Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over, and expecting different results. Thus, by very definition, I am insane.
I procrastinate. A lot. In almost every area of my life. I am constantly hitting snooze, one more time, and then rushing to get ready for work. Watching tv for “just 5 more minutes” before frantically dashing around my apartment, cleaning up for friends already on their way over. I wait until the last possible second to leave for appointments, scrolling lazily through my Facebook newsfeed, and then scrambling against LA traffic to make it in time.
Even in this moment, I am procrastinating. I have to finish a few reports for work and yet here I am, writing a blog about procrastinating…while I procrastinate. And then hopping over to jcrew.com to do a little shopping before finishing this blog…about procrastination. The irony is not lost on me. Everything always gets done, and I am almost always on time…but I still repeat this process again and again.
I don’t know why I am this way, and have been as long as I can remember. I think about the scene from He’s Just Not That Into You, which I watched for probably the 10th time on a recent flight (while procrastinating watching a documentary that I had downloaded for the trip). Where one of the characters explains that women actually feed off the drama in relationships, just like they wait to pay a phone bill until the last possible second, getting a rush from not knowing if they will make it on time. Am I looking for a “rush”? Am I really into the drama? I wouldn’t have thought so, but maybe evidence is pointing to the contrary. Because there is a rush that comes with finishing something with just moments to spare, submitting a report one minute before the deadline.
I have been told a few (ok, many) times that I am Type-A. I think most people say it meaning I’m high strung, or tightly wound; Wikipedia references people obsessed with time management who push themselves with deadlines. They also discuss the controversy and possible links to coronary heart disease in Type A-ers. Stress + Possible life-threatening condition = not good.
So how do I change this behavior, learned and practiced over 30+ years? How do I stop putting off things and causing unnecessary stress, and give myself the time to do things without rushing? I turned to some experts for help. WebMD lists the following 3 steps that help break bad habits:
1. Make it Conscious: Done.
2. Put it in Writing So It Really Sinks In: Also Done, as of today. This is so easy!
3. Bait and Switch: Oh, here’s where the work comes in. Replacing bad habit (procrastinating) with a new, healthier one (um, not procrastinating). They mention the old rubber-band trick, which you snap when you feel the bad habit urge coming on, but I don’t think that works with procrastinating (that might actually be yet another method of procrastinating). But the Bait and Switch thinking is correct: find an alternative behavior and commit to this new behavior whenever the old one rears its ugly head.
Instead of just transferring over the items on today’s To-Do list to tomorrow’s To-Do list, never making it all the way through in any given day, I am committing to tackling each one, with the hardest one first. To getting ready first, relaxing second. To not going on Facebook when I really want to finish a blog post.
I’m putting it out there so that I can be held accountable for making this change. Starting Monday morning (jk!).