy looks out the window of her high-flying house to see Auntie Em and the other Kansas farm folks floating by and waving. I just stopped to watch the whole sequence on YouTube. Now that’s procrastination.Clock

I really don’t think any of the above played into my slow start here. The daily news is a drumbeat of despair, for sure, but hey, Shakespeare wrote “Macbeth” during a plague, right? Which may not be true, but if it is, it’s probably because he had this great idea about a play about a Scottish guy who goes nuts after killing the King of Scotland and taking over, all from a history book of the time. The plague killed 15,000 people in London, but it didn’t kill Shakespeare’s desire to get this bloody melodrama down on paper. If he had let the news bum him out, we would never have “Out damn spot” to say every time we spilled catsup on our collective tie.

I think that the “problem” of procrastination is often a lot of hooey. We all procrastinate around small, drudgerous jobs like doing the dishes or paying taxes because they are boring. And we might dance around doing something more important, like writing a paper for English class or a productivity report for the boss, because writing, among other human tasks, is hard work and many people freak out at the very thought of it. In a wheelchair or not, we inevitably feel bad when we procrastinate, no matter the reason. We have been taught that it is a sin not to be doing something productive. We feel lazy, worthless, anxious. We are afraid the “Procrastination Police” are going to stop by and give you a ticket.

The hooey comes in when we confuse dragging our feet with feeing uninspired or unmotivated. That’s where my own problem lies, I think, doing the dishes aside. I often avoid a task because a, the task ignites zero excitement in my brain, or b, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. I know that many people have paying jobs where they have tasks to perform, simple or complicated, that they couldn’t care less about, except for the paycheck, the health insurance, and the 401(k) plan. If you hate that job, that means having the job and not having the job are equally painful. But, as most 9-to-5’ers know, it is easier to be miserable with a salary than without one.

Beyond working for the man, so to speak, something has to light up inside of us to be motivated to jump into a difficult task. The greatest motivation is self-fulfillment and a close second is the approbation of others, but both of those happen after the fact. No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I’m going to create a new vision for our company because I want to be fulfilled.” You got to have the vision, or at least the outline of a vision, to get going. The upfront, juices-stirring motivation comes from an idea rolling around inside of your head. If you haven’t come up with one, you’re screwed.

That’s when you engage in productive procrastination, which isn’t really avoiding the job, but finding the job through daydreaming, gazing out the window, or doing something totally unrelated which helps you free your mind so a great idea can pop up out of nowhere. This is both hard to do and a very inefficient process. One hour of woolgathering rarely equals one hour of genius output. It could be a ten to one ratio, or maybe a hundred to one. Most of us lose patience with such free-form contemplation and quickly find a definable task that we can start and finish. We don’t have the leisure time or money to let our brains drift endlessly like a romantic poet. Two, we don’t have the confidence or resilience to assume that if we do, we’ll reach a successful outcome. That’s why the desk drawers of mankind are filled with half-written novels.

I have one of those myself. I was greatly inspired by the idea when I started out but lacked the confidence or disciple or skill at the time to finish the job. Hey, enough of this. I got to get back to that novel! Or, maybe get back to finishing “The Wizard of Oz.” It’s a heck of a good movie.

Allen Rucker was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, raised in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and has an MA in Communication from Stanford University, an MA in American Culture from the University of Michigan, and a BA in English from Washington University, St. Louis.