Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Little Nudge
July? How did it get to be July at all, let alone a week before the end of the month??

It's been a busy summer. Lots of fun, and a bit of work, but there's something about the midpoint of the summer (which has already passed, I'm sorry to say) that nudges us to shift gears and think about fall -- at least those of us who are retired in name only.

Two things have happened this week to strengthen that nudge. On Monday, I attended a "retreat" for all of the instructors teaching general psychology in the fall. Today, I reached for my writing planner and realized I had to break out a new one (my writing calendar runs July to July).

Yes, I realize there's still a significant chunk of summer left, and I'm not wishing it away. But as someone who needs a push to get started, I'm grateful for these nudges in a strange, twisted way. They function in the same way I imagine the electric start on a lawnmower does. Sure, I could start it myself the old-fashioned way, but it's so much easier with an assist.

I don't know why I have so much trouble getting started. If I could bottle all the delays and procrastination attempts I engage in and convert them to energy, I'd have my very own electric start. And once I get started, energy begets energy and it's easy to power forward.

Take last Monday for example. After the retreat was officially over, I closeted myself in an empty office and kept working. Why? I was on a roll. Sure, I could go home and continue what I'd started, but you know what? That's never how it works. Once I get home, something more interesting (read: less effort-intensive) lures me in, and the procrastination cycle begins again. But, by staying right where I was and taking advantage of a more professional (less enticing) environment, I got two more hours of work in, and left with a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.

I'm lucky. I love what I do. And while I'll miss the freedom of summer when it ends (over a month from now, thank you very much), getting a jump start in July isn't such a bad thing. With no deadlines looming just yet, I can chip away at the things I need to do for fall, and then set them aside when I get tired of them, or simply want to do something different.
I have no illusions of breaking my procrastination habit, and, in fact, I plan to share the concept of structured procrastination with my students this fall. I won't go so far as to recommend it as a strategy, but as long as I can find that electric start when I need it, a few delay tactics don't have to be a big obstacle.

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