Being stuck in a never ending cycle of procrastination and working till the last minute (or longer) is hard on yourself, and a habit even harder to break. Once you establish the habit of a system that works for you, you can plan time to relax without feeling like you’re cheating something else.
I was a habitual procrastinator. I’d wait till the last week to write fifteen page final papers. I’d write small papers that night, or an hour before class if I really wasn’t prepared. I stayed up all night for a morning Art History final, managing to pull out a pass grade due to sheer force. Projects waited until the last moment, chores waited until Sunday night before I was able to get to sleep, and some weeks dishes still sat piled in my kitchen, a terrible start to the new week. I often ran late for work.
In feeble attempts to combat this, I would make lists of things I needed to do, house chores, yard work, exercise regiments, drawing goals, writing goals, meal planning to combat ordering out (which I will make an entire post about at some point, because meal planning is really a great way to get your shit together and save money); basically filling up my weekend (and weeknights) with a mountain of shit to do, with only two days (or a few hours after work), which destroyed my chances of really having any time to relax. With no scheduled time to relax I would “cheat” from my own lists, blow off the dishes for the day, fuck working out, “I’m drinking cranberry and vodkas tonight and we’re getting Chinese takeout and pizza!” I’d say to Mr. Frost.
At the end of the week was the worst, Sunday afternoon through the night, after enjoying a fun Saturday with my husband, I’d be scrambling to get the laundry done, to get the dishes clean, to meal prep lunches for the week. I’d be so burnt out even though I just “relaxed” the day before, all because I set up expectations that couldn’t be met within that time frame and then sabotaged myself in a blaze of liquor and defiance.
I came to terms with the fact I needed to start getting a head start on things, I had to start keeping up with the dishes every night (I don’t have a dishwasher, and probably won’t until we remodel the kitchen, and God only knows when that will ever be). I had to start the loads of laundry Friday night. I had to get up and go grocery shopping on Saturday, and do the weekly cleaning in the morning so I could enjoy Saturday night and all of Sunday. When I took the time to strategize how to tackle chores as they were needed rather than pushing them off, I was able to unlock all the extra time I needed to pursue writing, both as a novelist and a blogger.
I’ve also started waking up an hour early to work out with my husband in our mini home gym, which consists of a bunch of hand-me-down cardio and lifting equipment from family and friends. Working out is a release for me, but it’s always been a point of contention, feeling like another arbitrary task on a list of shit I had to do. Now that I’m not up all night putting laundry away or scrubbing dishes, I’m able to go to bed on time and wake up early.
Procrastination does not set a person up for success, and making a plan that actually works is the key. Once you’ve established a plan that you can execute effectively you’ll realize you have time to enjoy, without having to take away time from your responsibilities. This allows you to really enjoy your leisurely time, rather than stress during it, perpetually guilt-tripping yourself.
Artists, remember your responsibilities and tackle them ferociously, don’t cower and push them off! Schedule the time and activities to keep yourself sane!