Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The End of Procrastination

How do we decide what we do every day? For most of us, our job takes care of that. Especially teachers. You have a schedule, kids show up at your door, you do something with them until the class is over and here comes the next bunch. There’s a clarity and comfort in this kind of work, no room to think, “Hmm. Should I teach these group of kids or lock the door and practice piano?” I imagine the same holds true for plumbers or cooks or clerks in stores. Just show up and do your work.

But for retired folks, administrators in-between meetings and most people on weekends, the day yawns before you with its blank hours and says, “Here I am. What are you going to do with me?” Feels to me like there are maybe five types of activities:

1)    Things that feed your soul. Play piano, paint a picture, meditate, write a poem, walk in the forest. There’s a thousand dishes that Soul loves to eat, depending on your taste and interests.

2)    Things that feed your body. Cook, eat, exercise and occasionally make love.

3)    Things that feed practical necessities. Caretaking activities like water the plants, feed the cat, wash the dishes, put air in the bike tires, get groceries at the store.

4)    Things that feed your social life. E-mails, coffee with a friend, gatherings with friends, Facebook posts, board games, cards or charades.

5)    Things that feed your need to relax. Read a book, magazine or newspaper, watch videos, movies, Youtube clips, listen to that new CD, things that allow you to shut off your thinking/ doing self and plop down on the couch with one directive: “Distract or enlighten me as you will, just entertain me!”

I’ve had such a productive and pleasurable three months off from school this Fall (one more to go!), feeding the mind through my writing and reading, the soul with morning meditation, the heart with playing piano, the body with bike riding and walking around the city (and time to cook good meals!). Without the school schedule, I’ve had the chance to create my own rhythmic cycle of activities—meditate, write, play piano in the morning, bike, walk, do errands in the afternoon, read-movie-listen-to-music-go-to-concert at night and truth be told, I love it. A bit worried about waking up in the dark come January, driving the route hoping to make the right lights, teaching some seven classes a day, going to staff meetings, planning the next day’s classes and so on. I imagine sometime after lunch, the kids will keep showing up at my door and I’ll be thinking, “This is really cutting into my day!”

So yesterday I got to a thrilling place in my writing where I declared myself done with the second draft of my new book and went to Kinko’s to get a bound copy made. There was a long wait in line there and I browsed through what I had written and was thrilled to discover I liked it! I had written exactly the kind of book I like to read and it was feeling like music with the rhythm and cadences of the sentences and the evocative images and the surprising left turns as I took ideas out of their lane and passed a few cars and then got back to the main route. That felt good.

But then today, without the next chapter or sentence to write, I was confronted with the opening question: “How do we decide what to do each day?” And not happy with my answer: “Deal with that thing you keep putting on your list and never do!!” It has to do with going through my book sales and figuring out how much money I owe my two colleagues whose books I’ve published, a skill that is complex, confusing and not up my anti-accountant-personality alley. But one I’ve felt guilty about for the last nine months! This very blog post is another step in my procrastination strategy! But there’s no more excuses. I’m going to do it! At least, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…

What are the things we procrastinate with? I suspect the things that don’t automatically bring us pleasure and remind us of what we’re not good at. Yet still must be done. And let’s talk more about this… NO! Enough! Get going!!

Okay, I give up. Wish me luck!!

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