Taking Your Time
Let’s talk about procrastination. We all do it. We all know we shouldn’t. I’ll admit that I finally sat down to write this, a column about procrastination, after procrastinating for over a week. And even after writing those few sentences, I’m finding excuses to put this off just a bit longer – pour another cup of coffee, give the dog a belly rub.
We all do it, even though we know we shouldn’t. But procrastinating when I have a deadline looming? Waiting until it’s down to the wire to start something? Never again! That was by far the most important lesson I learned in high school, and, as with most things, I learned the hard way through experience.
“I Can Do That?”
I grew up in a small town, therefore, I went to a small high school. It wasn’t a bad school, but small schools in rural places simply don’t have the opportunities available in larger areas. There weren’t options for what courses I could take; everyone takes the same classes, just at varying paces. I was decent in humanities but mediocre at best in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Maybe I was a slightly above-average student overall, but that’s by rural standards.
So with the support of my parents, I sought out an opportunity, a way to get away for a bit. I applied for various programs and exchanges and was (somewhat unsurprisingly) turned down by all. Truly, no one would choose me for a prestigious internship in the U.S. Senate over, say, the daughter of a prominent environmental activist who also happened to model for a major outdoor brand (just to make up a totally fictitious person).
After receiving the final rejection letter, I sat at the dinner table with my family, brainstorming what to do, when my mother jokingly suggested that I backpack around Europe. Naturally, I responded as most teenagers would when given this opportunity for freedom and international adventure: “I can do that?” Of course, there were some stipulations: I had to go with a friend, find hosts along the way and work with the school to earn credits for the trip.
As luck would have it, my best friend had finished a similar unsuccessful attempt to transfer out of our school, so we put things in motion. We cobbled together family, friends, friends of family, someone’s neighbor’s third cousin and set an itinerary of seven countries and 17 cities mostly across Europe.
We made arrangements with our high school to do coursework along our travels, like earning history credits for going to museums. For music, we attended concerts and shows, including an unforgettable Gregorian chant performance in the Notre-Dame de Paris.
Our English work was blogging about the trip (it still exists on the depths of the internet), and we somehow got physical education credits for “making healthy choices,” although I have no idea how we finagled that one because I ate so much good food on that trip!
Many lessons we learned on that trip were non-academic. Sure, we took full advantage of all the cultural offerings abroad, but we also learned life lessons, mostly through mishaps. We learned to always double-check that you have your keys (all of them) and double-check the time (and any time changes). We learned what to do when you get lost from each other or lost in general. I even learned what to do when your purse gets stolen in a foreign country (cancel all your cards and thank your lucky stars that the police recovered almost everything but the cash).
The Consequences of My Inactions
The most important lesson from that experience was one I learned after the trip, the one about procrastination. We traveled for a semester during junior year, the most important year when applying for college. We had to make up those core classes, which is why, in my senior spring, when most students were taking easy electives and ducking out early to go hiking on nice afternoons, I was taking two senior Advanced Placements (APs), the junior-level humanities classes and a mostly-sophomore chemistry class.
As is common with small schools, I had the same teacher for three of those four classes. He was fantastic, one of those teachers who brought the coursework to life and genuinely cared about students. And because he knew how difficult my schedule was, he was very lenient on my deadlines. It was great because I was able to focus more of my energy on trying to pass chemistry, but it also meant I procrastinated on three classes worth of work.
It felt awful. I wrote a research paper a month and a half late, much of which was completed while I was on spring break in Mexico. I spent the final week of the school year, a time when seniors are typically excused from classes, taking tests and turning in long-overdue assignments. It was the consequences of my own actions, or rather, inactions. I felt like Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde the Musical,” cramming for the Law School Admission Test (LSATs) while all my friends went to the spring fling beer bash extreme.
Keeping Vows & Fighting Inertia
I think my teacher must have known what he was doing by giving me endless extensions because, from that moment, I vowed never to feel that kind of last-minute stress to meet a deadline again.
For the most part, I’ve kept that vow. I can’t tell you how many times I saw my friends pulling all-nighters in college to finish a paper that I had completed a few days prior (I was that friend always trying to distract them with extracurricular pursuits). I know many people who say that they need the time crunch to work, and that may work for them, but I’m the exact opposite. I need a deadline, but I need ample time to pick and poke my way through something. Feeling that pressure with a looming deadline gives me hives. I need to know that, if I’m not feeling inspired, it’s OK to take a break, walk the dog and spend some time doing something else.
But when there are no deadlines? It’s hard to fight inertia. Even though I know how awful it makes me feel when I get behind or let things build-up, it’s often easier to just… not. I recently procrastinated for three weeks to start a task that took three hours to complete. I had stress dreams about something so unimportant that I was putting off for no reason. And maybe you’re thinking, “just set deadlines for yourself!” But that doesn’t work. I need to do things in my own time. There’s a reason my favorite book as a child was “The Poky Little Puppy.” That, plus dogs, obviously.
Grinding At Your Own Pace
We live in a culture that values the “rise and grind” attitude. It’s especially prevalent in the fantasy football space. Some people can make you feel like if you’re not making fantasy football a full-time pursuit on top of a full-time job, you’re not doing enough. That’s not me. It never will be me. I want to make the most of the opportunities I’m offered, but I need ample downtime to stay regulated. I have a tendency to overcommit and overschedule (by my personal standards), and then I get overwhelmed when I don’t have time to comfortably do it all before the deadline.
When the to-do lists pile up and every day feels like treading water, fantasy football sometimes gets pushed to the side. It’s not that I don’t love it, but it’s just one of my many hobbies. I’ve been especially guilty of that during the last couple of months. It’s the offseason. It can be hard to get motivated when the season is still months away.
But the NFL draft is done, rookie and startup drafts are beginning and that means looming deadlines! It’s time to take action, put in the work and make moves on my teams. It’s the kick in the leg that I needed (and hopefully, I’ll manage my teams better than Urban Meyer).
After procrastinating for much of the offseason, I’m back to grinding, but at my own pace. I’m setting strategies for my teams this upcoming year, deciding whether they’re in win-now or rebuild mode (I have one that’s in a particularly annoying limbo).
I’m listening and reading up on rookies. I’m starting to make rankings for the first time. I’m going slowly and imperfectly, but I’m trying something new.
I know myself. I know my place in this space. I know I’m not a grinder. Maybe you are, and that’s great! But it’s also totally fine if you’re not. Work at your own pace.
Now, time to stop procrastinating and keep working on my ranks! But maybe I’ll walk the dog and get a creemee (ice cream) first.
PS: I did walk the dog and get a creemee. I did not continue working on ranks. #SlowGrind
Thanks for reading! If you like my kind of trash, you can find more on Twitter @trashsandwiches.