I’ll just play one more game.
The leaves need raking.
What? 1 pm.? Already? Time for lunch.
Yep, procrastination is my worst enemy. If I can put something off, I will, and hope that nothing happens to thwart that plan. Sometimes I win, and sometimes I lose. Let me tell you, burning the midnight oil takes on a whole new meaning when you’re in your 60’s. My midnight oil is usually burned by 10 pm! Let’s face it. Forty years ago it was easy and exciting to work for a newspaper and push out story after story, down copious cups of coffee until 2 or 3 am to get that newspaper out. The job I recently stepped away from had less intense deadlines, but they still existed. Reports and funding proposals— you know the ones. When did I finish those reports? You got it. At the last minute.
Now that I no longer have those deadlines to worry about, you’d think I’d be an ace at time management. After all, retired people don’t work, so what deadlines do we need to worry about? (This is said tongue in cheek, by the way!) Well, as true as that may be, it does take a while to get used to not having those markers. Those points of reference. This has been the most challenging aspect of my redirection. Waking up in the morning with no one to answer to can leave me feeling a bit adrift. I suppose as long as I stay adrift, and don’t let my boat sink, it is okay. I’ll worry about it tomorrow.
I have never given much thought to my procrastinating nature. It just happens. It is what happens when my creativity is blocked and I can’t get going. So, since I am so busy coming up with excuses not to write and not to create some fun alcohol ink pieces, I may as well do some research and find out what causes this and if there is a cure.
Procrastination is the act of delaying or putting something off until the last minute. Most of us have at some time or another, found ourselves indulging in some TV, doing a household chore, or playing a computer game when we really should be doing something else.
There are many reasons for procrastination. Some of the ones that resonate with me are:
- not knowing how to do something,
- not wanting to do something,
- believing that you work better under pressure,
- thinking that you can finish it at the last minute,
- doing something you like better first
Of course, there are more serious reasons for procrastinating related to mental health disorders.
Psychologist Dr. Linda Sapadin, has labelled six different types of procrastinators: Perfectionists, Dreamers, Defiers, Worriers, Crisis-Makers, Over-Doers. You can read more about that if you are interested.
Whatever category you fall into, procrastinating can hurt your health. Putting things off can cause obvious problems such as not getting the bills paid on time and ruining your credit rating or having your power turned off, increased levels of stress, guilt, and declining relationships. It can be time-consuming because you are always thinking about “getting it done” and coming up with internal excuses not to.
I just took this short quiz at https://ideas.ted.com/quiz-are-you-a-procrastinator-or-a-pre-crastinator/ and, surprise surprise, I’m a procrastinator. According to my results, I procrastinate to avoid negative emotions. Okay, that makes sense. I am a list maker, and when I have a project I love to start with a well-intentioned list. Making a list creates excitement for all the steps I have planned. Checking off those steps is another story. Why? Perhaps I’m afraid that checking them off will lead to negative emotions. I may fail at the project. I may not like the outcome. Others may not like the outcome. It could rain! For me, it is usually easier to plan than to execute. Mmmm. No wonder I enjoy developing programs and handing them off to others for implementation.
How do we combat procrastination? A good place to start is the proverbial “to do” list. Take small steps and don’t bite off more than you can chew. Think about why you are procrastinating and recognize those signs. If you start to think about putting something off, just start. You will be surprised at how easy writing that blog is once you get the first paragraph in there! Oh. Too much information, right?
When I started researching for this blog, one of the first things I googled was procrastination and retirement. Wow! So many hits! Oh. Right. They are all about procrastination and preparing your finances for retirement, and if you have read any of my previous blogs, you know how I feel about that. So, how does procrastination impact retirement? Or does it? Of course, it does. It just takes on a different look. As we go through life, we are fueled by a lot of “have to’s”. I have to get my homework done. I have to write that essay. I have to drive the kids to soccer. I have to get this cough checked out. I have to write that report. I have to. . . There are so many “have to’s” that we have to (LOL) deal with in our life. We still have them when we retire. We just need to prioritize them and understand the impact they will have on our lives. Yes, you have to pay the bills on time. You have to deal with family issues. At this stage of my life, my “have to’s” look different. They have taken on a new direction, and are usually things I want to do, rather than things others want me to do. They are more fun than ones from past stages of life. So realistically, we shouldn’t have to procrastinate with our “have to’s”. Unless of course, they are health-related, and then we should not hesitate.
The important thing is, don’t stress it. So maybe you don’t have your Christmas shopping done yet. Maybe you haven’t started your spring cleaning yet or maybe you haven’t given much thought to cooking supper. It is fine to be somewhat envious of people who have, but don’t get stressed. You aren’t procrastinating. You are choosing to not do something. (Side note: I usually put off Christmas shopping until the last minute. Last year, because of the pandemic, I did most of my shopping online and had everything done by the end of November. Good thing, because COVID took me out for the month of December and beyond. There is no way I would have got any shopping done if I had followed my usual pattern.)
As a retiree, don’t let guilt about procrastinating run your life. Learn to prioritize and understand why you are procrastinating. Maybe that task you keep putting off isn’t really necessary. Maybe there is someone else who could do it. Do you need to climb up on the roof and sweep out the eaves troughs? Is there someone else who could do it? Perhaps you aren’t procrastinating, rather making a conscious choice not to do something at this exact moment. If it isn’t health-related, or paying a bill, it may not need your immediate attention. Listen to your heart and the chore will get done when it gets done. This is what I keep telling myself about housecleaning. It will get done when it gets done.
Retirement is the time to embrace the lack of time restrictions on life. It is time to enjoy freedom, to get up in the morning and just things happen. That doesn’t mean you can put everything off until another day. Of course not. It just means that you need to re-visit the things you are putting off and decide if they are that important. Important to you. No one else.
In my next blog, I’ll look at time management. This is something I am struggling with so I’m looking for some tips on how to best handle my time. I hope you will join me!