Procrastinating on Not Procrastinating? Thoughts on Daylight Saving Time and Getting Things Done Now

It has been almost two weeks since my last post and I am sure that you have all been waiting with bated breath to see how I am doing on the resolution to not procrastinate.  I think the fact that it has taken me that amount of time to sit down and just write a short post should give you some idea of how that resolution is going, but there’s much more to the story.

According to the Oxford University Press, procrastination means “the action of delaying or postponing something.”  That begs this question: how do you define delay and postpone?  At the risk of turning this post into a fifth grade vocabulary assignment (and I know too well how much my students looove vocab assignments) or an exercise in splitting hairs, I think the  problem–and the challenge of this particular breakup–is that procrastination is hard to define.

And if it’s hard to define it’s doubly hard to accomplish. All the other breakups so far have been challenging, but pretty simple.  Break up with not exercising=break a sweat for half an hour at least five times a week.  Give up more than two drinks a week–everyone can count to two, right?  Sugar is trickier, because it’s in a lot of things besides desserts, but cutting down to one sweet a day (which is what I’ve amended that resolution to) is easy to monitor, if not to do.  But procrastination, to me, seems a bit like pornography, or rather, the Supreme Court’s definition of it: you know it when you see it.

Based on that definition, I’m still doing it far more than I should.  One thing I have noticed with these breakups is this: in the first few weeks after making them, I suck at keeping them.  This has been no exception.  I do sort of feel that I have had an excuse in the last week, though.

Daylight Saving Time is my least favorite weekend of the whole year.   I know it only pushes you forward one hour, but for me it’s like getting over jet lag from being on a transcontinental flight.  It has been hell being tossed back into waking up when it is pitch dark outside.  Then, waking up tired means that I’m slow with my morning ritual, which sets everything back before school, which leads to getting into the car five to ten minutes later, which leads to getting to work later, which eats into prep time…you get the picture.  The end result is that I seem to have less time and energy to accomplish stuff, and though I’m getting a lot of stuff done within a non-procrastination timeline, a lot of stuff is still falling off the table.

What I am trying to do, though, is give myself credit for what i have accomplished. Like last weekend, for example.  My younger daughter’s room has been a pit for a long time.  But rather than waiting for spring break to tackle the mess, we did it over last Saturday and Sunday.  And not only did we clean and organize the room, we re-enforced our mother-daughter bond.  We discussed what things to keep,which to junk, and which to give to the less fortunate.  We laughed over old memories inspired by items we hadn’t seen in a while, and we just learned (or re-learned) the value of perseverance as we powered through one more drawer, or one more box, or one more shelf before taking well deserved breaks.  I wouldn’t say it was a great experience, but it was a teaching moment and the end result was awesome–one more clean, organized room in the house.

Another achievement was getting my conference notes done on time.  At my school, we are required to keep a document for each parent conference we have. So at the fall and spring conferences, I need to write 15 of them.  Usually, I jot down notes while conferencing, but it takes me weeks to type them up in sentence form and get them into the office for approval.  This year, I decided to  type up the notes for each conference the day I had it.  This was a little painful, but I was very glad I did it for two reasons: one, the notes were more detailed than they would have been if I’d waited, and two, I was done and didn’t have have the task of doing them hanging over my head for weeks at a time.

I know doing those two things well don’t totally excuse me for also pushing back a lot of things during the last two weeks, but I have to give myself some credit for what I have managed to do.  So, I think the right breakup might be with poor prioritization, rather than with procrastination.

And with that, I need to cut this blog post short, since my Saturday is a-wastin’ and I have a lot of things to do that I have prioritized ahead of spending my afternoon sitting on a couch, monopolizing the laptop and bloviating about procrastination.  So, off to work; my to-accomplish list awaits.

Another Month, Another Breakup

Another day, another dollar; another month, another breakup.  Before I get into what I plan to friend-zone this month, though, let’s take a look back at the previous months’ breakups and see how they’re going:

-November 2014: Physical inactivity.  I can say with confidence that I seem to have established better exercise habits over the last four months.  I average 30 minutes on the treadmill five times a week.  I do need to add weight bearing exercises to my workout, and I have noticed that my weight is creeping up a little, but overall, I have had more energy, slept better, and felt more optimistic over the last few months than I have in a long time.

–December 2014: More than two alcoholic drinks a week.  This challenge has been, to my surprise, a runaway success. I have all but eliminated drinking on weeknights and I don’t remember the last time I had hard liquor or a mixed drink.  I have been very pleasantly surprised by the realization that, apparently, I do not have an irresistible urge to imbibe; my real addictions lie elsewhere (more on that later, too.)

–January 2015: Buying grocery bags.  Two months have elapsed; I haven’t bought a single bag. And, with grocery bags in my county now costing a quarter a piece, I’ve probably saved somewhere between five and ten dollars by now. I’ll declare this one a total success.

