Monday, January 2, 2012

The procrastination reach-around

It’s the start of a new year, a great time for new exercise regimes, polishing off throwing away the Christmas cookies in a fit of “I will never eat sweets ever again,” purging closets of clothes that haven’t fit properly since you had kids, etc. It’s also a really good time to make mimosas with leftover champagne, eat the fancy cheese you forgot to put out for your New Year’s Eve guests, and take a nap. Just sayin’. We all have our ways of ringing in this arbitrary delineation in time. It should surprise no one that my way errs on the side of booze and laughter with my people rather than new running shoes and recipes for kale chips.

Under the best of circumstances, I am a procrastinator. And the week of debauchery between Christmas and New Year’s is not the best of circumstances, at least not in terms of productivity. So imagine my surprise when I found myself at Target in the plastic drawers and organizational bin section a few days ago. I was even armed with measurements for the closet space, and had a tape measure in my bag. I came home with a minivan full of organizational solutions. I organized all of the craft supplies into an underutilized closet, purging such delightful detritus as Sesame Street wall decorations and plastic tablecloths from the kids’ second birthday party, scraps of fabric from old sewing projects, and the instruction manual for a kiddie pool we no longer own. When I was done, I sewed a pink flying unicorn costume for my daughter, complete with poly-fill stuffed “quilted” wings, and began a Bowser costume for my son.

WTF? Who is this madly productive person? And then it hit me. I had procrastinated so hard that it came around the other side and was magically transformed into productivity. I didn’t want to clean the house, and in my relentless pursuit of not cleaning the house, I managed to accomplish a ton of great stuff.

The trick to the procrastination reach-around is to just keep moving. If I had just taken a nap, I also would have succeeded in my quest to not clean the house, but don’t you see? I would have felt bad about it. I would have felt guilty and bad about myself. I would have self-flagellated, numbed my guilt with wine, and pulled my face up on the sides in the mirror to imagine what I would look like with a facelift. (Have I mentioned that when I feel bad about myself in one domain, it tends to migrate to other domains? Just me?)

But no! I don’t have to feel bad about myself! I can succeed in my endeavor to not clean the house and also feel great about myself. You can too! Just do other crap that is more appealing in that moment than cleaning the house. If you are truly devoted to procrastinating on a task, you can get so much other stuff done. It’s awesome. Don’t want to take down Christmas decorations? Hmmm, if you clean the floor under the oven, you get to avoid taking down Christmas decorations and also get a bonus smug feeling of satisfaction. Laundry to do? Oooooor you could clean all of the telephone handsets in the house. Those things get really gross. Don’t want to go running? Try on all of the clothes in your closet and decide what goes and what stays. Although trying on all of the clothes in your closet might make you more likely to want to go running, which would mean that you failed at your procrastination goals. Procrastination amateur.

As soon as you do the task you’re supposed to do, you lose. Because then you get to feel smug while you screw around on facebook or take a nap.

Which hmmm, doesn’t really sound like losing. So yeah, you should probably just do the thing you know you have to do in the first place so you can take a nap and not feel bad about it.

But then the blades of the ceiling fan would never get dusted.


  1. Yup. Procrastinating cleaning the basement by working diligently on marketing materials and 2012 price research for our business. Quiet time and sitting time for me. Hooray. Smug with a product to show for it. :)

  2. Trading off cleaning for sewing cosutmes is a smart move in almost every way. Think of utility. Think of creativity. Think of sheer pride. Think of legacy. You have a costume for much longer than the house stays clean. I think you chose wisely.