According to Psychology Today, everyone procrastinates sometimes, but 20 percent of people chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions—which, unfortunately, are increasingly available. Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we'll feel tomorrow, or the next day. Procrastinators may say they perform better under pressure, but more often than not that's their way of justifying putting things off.
I’ve never considered myself a procrastinator, but I have suddenly awakened to the fact that I’m actually quite good at it! While I was working, it was easy to put off things around the house while I focused on meeting the deadlines at work. Now, in this first year of retirement, I find that old habits are hard to break. I should, for example, clean out closets and get rid of unwanted and unnecessary items, but every time I open the closet door, I can think of a dozen reasons to put it off.
The same demons have plagued my resolution to exercise more and lose weight. Perhaps the two are related since my closet is filled with clothing of various sizes waiting for me to get back to a size where they will fit again. The closet is filled with the ghosts of the person I used to be and it is a metaphor for my current battle with procrastination.
After spending last week doing research for a chapter of my book, I realized that I actually needed to do a complete rewrite of several chapters to tie up loose ends and present the time and events with accuracy. Instead of getting right to it while the information is fresh in my mind, I find myself looking for reasons to put it off. The book and the research have caused me to open the closet door to my past and examine skeletons I thought I had buried long ago. I have reflected deeply on the people and events that led me to the point where I am today and realized that I wasn’t always fair in my evaluation of the situation. The writing has forced me to change perspectives on my view of the past and look at things through the eyes of my characters. In so doing, I have gained new insight and respect for their motivations, but it is often a painful revelation…much like looking at a closet full of clothes that I most likely will never wear again.
The reality is that even if I were able to fit into my old clothes, I would feel uncomfortable and out of touch. I’m not that person anymore and bell bottoms will hopefully never come back in style! I must remember this as I write. That girl doesn’t exist anymore, but she is responsible for making me the woman I am today. For that I thank her and forgive her silliness and misconceptions, but it is time to focus on the person I am today. It’s time to clean out that closet!