The most productive day of the week? Tomorrow
My column was late again.
A spaceship wasn’t hovering over Rhode Island. Our house didn’t burn down. My computer didn’t seize up with “the blue screen of death.” None of our kids came down with double pneumonia. I hadn’t been arrested for tax fraud.
Nope, I didn’t have one decent excuse for my column being late. Truth be told, I’m a hopeless procrastinator.
I’m supposed to submit my column to newspaper editors on Thursdays for publication the following week. So every Monday, I know the smart thing would be to write 200 words on Monday and Tuesday, leaving Wednesday for rewrites and editing, and Thursday for polishing and submission.
But that makes way too much sense.
“Thursday is eons away,” I think to myself at the beginning of each week. “Today, I’ll get laundry done, mop the floors, wash the car. Getting chores done will free me up to write more tomorrow.”
But between the dog being afraid of the vacuum cleaner, the hourlong call from my mother, the search for missing socks under the kids’ beds and that riveting episode of “Flea Market Flip” I had to watch until the end, I barely manage to defrost the pork chops.
On Tuesday, I wake with a purpose. “I’m going to make some headway on that column ... as soon as I think of an idea. What will I write about this week?” I wonder optimistically. Notebook in hand, I sit on the front porch to let the dog sniff around in the yard while I search for inspiration.
“Hmmm,” my inner dialogue sabotages my creative process once again, “the flower beds could really use a bit of weeding.” Three hours later, there are bags of garden debris out by the curb, my fingernails are packed with dirt, and I’m on my way to Home Depot for grass seed, tomato cages and annuals.
On Wednesday, I determine that, if I spend the entire day in front of my computer, I can turn out 700 words and still have Thursday for editing. “All I need is a subject,” I tell myself. I pour an oversized mug of coffee, and settle in front of the desktop. All morning, I troll the internet looking for topics, current events, some nugget of news that might feed an idea. With a pang of hunger nagging me to stop for a snack, I decide to check Facebook real quick to see what’s trending.
An hour later, I’ve scrolled all the way down to 2015, got sucked into a comment debate over whether mustard or ketchup is better on hot dogs and watched a string of YouTube videos of dogs with human voiceovers.
I figure I’ll switch out the laundry and try again after lunch, but the afternoon brings a case of the sleepys. I convince myself that a 20-minute catnap on the couch will do wonders, but you can probably guess how the day goes from there.
Thursday, I wake up stressed, which should provide adequate motivation to meet my nine-hour deadline. But by noon, I have done everything BUT my column. I organized the junk drawer, swept out the basement, clipped my toenails, put our National Geographic magazines in chronological order and dug the fuzz out of the keyboard with a toothpick.
While standing in front of the open refrigerator, I plan to email my editors to finally let them know I just can’t do this anymore. The afternoon passes in hopeless defeat.
But on Friday, I notice that the sky did not fall. The Earth did not implode. I am still breathing. My editors probably haven’t even noticed that my column is late. I realize that my fear of failure caused me to create conditions where success is impossible. With the dangerous awareness that I could play this cat and mouse game with myself every week if I so dared, I finally sat down and tapped out this column about procrastination, submitting it the day after the deadline.
Every time I hit send on a column, I promise myself, “I will put an end to this self-destructive habit, and I’ll do it first thing — tomorrow.”