Cute puppy, playful waste of time or great insight? He’s got claws. Photo by Macarena Viza (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Don’t Hold Back Your Procrastinating

It’s not nearly as evil as you thought

Procrastinations. I have spent years hating those little critters. They must be little, because I’d never see them until recently. I always imagined them to have tiny pointy ears — they have to be pointy — and of course, they have teeth. Tiny little pointy pin-pricky teeth that you could perforate a piece of paper with. I know they have teeth because I always end up hurting after they visit. They bite. Or maybe they have claws.

In recent times, however, I’ve come to understand them differently. We’ve had some conversations, you know, sat down with a cup of coffee (turns out they like decaf. Who would’ve thought?), listened to each other’s heart ache and realised some things.

First of all, when they visit, these Procrastinations, it’s not because I’m a Bad Person. No, really, hear me out here. Just because I entertain the Procrastinations, does not make me a bad person. Seriously. I’m still just as valuable as I was before they visited. Weird, right?

Second of all, I had a chat with Papa Procrastination (can you tell I grew up on the Smurfs?), and he pointed something out to me. When I procrastinate, I am doing something I value. Seriously. While I have something important to do, in its place, I do something else of import. Sitting on the couch watching Stargate SG-1 may not see important to you, but to me, it’s important! I’m laughing, feeling good about myself, caring for O’Neill, wondering way Jackson is dying again, or cheering because Master Bra’tac is just so cool. And let’s not forget Tea’lc. Indeed.

Or the times I play my keyboard; or look at photos of swords or castles; or spend hours on social media; or clean the toilet. In all of these things I am avoiding the thing I wish to do and doing things I enjoy doing or value somehow. Things that make me more alert or more calm in one way or another. I substitute one thing of value for another. Which brings me to the next point …

Third of all, when I entertain the Procrastinations and their decaf, pin-pricky teeth, and I do something in place of the task I’m avoiding, I’m living in a Very Real Lesson. The Very Real Lesson, right, is that in that moment I value the substitute task more than the planned one. It seems obvious when you type it out like that, I know, and you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this.

Where is he going with this? you wonder wonderingly. And why am I all so slanted to the right when I wonder things? And is that a computer screen I’m wondering inside of? And what is in that person’s hair?

This Very Real Lesson is an Opportunity and we all know from the movies that Opportunities don’t come Every Day.

And why does he keep capitalising all those Words? Wait a Minute.

Actually, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they do come every day. I wonder what kind of opportunities have come my way today …

… Back to the Lesson. This Opportunity is one that helps me see where my more powerful values lie. The ones that sit ever so quietly in the Core of my Being, humming at sub-bass frequencies until an alarm goes off. They continue humming, but change their tune, and my whole being resonates on the same frequency, re-aligning its purpose with that of the Core Values. Once the Core Values Alarm has been activated, it overrides all the rational values in the world. It doesn’t matter how much my Mr. Executive Brain Function has decided to Do Something, I will do What I Value Most just then.

Mama Procrastination told me in her flamboyant way that, firstly, decaf is for wimps and secondly, entertaining a Procrastination doesn’t have to mean I value the substitute thing more than the planned one; it can mean that I place less value on the experience, or anticipated experience of doing the planned thing. I value the consequences of the planned thing, perhaps.

“What?!” I said. “Mama, have you gone off your rocker?”

“My rocker is just fine, Big Freckly Human. Now you listen to me. You know that feelin’ you get, the one you get before you do somethin’ when you just know the Procrastinations is gonna visit you?”

“Yeah, Mama, I know that feeling,” I said. “When I start doing the right thing but I just know I’m gonna find a way to avoid it, right?”

“Yeah. That’s the one. Well, Freckles, that’s just you knowing to yourself that you’re gonna not enjoy doin’ that task, or not enjoy finishin’ that task or not enjoy failin’ to finish that task. It ain’t the same feelins for everyone, that’s fer sure!”

*Groan* Is he really preaching through dialogue like that? you wonder, italicised. It’s like a B grade movie about productivity.

Fourth of all, nope. I got nothing.

Will someone please free me from this torture?

So I suppose my lesson about the Procrastinations of late is that they’re really just an opportunity for me to learn what I value, or what I fear, or what I prefer in that moment. It’s an opportunity to wonder what it is about the substitute activity that I value so much just then; and it’s an opportunity to wonder what it is about the planned activity that I wish to avoid … which value does that anticipated feeling grate against? And can I wonder my way into seeing a different set of values at play … and can I manipulate them to achieve the same planned outcome without giving up on my values?

I’ve noticed that the Procrastinations still bite. Or claw. But I’ve made peace with them now. Even though I prefer tea.

All right. That’s enough. Let me out.