Thoughtful Procrastination ~ Andrew Lightfoot
I should probably start this paper because it’s due tomorrow, I thought. Once again, I have procrastinated my paper until the day before it is due. The interesting part is that I did not always procrastinate. I used to set strict deadlines for myself and adhere to them. I used to plan my days, activities, and assignments. I used to be the paragon of self-discipline and time management. I played varsity sports, kept straight A’s, and volunteered at my church. However, as time went on, I became increasingly more aware of the innate wisdom in the colloquial phrase “Man plans, God laughs.” My obsession with self-discipline was a symptom of my focus on achieving the goals I set for myself. However, in a rather short period of time a series of circumstances beyond my control rendered all my goals impossible to achieve. For a while I was in a dark place emotionally because I felt that I had failed at everything I set out to achieve, but I underestimated the value of failure. Looking back at my writing process as my goal-oriented self I would write an outline. Then, I would write a rough draft. Then, I would revise it at least three times. Then, I would stressfully submit my final draft at least a day before the due date. Like Kate, I would stress out after submitting my final paper and think something like “I FORGOT THE TITLE. Oh my God my life is over. How do I expect to get a real job if I can’t even remember to put a title on an essay?” (Burgess).
As I experienced more failures, I realized that adhering to this strict writing process and stressing through each step restricted me to cookie-cutter writing. I would write papers that were grammatically correct and contained good points, but they had no substance or voice. My constant stress and inexperience with failure gave me no grounds on which to base my papers. Now, when I receive a prompt for a paper I think about it for a while. I go about my everyday life with the prompt in the back of my mind. Trying to draw on personal experience and valuable information to give my paper substance and let my voice come through. I create a sort of outline in my head, but I do not know if I could ever format it the same way on paper. I procrastinate actually writing my papers in order to give myself as much time as possible to compose my ideas. Then, usually the day before a paper is due, I will sit down and write out my paper in one sitting. I am a perfectionist, so I adjust the wording of each sentence and the flow of each paragraph as I write. When I am finished writing my paper I run it through a text-to-speech program a couple of times to search for misspelled words and grammatical errors. Then, I turn it in, stress free.
The biggest change I have made in my life that has allowed me to be more successful not only in my writing, but in the rest of my life is a focus on effort not success. The difference is subtle but when I focused only on success I never felt gratified in the amount of effort I put into something if I ended up not achieving the goal I set for myself. Now, a focus on putting fourth my best effort allows me to do good work without stressing about goals.