Can’t This Wait?

Some people are world-class procrastinators;  I mean, on a professional level.  These people, and some of them are friends, family members and colleagues, can wait until the last minute when a deadline is looming large, to begin a project or complete a task or whatever else they need to do.  Just thinking about this gives me hives.

When our report cards are due on Monday morning at 8 a.m., one of my fellow teachers will call me Sunday late at night to ask a question so she can get started.  Some of my older students, even with “checkpoints” to assure good time management, somehow manage to leave the work until the very last second.  My own kids had a very bad habit when they were in middle and high school of waiting until 9 pm when all the stores are closed to inform me that they needed a large blue poster board for a project due the next day. I don’t know if these people get some weird rush doing this or see it as a personal competition between themselves and the clock.  Most of them will tell me, when I am freaking out for them, that they work better under pressure.  What does that even mean?? When I am under pressure, my brain tends to short-circuit and my stomach does the shimmy shakes.  No thanks.

When the report card “window” opens on our  software, I immediately begin to input information.  We are given about two weeks to get them done before the “window” shuts with a scary clank.  Once that happens, it’s over and anything I put there is set in stone.   So each day I accomplish enough to allow me to sleep at night and keep the anxiety hounds at bay.  I try to finish completely at least a day ahead of clank-time so I can review everything before it’s too late.

When I was a college student, I would immediately begin any long-term projects the day I received the syllabus.  I would hand things in early for review and then take the feedback and rework the final draft.  I preferred early morning classes, mainly so I would be done with classes by early afternoon, could spend the rest of the day and early evening involved in the follow-up work, and then hang out with friends until the middle of the night.  Who needed to sleep anyway?  At the same time, I had close friends who would party their brains out, sleep until one in the afternoon, take classes from 2 pm until 9 pm or so, and then do the minimum amount of work until party time.  When they had an exam or project to deal with, they went into cram session hibernation 24 hours prior to the event.  I guess that worked for them;  or not.  I never asked.  Time did tell though- some of those friends graduated and some didn’t.

When I teach grad school, I prepare my syllabus and  plan my lessons weeks ahead.  I create the Powerpoint presentations at least on a skeletal level, and gather materials I think I will need. I would rather edit and revise them as the dates get closer than leave them until the night before.   As an elementary school teacher, I tend to sketch out vague plans a week or a month ahead,  and then fill in the fine details as needed.  This way I can be sure I am meeting the needs of my students as they come up.  Still I am prepared for just about anything ahead of time.

If I sound a bit anal about getting things done, well, nothing could be further than the truth. Organization is not my strong suit and something I still am working towards.   It’s just stress-avoidance, pure and simple.  And this only seems to apply to things I actually enjoy doing on some level.  It does not seem to apply, for example, to paying my bills.  I just hate most things that have to do with managing money and think nothing of not thinking about due dates for bills until I get a reminder threatening email.  But that is fodder for another blog posting.

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