Friday, October 1, 2010
Thank you for the sweet comments about my time off visiting with my dad. The last few days have been so nice catching up with him. It feels good to be blogging again though and I wanted to post about a topic that I've been meaning to post about for months. I felt prompted to write about it because I found myself in the midst of it and sometimes we have to learn the hard way over and over until we finally decide to make a change and do things differently. It's a bit of a long post-something else I'm working to improve. ;)
Growing up I loved school and I loved projects and being creative but I never felt compelled to work on them until the last minute. Somehow I learned to feel as though I performed better under pressure so I generally would procrastinate as long as possible. I remember the nights my dad and I would work on my elementary school science fair projects (the written parts and reports) until all hours of the morning. That progressed as I entered high school and then college too. In fact, it's almost always been a part of my life and it is not something I'm proud of.
Fast forward to today-well, actually last week- Hubby and I had flown to Europe last year and due to the airline, got stranded in London for 24 hours causing us to pick up expenses that we weren't expecting. We filed it with the airline and eventually got reimbursed for those expenses and also each received $100 travel voucher with the airline to use on any flight. All year long I did a great job of reminding Paul that we needed to use them. Somehow as they came to expire they fell off my radar and I had forgotten about them. Hubby called to inquire about them and learned they give a 30-day extension to book the airfare. They were gracious and we had some extra time. Then, I got distracted by everything under the sun these past few weeks and put it off until I had the time to search for flights to NYC, so I put it off again.
By the time I finally decided to use them I had less than an hour to make the transaction online. I found the flights I wanted (using both his and my voucher) and tried to book them. The website wouldn't accept them. Here I had waited a whole year to use them and now I couldn't believe it was all going to come down to this-most likely losing the gift certificate altogether. I was so mad at myself. While I was on hold I kept thinking, why? Why do I ALWAYS do this? I have an agenda book, I write down when bills are due etc., but didn't bother to make this a priority. You might be thinking I'm being a bit hard on myself but the truth is that sometimes we need a little heat, an unfortunate incident to remind us to make better choices. I wound up spending countless hours on the phone and finally was able to get one lady to approve letting me use the first voucher. The second one was not so easy.
The next day it took me another 3 hours of talking to different agents and asking them to have mercy on my procrastinating self-I was honest about what had happened and was also pretty persistent. This story does end well but it really shouldn't have. After a total of 4 hours I did finally get that return ticket free of charge too since the flight was so inexpensive, but I will NOT forget the lesson. At a time when these vouchers were a huge blessing because money is super tight, I am so thankful that all my pleading and praying worked out for the good but let's be honest here, I got lucky. At the end of the day it really caused a bit of anxiety and frustration for both myself and my hubby who was also annoyed that I left it until the last minute and could have potentially wasted those vouchers for the both of us, and it wasted precious time too.
I'm sure you can all relate, maybe for you it's doing annual taxes on the last day, shopping for a birthday gift at the last minute, literally running on fumes while pulling up to the gas pump or getting a late payment charge for not paying a bill on time, it's all the same and it's always stressful. The thing about procrastination is that it always involves letting someone down, and that person is usually us. Anyway we look at it, procrastination isn't pretty.
Last week was a good reminder. Not only did the airline incident come up but I was also that person that tried to keep squeezing in one more errand before filling up on gas. This is not something I generally do, I usually leave 1/8 to a 1/4 tank at the very least. I kid you not, all the way there I was praying and asking God to just get me to the gas station, even if that meant going to the 'expensive' one. This is the other aspect of procrastination-it's costly. The closest gas station was one that advertised a certain price and then upon pumping I noticed my price was different-it turns out they charge an extra 5 cents per gallon if you do not pay by cash on top of their already high price. This didn't empty my wallet or anything, but all of these little things we put off really add up and are generally pretty avoidable. There is a definite cost to putting things off.
Procrastination can let down others too. As I've mentioned before, I read ALL of your comments. Sometimes I laugh out loud, other times I'm delighted and sometimes you ask me a question and in my heart I REALLY do mean to comment back or get back to you but then putting it off for one hour to tackle something else turns into a day and then a week or more. I also wanted to apologize to anyone who has asked me a question via blog comment or email and it's taken me a ridiculous amount of time to respond. While you may never have thought twice about it, that's not the person I want to be. I really want to get better at this! Some of you are amazing at answering blog questions and getting back to your readers and I really love that.
Sometimes it's hard to tackle projects, jobs and tasks that we don't enjoy, the ones that consume a lot of time, are uninteresting or seem less important than other pressing matters. If I've learned anything about procrastination it's that it adds a lot of unnecessary inconvenience to my life. What often starts as something simple or small can quickly snowball into something unmanageable that eventually consumes so much more time than if only it was dealt with it earlier.
I don't want my lesson to go to waste so I'm taking action. While I had many great goals at the beginning of this year for myself, the one at this moment which is most important to me now is to stop procrastinating. Whenever I feel like putting something off, I'm going to make a point of doing it and getting it completely out of the way. I want to have a clear mind without that nagging reminder that there are things that need my attention. Who can enjoy themselves or feel present with such thoughts weighing heavy on their mind? Some are more trivial than others, so there is a level of priority to be set but when it comes to the big stuff, I can't afford to be a procrastinator anymore and it's not a trait I want to pass along to my future children either.
What about you? Are you a big procrastinator leaving certain things to the last minute too? What things did you have to learn the hard way that convinced you to stop procrastinating? I'd love to hear about your stories.
Have a blessed weekend!