I wake up in the morning and have plans..plans to write, work on a creation, prepare for teaching. But what do I do after my shower and when I’m dressed for the day? Do I go to the table, set up my materials and dig in? NO. Do I go up to my craft room and start playing? NO. Do I pull out my notebook, put my feet up and get writing? NO! Instead, I load the dishwasher, put in a load of laundry, log into Pinterest…WASH THE KITCHEN FLOOR–ON. MY. HANDS. AND. KNEES (yesterday).I procrastinate doing the things I love, the things that give me joy and make me feel accomplished. I put off the thing that I have set my intention around. You may ask, “What do you mean, ‘set an intention?” Well, every morning I go for a walk first thing with Stella. It is usually dark out. I walk and breathe. I look at the stars and the see moon setting. I breathe. I identify everything that I can think of to appreciate and be grateful for. Then, as I round the bend toward home, I set an intention for the day. I pick one thing to accomplish that I wouldn’t do If I didn’t value or want it enough to set aside time for it and make an intention, a commitment to do it. I plan to accomplish that one thing sometime during that day before I go to sleep.
But PROCRASTINATION wears the day away. There is work (of course) but the little things seem so important. They call so loud. I need to make the bed, clean the toilets, check Facebook, brush Stella. They wear my day away until I drop into bed. The day is over and procrastination has won again.
I wonder, is there an upside to procrastination? Could there be any benefits from the practice? At first glance, it would seem that your first response should be “no. none. of course not…duh.” But then I started to do a little research. I came across a blogger named Tim Urban. His TED talk, Inside the mind of a master procrastinator, doesn’t answer my question, but it is very funny and informative viewing! It is well worth the 14:03 minutes that I spent (and you should spend) being entertained by his practical insights about procrastination.
I did, however, realize that I am a very special kind of procrastinator. You see, I don’t procrastinate at work. I know my strengths/weaknesses and know that time management is not at the top of my skill set. Therefore, teaching has always been a healthy and successful practice for me. A few of the things that work within the educational system offers me are…a) year-long defined beginning/ending dates, b) regular progress checks in the form of trimesters c) a daily schedule that moves me and my students through activities, and d) goals or benchmarks are clearly defined.
So what is my takeaway from these ruminations? There are two specific areas that the failure of my “intentions” that differs from the success of my “teacher” life.
There is clearly a difference between my “intention setting” and the spelled-out benchmarks I have for my students. In my classroom, I post “I CAN” statements that spell out the lesson’s objective for me and the students. These are simple, one-sentence declarations like “I can tell about a story using pictures and words” and “I can use different strategies for addition to solving word problems.” My intentions are simply fervent wishes that have no substance or grounding. While holding a thoughtful intention is appropriate for the duration of one’s yoga practice, it is inadequate when making life changes.
The second discrepancy exists in the cyclical, calculable, and predictable, organization of a school day/ year and my casual life “goals”. Every school year has a fresh beginning and a definitive end. Every curricular unit has an introduction and some kind of cumulative event or evaluation. Every day is broken up into a manageable and consistent pattern. In contrast, the amorphous goals that I currently mull in my brain have no curriculum. No one has said that I have X days/weeks/years to accomplish a goal. I have no specific time consistently dedicated to working on goals.
Many years ago I made a commitment to three life goals: 1) children, 2) shack on the beach, and 3) an MG (fun little car). I achieved each of these goals. I thought about them. I wrote about them in my journals. I talked about them…a lot.
Take the “children” goal: I dissolved one marriage, began a new relationship, engaged in multiple steps of infertility treatments, and worked with multiple adoption agencies to bring children into my family. I was only able to cross this item off my list after 14 years of continual effort.
After I achieved the trifecta with these first goals, I have rarely spoken of my new goals. I have never laid out a plan for achieving my new goals. I have not set my goals in writing, nor have I charted out at any actionable steps to their accomplishment. I think its time to change that. In his book, The Long View, Matthew Kelly states, “Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a month. We overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.” How can I even say I have goals when they just sit in my head without any firm commitment or action steps? Do I really expect to achieve “X” without a roadmap of how to get there? Maybe I’m not only procrastinating, maybe I’m on some head trip without a map…perhaps that’s why I have no sense of urgency!?!
So now I have some action steps: I will pull out my notebook and put my goals down in writing. YES! I will go to the table and grab a few sticky notes to make myself reminders. YES! I will get a calendar and make some target dates. YES!