Why procrastinate?

Thinking or procrastinating?

Thinking or procrastinating?

Once a month, seconds after my piano lesson ends, I vow to practice daily before the next lesson. A few days later I realize I have an entire month to prepare.  Why practice now?

Recently, I watched an animated presentation by educators on TED-ED about what happens in your brain when you when you play a musical instrument.  When you play, brain scans have shown that all parts of your brain light up. The conclusion: “playing a musical instrument is like a full-body workout for the brain.”

You’d think that someone whose mother suffered from dementia would take that message to heart and set off the brain’s light shows every day.  But even that isn’t enough to get me to practice regularly, even though I enjoy it. It’s called procrastination. For me, it’s putting other pleasures first.

So why procrastinate? A counselor once told me that procrastination is a habit, which you can break the same way you stop biting your nails or quit smoking. But my procrastination isn’t about stopping a bad habit, it’s about extending a good one.

I found four articles in Daily Good  talking about how we might stop procrastinating. One study showed a link between lack of self-compassion and stress, and argued that procrastination might “increase levels of stress” particularly among people who are less kind to themselves. If I get any more self-compassionate, I’ll also be cutting out exercise and eating more chocolate.

Another psychologist says I’m not alone.  At least twenty percent of us are chronic procrastinators and the other eighty percent only procrastinate sometimes. Somehow that doesn’t help.

Among the articles was a piece on comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s strategies to end procrastination. He told a wannabe comedian to write jokes every day, to get a wall calendar that had a whole year on a page, and write an X over each day he wrote jokes. He predicted that soon the comedian would see a growing chain of X’s and he’d feel good seeing that chain.  It wasn’t about the quality of the jokes, but not “breaking the chain.” Not product, but persistence.

I’m not a wannabe professional pianist, but I do like the idea of seeing a string of X’s across a page. Maybe one color for practicing the piano and another for exercising.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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3 Responses to Why procrastinate?

  1. Evelyn says:

    Oh wow, you are so NOT alone. It has occurred to me that not doing something you would like to be a routine in your life could be about wanting to be free from “assignments” or being “bossed around.” When I was a kid my father complained about my spending too much time reading by so I would often go off someplace and read. I wonder if I would have done that if he had said to read more because it was good for me–or if I would have made such a resolution. Procrastination, maybe, but maybe not.

  2. This makes me want to practice my dusty guitar. Haha I know, I know. So many good intentions, so little time to pursue my growing collection of interests.

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