–February 2015: Eating no more than one item with processed sugar a day.  Some of you might remember that my other resolution this month was to get going on achieving my writing goals; I did start this blog last month and, after taking three trips in three weeks (two of them as a chaperone for my class) and finishing a stack of report cards, I finally have enough spare time and energy to devote to writing semi-regular posts.

But the sugar?  Don’t ask.  I led the league this month in Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup consumption, and (with apologies to the late Will Rogers) I never met a dessert I didn’t like.  I will carry this resolution into the months to come and continue to work on it, but I have come to the realization that I am addicted to sugar.  It will be take very hard work and an ocean liner full of willpower to change that, though I plan to keep trying.

So, what breakup to make this month?  As February drew to a close I was toying with a lot of ideas.  Friends and family know that my car is basically a Dumpster on wheels; so, break up with driving a dirty car, perhaps?  Every day, I’m a vegetarian before six o’clock; should I bite the bullet and dump meat from my diet entirely?  I always seem to generate a small drifts of clutter wherever I go; perhaps I could part ways with untidiness?

I certainly had a lot of alternatives, and the first of the month came and went without a decision.  I decided not to force it; the breakup would reveal itself.

And today, tragically, it did.

My daily commute is mostly on one very busy street that cuts through the town that my school is in.  It runs from the hills in the west to the tidal flats in the east, and it’s car-packed and bustling from dawn till way past dark.  Some daring folks even ride their bicycles on it. Flying down the hills, wheels a-blur, it looks like fun–especially when you’re stalled in rush hour traffic.

Or so it did, until today.  I left my school during the noon recess to go get some lunch.  As I was driving down to the local market I nearly rear-ended the car in front of me, which had come to a sudden stop.

The street in question has two lanes going in each direction, with a wide median strip separating them.  I couldn’t see anything in the road on my (the east-bound) side, but on the other side, it looked like there was a piece of machinery–a lawn mower fallen off a gardener’s truck, perhaps–blocking the left lane of traffic.

I took a closer look and realized that the object in the road was a bicycle–a severely traumatized one. Its front wheel was mashed into a clumsy oval; its frame was bent like a paperclip.  Its rider lay face-down, motionless in the barren dirt of the median strip.  I could tell right away that he was–at least– very badly injured.  Also, the accident had just happened; there were no emergency response vehicles on the scene.  As a teacher, I have CPR and first aid certification, but I get queasy when a student suffers anything worse than a moderate nosebleed.  Would I have to get out of my car and offer assistance?

Fortunately, a man in a white van two cars ahead of me parked and jumped out to help, cell phone in hand.  Numb and shaken, I passed the cars in front of me, got to the market, bought  some food, and headed back to school.  By then, the street was blocked off and fire engines and EMT vehicles were everywhere.  The detour was miles long and by the time I got back to school lunch was over–not that I was very hungry by then, anyway.

That was about 12 hours ago, and it’s still on my mind.  I can’t stop wondering about that bicyclist.  Where was he going at that time of day–was he off to get a bite to eat, like me, when boom!  he lost control of his bike?  What exactly happened?  Did he hit a rock, maybe, or swerve to avoid a motorist, and thus begin the chain of events that ended with his lifeless body face-down on a median strip with his mangled bicycle beside it?   And, most basically, who was he?  Did he have a spouse?  Kids?  A job?  Dreams?  Hopes? Beliefs?

We’ll probably find out the answers to most of those questions over the next few days; the small town vibe of our community reduces the usual six degrees of separation by half, or even more. But whoever he is, or whatever his life’s circumstances happened to be, one thing is true: whatever future he had as of 12:15 PM on March 2, 2015 is now gone.

And, this fate can befall any of us.  It’s a cliche to say that any of us could be hit by a bus at any minute, but we all have to admit that sudden demise is, if not probable, at least possible.  Some of us (me included) have had closer brushes with our mortality than others; but what I’ve noticed in those situations is that once the immediate danger is past, we tend to let down our guard a little.  While in the valley of the shadow, we may have vowed to make the most of every day, take joy from small pleasures, and follow our dreams.  But as our troubles recede in the rear view mirror, we fall back into our old habits: we take things and people for granted, we complain when things don’t go our way, and we treat time as if we have an inexhaustible supply of it.

Taking all of this into consideration, this month’s breakup will be with procrastination.  What will that look like exactly?  I’m not sure, but it will definitely involve planning ahead, accomplishing goals, and most importantly, not wasting time.  I know that I’m not going to live forever, so I plan to, as the Internet meme says, carpe the heck out of this diem.  Watch this space as I document the inevitable challenges that will result from this particular breakup; it will be very difficult, but interesting.

More to come–stay tuned.