The productive procrastinator


The productive procrastinatorNot that I’ve declared any kind of victory over a lifetime tendency to procrastinate, but thanks to an article in the Costco magazine, I now have a name for it.

Productive procrastination.

That’s where you do just about everything there is to do except the one thing you really ought to do. You can end the day with a declaration that you have been busy and productive, while completely ignoring the fact that the one thing that really should have been done remains undone.

It works, to a degree. Like, until it doesn’t work any more. 🙂

The new year doesn’t generally motivate me to create a list of resolutions. Instead, I start cleaning all the nooks and crannies of the house, getting rid of things that I’ve worked around all year (or, most often, longer) and have decided to address. The pile of things to be donated gets larger, and then I procrastinate actually putting it in the car and taking it to the donation center.  I figure instead of saying “this is what I’m going to do this year,” I’ll just get started doing it. However, my resolve and motivation peter out after a couple months weeks and I pretty much end up in the same place as those who memorialize resolutions in writing. For a few more months, my house is a little cleaner and more organized. Unless, of course, some external force (say, my husband) rekindles the motivation. In general, I’d rather knit or read books. I like a clean, organized house – which isn’t the same as saying I want to be the person who maintains it in that state.

Yesterday, I cleaned up the laundry room, including one of the three cabinets where the linens are stored. I even pulled everything down off the top two shelves. That’s being thorough! I discovered I had retained a horrid green floral print tablecloth, complete with a fringe of green bobbles, that had covered my mother-in-law’s dining room table. She’s been gone now for about 15 years and I’m just now wondering why I kept the damn thing in the first place.

So what am I avoiding today? I’m writing this blog post because I’m trying to be productive while ignoring the biggest 800-pound gorilla in the house: my office. Or what was formerly my office and has, in the past few years, become a depository of stuff I don’t want to deal with ever yet. Including piles of unopened mail.

I don’t know what it is about mail, but I do know I’m not the only one who would be happy to never see another piece of mail in the mailbox. I end up throwing away or shredding most of it (when I do get around to looking at it) and the rest gets uneasily deposited in a box while I try and decide whether or not I should keep it at all, nevermind for how long. For the past couple of years, I’ve sworn I’d scan all the crap important stuff so I could get rid of the paper. Maybe this year is the year. Or maybe I’ll clean the kitchen and the bathrooms and do some vacuuming.

Where to start? The credenza, which I’d like to get rid of entirely? Maybe the bookcase, full of books I don’t really even look at any longer and should either donate or try and sell on Amazon. As well as manuals for software I no longer own or are so outdated I should just toss them into the recycle bin. I’ve got three bags on the floor: one for things that can go in the recycle bin, one for the trash, and one for things that have to go to the city recycling center (such as batteries, lightbulbs, old electronics, etc.) The problem with earmarking items for sale online is it’s just one more thing that allows me to get sidetracked from the goal of actually cleaning up the mess. Plus, it’s not like these things sell overnight – I could list them for sale and they could still be here a year (or more) from now. It’s not exactly a quick solution to the problem. Yet, I am loathe to merely donate them, somehow thinking squeezing a few dollars out of them is worth letting them take up the space a little longer another couple of years. But I really want to get rid of that credenza, so I can put up curtains – which I found in the linen closet in the laundry room, where they’ve been for 10+ years. I admit with some chagrin that the large sliding glass door in the master bedroom has never had curtains, drapes or blinds, even though the aforementioned curtains were given to me years ago.

The desk is covered with papers. I try to bring some organization to the stacks, while ruthlessly tossing paper into the shredder and the recycling bag. I can see I’ve attempted some kind of organization previously, and wonder if my current efforts will produce the same recognition when I clean the desk again in a couple years. I really should break this cycle. I see a stack of papers that I apparently thought required required some action on my part – action long since forgotten. Either I missed an important deadline or the action I thought was required wasn’t actually required, so now I wonder about my ability to sort and prioritize.

If I went by the guideline that dictates “if you haven’t looked at it in a year, you don’t need it,” I’d throw away absolutely everything on and around the desk. If I was into self analysis, I’d try and figure out (a) why I avoid cleaning and maintaining this area in the first place and (b) why I have so much trouble getting rid of things in this space that I clearly do not use or need, when I don’t have the same difficulty in other areas of the house. I’m not going to self analyze, I’m just going to pretend I’m a disinterested third party – and keep tossing things. So far, I’ve made a very very small dent, which means the next couple of days will require a stern talking to myself to work up the motivation to continue until it is all, finally, done.

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