Amending My Ways

portland-169x300A couple of weeks ago, my assistant Jeanne requested that I stop sending her the copy for my blog articles on Sunday night or sometime on Monday, when I need her to publish it on Monday night. I’ve been writing my blogs on Sundays for 5 years, which worked fine when I was the one posting and distributing them. But now that another person’s schedule is at issue, I need to change my ways.

This Friday, in an attempt to please Jeanne, I squeezed in my blog in the last minutes before heading off to Breitenbush Hot Springs (near Portland, OR), where I had no internet access (gasp) for 24 hours. Yup. I left blog writing to the last minute.

I don’t procrastinate about a lot of work-related projects. In fact, I tend to err on the side of doing things right away so I don’t have to worry about them later! But in the case of my blog, I did so revel in a weekend of not knowing what I’d write about and being (mostly) at peace with that as Sunday night approached. So far, I have always thought of something to write about before deadline. I see the advantage of moving my deadline to Friday: I now don’t have the nagging thought, “I have to write my blog,” on my brain all weekend. But an early deadline has its challenges too. I have one more thing to fit into my work week, and pressure to think of something in what seems like less time.

Procrastination Defined

Procrastination, says Wikipedia, is “the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes to the ‘last minute’ before a deadline.” This form of procrastination can be destructive. People can get fired because they put important projects off until the last minute, often compromising quality—or missing deadlines altogether.

But what about procrastinating on making decisions (and I don’t mean using the excuse “I’m still deciding the best way to proceed” to avoid starting a project!)?

Whose Decision is it Anyway?

As I shared in last week’s newsletter, I recently thought for too long about whether to sign up for coveted Forrest Yoga classes with the founder of the discipline, Ana Forrest, who was visiting Chicago. I noticed, while blithely putting off this decision, that there was something appealing about letting others make decisions for me. In this case, by the time I decided on purchasing the tickets, they were gone. I was forced to come up with Plan B, which was, ultimately, okay with me.

My decision-making procrastination transferred to the decision of whether to fly to Portland for a week to check out the yoga scene there and to explore the area. I looked for friends to stay with before buying the ticket; that didn’t work. I almost let that make my decision for me, but persevered, finding an Airbnb spot that was perfectly situated. Then I decided if I couldn’t get my ticket for less than 50,000 miles I wouldn’t go. But the ticket stayed within my budget. So finally I booked my room and a rental car and hit “Purchase” on my plane ticket.

Immediately fear set in. What was I doing? Why was I going to new city by myself with no real plan? Maybe I’d have a horrible time. Oh my, no wonder I took so long to make this decision. There was terror behind my procrastination.

Putting the “Pro” in Procrastination

crepesI did not let my fear stop me, and by the first day I was enjoying a beautiful hike by some waterfalls and eating a delicious crepe at the Portland Farmer’s Market. I met two business contacts for very fruitful coffees and lunches (those I did plan a little bit ahead). But pretty much everything I did on my trip I decided to do at the last minute. Breitenbush Hot Springs is notoriously full at this time of year, but I called Thursday and got the last bed available for the next night! I also managed to get an appointment with a bodyworker in Portland 10 minutes after I called to ask about availability.

As a traveler, there’s not much difference between procrastination and spontaneity. Last-minute choices allow for a sense of adventure, which I truly enjoy when I’m on “vacation.” I ended up doing many things I would not have predicted because I did not plan ahead for every moment in Portland.

To be sure, deciding things at the last minute requires a willingness to accept the consequences if things don’t work out as planned. I don’t recommend this tactic when other people (like your assistant) are depending on you, or when the consequences of letting circumstances make decisions for you are unacceptable. But when all that’s on the line is exactly what you’ll be doing for fun and adventure, why not go with the flow?

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