Tuesday, August 24, 2010
#70: Procrastination & Wedding Planning
You may not want to read my thoughts on procrastination. In fact, you might prefer to read the inspiring words of Tony Robbins, or some other motivational speaker who can give you quality self-help tips guaranteed to turn your dreams into a reality. It is less likely that you want to hear advice from me - a bride who on the week of her wedding had about 5 major projects that had to get done each day, all of which I had left to the last minute, and only some of which actually got done.
I have something valuable to share and it came straight from my mentor's mouth. (Not Oprah, by the way. I'm talking about my professional hero - my grad school supervisor who taught me everything I need to know about psychotherapy and the wacky mind of man.) This is what I learned from her:
Procrastination is not necessarily a bad thing. People judge themselves very harshly based on what they have not yet accomplished. And that's all that procrastination is - a judgment that when made actually hinders your quality of life.
Imagine if you were "procrastinating" (e.g., reading your favorite wedding blog instead of working on your seating chart). In your opinion you are procrastinating. But if there were a fly on the wall, what would it see? It would see a woman or man sitting in front of a computer screen, doing an activity that he or she is led to do in that particular moment. No biggie. The judgment and guilt about procrastination exist because someone chooses for it to exist. Procrastination is not happening. It's never happening. It's merely someone's interpretation of what's happening.
What happens on a subconscious level while one is procrastinating? He or she is actually doing work! While you're reading wedding blogs, for example, your brain is putting together ideas; your imagination is quietly rearranging the seating chart; you are subconsciously brainstorming and writing your first draft. Then when you actually do decide to work on the seating chart (even if it's 2 days before the wedding), your ideas pour out into what magically becomes your fairly decent second draft, ready and waiting for a few final revisions.
An all-nighter has 2 important ingredients: (1) a rough draft of ideas in someone's head, waiting to be put down on paper into what is actually a second draft and (2) the urgency of tomorrow's deadline. Together, these ingredients produce great results. This is why many procrastinators say they work best under pressure.
What's important to note is that procrastination is merely a coping mechanism, just like being a type A go-getter is. For procrastinators, the best way to deal with anxiety about an upcoming deadline is to not deal with the work until they have to - it's the only thing that will soothe them. For the type A personality, their way of dealing with anxiety is to start working immediately - it's the only thing that they will find soothing. If a procrastinator started work early, she would simply feel stressed earlier. If a type A procrastinated, she would feel more worried and stressed than she would if she were actually working.
It's all about coping mechanisms and what works for you.
However, there are times when procrastinators should think about changing their strategy - when their coping mechanism is yielding poor results. For example, if you procrastinate and you find that you are not satisfied with the project you completed as a result of waiting until the last minute, then you may want to start your work earlier next time.
But if you have always been a procrastinator and have somehow managed to earn grades that you're satisfied with, or create art that you're proud of, then procrastination is working for you. The only time you really need to change your approach to work is if you're not getting the results you want. Otherwise, "procrastination" is just a word tied to a judgment that will inevitably make you feel like a lazy loser. Don't judge your coping mechanism if it works; just be aware of when it has stopped working for you and adjust accordingly.
In short, don't fix it if it ain't broke.
So if you're going to read wedding blogs instead of working on your seating chart, or if you're going to hang out with friends instead of working on a photo montage to be played during the reception, then do it with gusto, my friend! If you're a proud procrastinator like me, you won't let false guilt (and you know how I feel about guilt) ruin your blog reading or dinner with your peeps. Because the things that need to get done will get done, just like they always have. And everything that doesn't get done will fall away, and you'll find that you can survive just fine without them, just like you always have.
See. Aren't you glad you procrastinated and read this blog post instead of doing work or chores??
Note: I was supposed to have written this post last night so that I could free up my morning today. But I "procrastinated" and answered friends' e-mails all night instead. When I woke up this morning I had no idea what to write about, but when I saw an unpublished post in my account with only the word "procrastination" written in it, something just clicked. This post flowed right out of me! I don't think it's ever taken me this short of a time to write this long of a post. Maybe it's because of the subconscious first draft that my mind had whipped up. Yeah. My mentor rules.