This article (which I was reading at 9:00 this morning when I really should have been writing this blog post) got me thinking. I'm generally not a procrastinator, but am I a precrastinator? This distinction probably applies to more of us than we might think.
For instance, I usually get things accomplished (at least for clients) on or before deadline without staying up all night, which generally makes me feel like I can go paste a gold star on my time management chart.
But when it comes to personal projects, or things that might be out of my comfort zone, do I just plunge in and get started? Of course not. These things require research first. Which requires that I read yet another book about the subject, or spend a few hours looking stuff up on Google (or better yet, Pinterest) before I start. Because I can't just plunge in; I might make a mistake! (The shame! The horror!)
So here's a little quiz I just made up so you can see if you too are a precrastinator:
- Do you have to "clear the decks" (clean your desk, answer all your emails, write your to-do-list, and don just the right outfit) before you begin an important task? (Does clearing the decks use up most of your morning?)
- When faced with cleaning out your garage, is your first task to go to Bed Bath & Beyond to buy a lot of cute storage boxes?
- Do you feel compelled to answer your phone every time it rings, no matter what you are doing, rather than setting aside a chunk of time to return phone calls?
- When you realize you are out of milk, do you run to the store immediately to get some?
Sound familiar? Then you might be a precrastinator. Garden-variety procrastination usually makes us feel guilty (like when we spend an hour looking at funny cat videos instead of starting the laundry). But precrastination allows us to feel virtuous, when in fact we are just as inefficient as the procrastinators. Because, darn it, we're not sitting around on our devices; we're busy! We're getting things done!
But are they the right things, or just the easy things?
What does this have to do with writing your life stories?
Tom and I are always on the lookout for things that trip people up in the process. It's our job to make this easier for you. And the one thing hear every day is, "I really, really want to do this. I know it's important. But I just need to (pick one)...
- wait until school starts
- organize all my photos
- win the lottery
- finish reading your book
- (your excuse here)
...FIRST. Then I'll be able to really concentrate on my history."
It's good to be well-organized when you are trying to write your life stories (which is why we wrote our book), but organization can also be too much of a good thing. Sometimes we just have to plunge in. The funny thing is, sometimes when we make that leap into a project, the momentum of just starting something causes the structure of the thing to make itself known.
Take the precrastinator's challenge
Here's what I've decided to try to do to curb this tendency: clear the decks second thing, not first. Every morning, I'm going to try to pick one big, important goal on my list and do something to move it forward. And then I'll clean my desk as a reward. (Or maybe look at some grumpy cat pictures.)
So here's your challenge, if you want to begin working on a life history. Don't wait until the time is right. You don't have to plan it all out and have all your photos in perfect order before you begin. Just pick a random story from your life, and take 15 or 30 minutes to write it down. Put it in a box. And then go get your milk. And maybe tomorrow, or the next day, write another one. Repeat. That's it! (And remember, we're always here to help.)