Alexis Powers: Not all tasks require same approach

Putting something off isn't always a bad thing - sometimes reflection is in order
2012-10-11T00:00:00Z Alexis Powers: Not all tasks require same approachOpinion by Alexis Powers Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The dictionary definition of procrastination is "to put off doing something until a future time; to postpone or defer taking action."

Putting things off is frequently thought of as negative, but I'm not sure about that. Everyone drags their feet once in a while. The trick is figuring out whether it is better to act immediately or take a "wait and see" attitude.

If procrastination becomes a struggle with our inner desires, then we need to change our behavior. When we put things off, how do we feel the next day? Are we lowering our self-esteem by not taking care of business? On occasion I wake up screaming in the middle of the night because I remember something I failed to accomplish during the day. Sort of ruins my restful night's sleep.

A major lesson I've learned in life is not to put off doing something that provides enormous pleasure. The saddest story I ever heard was from a woman I worked with. I'd taken a hot air balloon ride at Del Mar, Calif., and was showing the photographs. This woman said she and her husband really wanted to have that experience. A year later her husband passed away. Every time I talk to this friend, I think of their missed opportunity.

Delaying things can also be costly. A man I knew put off paying a parking ticket. When he was stopped for a minor traffic violation, he was arrested because a warrant had been automatically issued. How many people get zapped with significant penalties for this same reason when they renew their driver's license?

Conversely, if we defer rushing forward, the passage of time may take care of the problem, possibly to our advantage. Taking immediate action is not rational every time a problem arises.

However, if you are in a dangerous predicament that requires quick thinking, action is imperative. The same reasoning applies if your project has a deadline. Several years ago I dilly-dallied too long before entering a writing contest. When I read the winner's entry, I was confident I could have won. A lesson learned.

Admittedly, I've done a lot of stuff on the spur of the moment that caused me great pleasure but inconvenienced people depending on me. Like walking off a job or canceling a date because I received a better offer. Eventually I became less childish and more considerate of others.

In order to make my life more manageable, I changed my habits and behavior.

Something that worked for me was putting a bumper sticker on the back of my bedroom door that said "Just Do It!" Those words were the first ones I saw in the morning. Prompted by this advice, each morning I made a list of things that needed to be dealt with. Each time I crossed off one of the chores during the day, I felt competent.

Cleaning my house, doing laundry and going through papers on my desk are things that bore me to tears. I discovered that if I tell myself to "just do it" for 15 minutes, I'm able to get started. That gives me the impetus to begin and I don't feel like I'm about to climb Mount Everest.

Once I get rolling I'll usually stay with it for about a half hour. It's amazing how much I accomplish in that short span of time. The practice of "just do it for 15 minutes" works wonders when I have a writing deadline. My attitude changes and the words flow.

A serious addiction I have is playing bridge and Scrabble online. Guess what? When I turn off the computer, I'm not tempted to keep running back to play. Instead, I am forced to concentrate on my list of things to do, like vacuum. What a concept!

Figuring out whether we are ignoring an unpleasant task or merely planning what action to take, if any, requires honesty. As someone famous once said, "To do or not to do - that is the question!"

On StarNet: Read recent columns by Alexis Powers at azstarnet.com/alexispowers

Email Alexis Powers at northwest@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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