“We fritter our lives away with detail. Simplify, simplify.”
~Henry David Thoreau
I’m a born procrastinator. Quite literally. In fact, I began procrastinating before I was born. I hung around the womb for an extra week or so in my unwillingness to get to the task at hand. I don’t recall being traumatized by or even stressed over the experience, I think it was just my (albeit fitting for the occasion) rather infantile and stubborn way of saying, “It’ll happen when I’m ready. Not before.” According to family lore, in baby-step measurements, I was a late walker and talker. Heck, I didn’t even bother growing hair until I was nearly done with my first year. I was the last kid on the block to learn to ride a bike without training wheels.
My whole life has been a series of events that, unless forced, have been led by my propensity toward, “I’m going to do it when I’m good and ready.” Even forced events are subject to that attitude. While I was one of those strange children who actually enjoyed doing homework, I still wouldn’t do it until the night before it was due. The result of all of it is that I tend to work best under pressure. Fortunately I have, in my adult life, learned to work without the pressure of a looming deadline.
It’s not that I spend the day in bed or being lazy. I’m never ever bored and I have loads of creative energy, but I waste a lot of time, quite simply, by delaying what I need to do - yes, even while I’ve been writing this post. I could have been done ages ago… but two sentences into it, I decided I could write better if I changed out of my bathrobe and into street clothes; wrote a little more and then I needed more coffee; wrote a little more in between playing a hand of solitare (okay, three hands before I actually won); wrote another sentence, but then I needed to make sure all my pens were pointing in the downward direction in my cup; stared at the screen daydreaming, got more coffee, thought about an art project that, naturally, I’ve been putting off, and finally, magically, arrived at the end of this paragraph.
I spend much of my day doing myriad things that don’t need my immediate attention. I fritter time standing on the porch and staring the clouds, gazing at the mountain, watching birds and children flit and play on the playground. Sure, I can justify that by saying I’m “getting inspired” by my surroundings. Truthfully, I’m just procrastinating. One of my mother’s favorite phrases, which she used on me far more than on any of my siblings, was, “Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today.” She should have narrowed the margin and said, “Don’t put off ‘til noon what you can do at 11:30 AM.”
As wonderful and full as my life is, I’ve often wondered, how much more there would be if I’d (oh, dreaded phrase) buckle down, focus, and get things done before there was any kind of (actual or perceived) deadline? What if I were to wake up and truly seize the day? Am I intimidated by the dynamic that would surely create? Perhaps. At 48 is it too late to change a lifetime of habit? Doubtful. Would my day and those who participate in it be better served were I to be more diligent with my time? Likely.
So, what am I waiting for?!
Well. I'll just think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.