People who know me will probably tell you that I’m NOT a procrastinator, the proof of which is that, until this year, my Christmas gift shopping was usually (or mostly) done by this time of the year. I’ve always done that for two major reasons: 1.) I consider myself a thoughtful gift giver and when I see something I’m sure the recipient will like, I buy it while I can, and 2.) It’s more helpful to my budget to spread the costs of gifts throughout the year as opposed to a big chunk being spent in a short period of time.
I recognize that much of my reason for not procrastinating has to do with the stress of trying to get things done at the last minute. I also have perfectionist tendencies, and so the thought of having something be less than perfect is also overwhelming.
Anything you read from a psychology perspective will tell you that procrastination is a “bad” thing; in fact, there is a myriad of self-help books to overcome it. But is getting something done too soon any worse than waiting until the last minute?
Each year, as the Christmas season comes closer, it’s impossible not to see people out and about doing their shopping. There is a buzz, an excitement, as they go from store to store, searching for gifts for their loved ones. Not liking crowds, I prefer not to be a part of that. (No matter when I do my shopping, much of it is done online.) But you see them, bundled up in coats, scarves and gloves – some with lists in hand – carrying bags with different store names on them. And when you see them returning to their cars, laden with those bags, their sense of accomplishment is almost palpable. The thought they have put into their choices and the joy they anticipate when the gifts are opened are very much forefront in their minds, and it adds to the excitement of the holidays.
On the other hand, they are at the mercy of what the stores they visit have in stock, at the mercy of the ticket price on each item, not to mention at the mercy of their credit card merchants when those big-amount statements arrive just after the holidays.
I, on the other hand, found gifts throughout the year – was able to wait for a sales price, added only a little bit at a time to my credit card statements, and didn’t have to worry that I wouldn’t be able to find what I perceived as the perfect gift. It’s definitely far less stressful than waiting until the last few weeks!
But while there is no stress, there is also no chance to get caught up in that buzz and excitement, no sense of accomplishment when a much larger task is finished in a short period of time. There is also the risk of buying what you deem as the “perfect gift” for someone only to find a different “perfect gift” for the same person and, either blowing your budget or possibly regretting that you didn’t wait longer before that first purchase.
So I’ve decided that my new mission in life will be perfecting procrastination. I have been experimenting a little here and there with procrastinating small tasks, and I’ve still managed to get things done well and on time. (The meditation I spoke about in a previous post has come in handy with this!) And yes, I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment I felt when that happened! I believe there must be a balance, and that, with some tasks, the stress of putting them off produces more negativity than the positive emotions of successfully procrastinating. The art will be discovering the stress versus excitement with each task in front of me, as well as its value if I should procrastinate too long and not accomplish it as perfectly as I would like.
And yes, I have purchased two Christmas presents – but just this month – and I do not feel pressured by not being done by now, as I’m known to be.
I do think it’s okay to procrastinate as long as one finds a balance!
So which do you prefer – getting things done with plenty of time to spare or feeling the adrenaline rush when you’ve procrastinated until the last minute?