This weekend I took down the Christmas lights from my yard. So you’re probably thinking, “What?! You’ve waited until now to take them down? What’s wrong with you?!” Jeez man, take a chill pill. I had a perfectly good reason for waiting this long. It’s because, up until this weekend, I didn’t want to take them down. See? Perfectly good reason. Some would call that procrastination. Nonsense! I call it “prioritizing my time.” After all, I’m trying to be a good parental role model. I had hoped I was saving my kids from procrastination. I don’t think it’s working.
Sunday was the warmest day so far in 2023, and I got out to take advantage of it. Up until then we’ve had rain, snow, more rain, more snow, periods of sun with cold winds, snow, more rain…you get the picture. I’m just not going to get a heck of a lot of stuff done outdoors. I know I won’t melt, but I will feel miserable, and when I feel miserable I am not my regular, happy-go-lucky “Mr. Funtime Dad.”
I know that I have, sometimes, on the odd occasion, periodically, been guilty of procrastination. Who hasn’t been? “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow” are some seriously wise words. But my waiting until March 18 to remove and pack up the old Christmas decorations was not procrastination. It was simply a choice that had zero impact on my life, or anyone else.
“Nothing makes a person more productive than the last minute.”Source Unknown
What? Me, Procrastinate?
I wasn’t delaying doing my income tax return until the last minute. (Wait, what’s the date…?) Nor was I putting off fixing that annoying, leaky toilet. That’s procrastinating. Me choosing to leave up the Christmas lights was me choosing to do more important things. Simple as that. Kinda like when I spent a Sunday to myself, continually distracted…
What Is Procrastination?
Merriam-Webster defines procrastinate as “to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done”. Rather than simply delaying something until later, which is what I did with the Christmas lights, procrastinating “implies blameworthy delay, especially through laziness or apathy.” Delaying something that needs to be done soon or immediately is most definitely procrastination. I try to avoid that situation, mostly, usually, sometimes.
In fact I can quite confidently say I am not a Procrastinator. I think I can say, with a tiny smidge of assurance, that I’m an Amateur Crastinator. My crastinating runs pretty much the DIY version. I’m simply not in the same league as some pro crastinators. Even though I’ve had years of practice, I simply don’t have the qualifications, certification or on the job experience of those highly skilled crastinators.
“My mother always told me I wouldn’t amount to anything because I procrastinate. I said, ‘just wait.’”Judy Tenuta
The Pain Of Procrastination
Anyway, silliness aside, while procrastinating can be a seriously debilitating condition, I don’t have it. Too badly. Despite what Heather thinks… Here’s the thing. Procrastinating is definitely not laziness. When someone is lazy and chooses not to do something, they have simply chosen to be lazy. But someone who procrastinates will often suffer from guilt and anxiety for not getting the thing done that needs to be done. And that is why saving my kids from procrastination should have been a priority when they were little.
Procrastination affects lots of people. Various surveys suggest between 20-30% of people in the US are chronic procrastinators. That figure has risen significantly from the 5% of procrastinators surveyed back in the 1970’s. And as many as 95% of humans have admitted to procrastinating at least some of the time.1 That’s a lot of humans…
Have you heard of Tim Urban? He writes a wonderful blog called Wait But Why. Back in 2013, he wrote a post called Why Procrastinators Procrastinate, a humourous and insightful article on the nature of procrastination. While talking to my family the other night about this article, Zachary reminded me about a TED talk Tim gave on the same subject, so we watched it. I recommend giving it a watch. Funny and on point!
The University Procrastination Trap
University students are especially prone to procrastination. According to one professor, 80 to 95% of students suffer from procrastination at least some of the time. One psychologist calls it “the number one problem in education today.”2
Kids in university that give in to the procrastination trap seem to share a couple of traits; a lack of self-confidence, and the belief that they have little to no control over their academic outcomes. Part of this stems from the student’s new living arrangements, especially for those who have never lived on their own before. As well, university courses and assignments tend to be structured with distant due dates, essentially creating the ideal conditions for procrastination. I can’t tell you how happy I am that my son Zachary is headed off to the other side of the country to deal with this on his own…Yay!
“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”Douglas Adams
The terrible thing about procrastination is the toll it takes on one’s health. You might not think it, but chronic procrastination can lead to all kinds of physical and psychological health problems. The constant stress from the guilt and anxiety caused by procrastination is no joke. Some studies have even linked chronic procrastination to hypertension and cardiovascular disease!
The seductive power of the digital world has made it sooo easy to fall down that rabbit hole of putting off tasks, like starting that term paper. Saving my kids from procrastination is made so much harder, thanks to the iPhone, the internet, and video games. So what’s a parent to do?
Saving My Kids From Procrastination-Baby Steps
One of the most important steps my kids (or yours) can take to keep the procrastinating to a minimum is to have a vision for themselves. What kind of person do you want to be? This doesn’t have to be an in-depth, all encompassing list of personal traits. it could be a simple statement.
Richard Branson’s personal vision statement is “To have fun in [my] journey through life and learn from [my] mistakes.” Oprah Winfrey’s is “To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”
A personal vision isn’t something they’re going to create overnight. This requires getting into the right frame of mind, spending quality quiet time and asking themselves some detailed questions. But at the end of the process, they have a tool that helps them avoid distraction and focus on what matters.3 This is a great first step to saving my kids from procrastination. I’ve been using this myself as I work toward a life in retirement. And I recommend this for anyone wanting to live a meaningful life.
The website Psychology Today has an article called 11 Ways to Overcome Procrastination. The key? Baby steps. And above all, stop trying to be perfect!
I’m not going to list the 11 steps from the article here. It’s an easy, quick read, because it focuses on doing little things in a consistent manner.
“This [procrastination] is one of the most common causes of failure. ‘Old Man Procrastination’ stands within the shadow of every human being, waiting his opportunity to spoil one’ s chances of success. Most of us go through life as failures, because we are waiting for the ‘time to be right’ to start doing something worthwhile.”Napoleon Hill, Author, “Think and Grow Rich”
My message to my own kids; don’t wait for the “time to be right” before taking action. Life is way too short to be wasting days, putting off your best life because you’re waiting for the right time. The time is now, dammit! Get out there and live your best life. But before you do, come give me a hand putting these Christmas lights away!
- The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done Piers Steel
Before You Go
Before you click away from this page, I just want to remind you that we’re fundraising to get Zachary and his amazing Senior LSS Improv Team to Ottawa on April 5 for the Canadian Improv Games Nationals.
Out of an original 300 teams from across Canada, the Ladysmith LADs are one of only 13 teams left standing. And with less than two weeks before they head across country, we’re working feverishly to cover their costs.
If you can, a donation toward their experience will help make this happen. And, because your donation goes to the School District as a charitable donation, you also benefit by receiving a tax receipt!
The link for donations is https://nlps.schoolcashonline.com/Fee/Details/4/267/false/true
Thanks for your support!