Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Anti-Procrastinator

I have an odd problem: I refuse to procrastinate. OK, I realize that to most people, that doesn't sound like a problem, but let me explain... I am probably one of the only people who made it through four years of college and almost five years of graduate school without ever pulling an all-nighter. The closest I came was the night before my senior econometrics project was due when I went to bed at 3am and got up at 6am (so I did learn what people mean when they say that at a certain point, it's just better to stay up!). Ironically, the night before I was supposed to leave Madison to drive to San Diego, I stayed up all night to pack up my apartment (which I hadn't done because I was trying to get my dissertation turned in), but I feel like that doesn't count because it wasn't work-related and if my boyfriend weren't driving, I could have chosen to just leave a day later. But I digress...

The reason I've never had to pull an all-nighter is because I have a HUGE aversion to doing things at the last minute - for reasons I can't explain, it just stresses me out more than pretty much anything. As you might imagine, I've developed some pretty good time management skills, which is one reason why being an academic works so well for me. But lately, I've been wondering whether my obsession with not doing things at the last minute actually reduces my stress - I suspect it may just move the stress forward in time. For example, classes start in three weeks, right after Labor Day. Given what I need to get done, this should be plenty of time, especially since I know that I don't have to (and even shouldn't) have every single lecture planned out precisely (and really, given that I have my syllabus done and the first couple lectures nailed down, I could pretty much spend the next three weeks at the beach and the world would still not fall apart). And yet, I've been sitting here at the computer for four days straight now (yes, that would mean the weekend), and not sleeping all that well, going over and over my To Do lists, bizarrely worried that I'm going to run out of time.

I know this is partly because I'm basically prepping two new classes but it's also just what I do. I guess the upside is that chances are good that I probably will get everything done that I need to do with time to spare, and then I'll be able to truly enjoy those last few days of summer. And of course, I'm still managing to find some time to blog so I guess I can't be that stressed...


Beth said...

Hmmm....interesting problem!! I think it's about the balance - it's like I think it's the going over and over everything that is more of a problem then just getting it done.

Maybe just see what happens if you just zip through something in a morning - DON'T review it and go to the beach in the afternoon?

BigTDog said...

I am familiar with your problem, and admittedly, I suffer from the opposite affliction. I am a procrastinator.

I am not touting my lifestyle. Lord, knows being a procrastinator comes with a host of drawbacks.

What I have seen from the non-procrastinators I have encountered, is that they plan ahead and set their expectations in accordance with their best laid plans. It seems to cause as much stress as us procrastinating types endure...and possibly more stress when circumstances change and plans need to be altered.

I'd be lying if I didn't say I wasn't jealous of non-procrastinators -- I'm not sure I could deal with it though.