The art of procrastination

I used to be punctual. Early. Obnoxiously so, sometimes. I meticulously planned everything I did to accommodate traffic delays, coffee runs, getting stuck speaking to a long-winded associate at the end of a meeting — you name it. I met deadlines with days to spare. I was organized and I was proud of that fact.

Then I had children.

Throw everything I just said out the window along with a half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich and my ability to make coherent conversation before 7:30 a.m. I briefly lost my mind, and still have issues with pregnancy brain four years later.

I’d like to think it’s due to the fact that our surprise twin boys drain me twice as fast as a single child would. But it’s probably the delayed effects of three sleepless years and not having quite conquered the delicate balance of motherhood and business. Let’s face it, kids are cute, cuddly, adorable and awesome — but they wear you out.

I digress. That is not where I was intending to go with this. My topic here is “The Art of Procrastination” and it seems I am deftly procrastinating on getting to the point.

When I returned to work after maternity leave, my responsibilities abounded and I climbed even more quickly up the business ladder. I love my job and my company. I enjoy pouring my heart and soul into our firm, but I found myself at risk of letting something slip.

I was overwhelmed. The ability to plan had become obsolete. There are too many unknowns, emergency deadlines, sick kids and last-minute meetings to be able to plan effectively. Needless to say, I’m no longer the time-savvy individual I once was, but I have begun to find ways to make the chaos work for me.

In lieu of structured planning, I have instead opted for the “what is absolutely, unequivocally the most important thing on my plate” approach. Typically consisting of working on any multitude of tasks throughout the day as I get sidetracked from one phone call to another, eventually crossing tasks off my list as they’re complete — the lingering deadline always on my mind, but way, way in the back.

A couple of days or weeks go by of innocently tending to other (also important) matters, and I suddenly realize I haven’t spent nearly enough time preparing for the impending deadline that’s been floating out in the ether of my to-do list. Panic. My stress level increases, anxiety arrives and there may or may not be need for a moment to cry in the ladies room.

It hasn’t happened before, but I perform amazingly well under pressure.

It’s sink or swim, do or die, and I find my self-preservation instinct still appears to be intact. The gravity of the situation hits me, and boom — I can finally focus! That is the key element: At this point, the deadline is the only thing my mind has room for. There is no being distracted by other tasks. This is the only goal in my line of sight, and I am on a meticulous sprint to the finish line.

I am centered, see clearly, am wholly dedicated and I perform. The pressure almost seems to squeeze ideas out of me that may never have otherwise surfaced.

In a world of smartphones, tablets, email and social media, it’s easy to find ourselves pulled in a multitude of directions. It’s become the norm for business professionals to answer an email on their phone while halfway-focused on the meeting taking place around them. Can you imagine just how productive we could be if we turned everything else off and focused solely on the task at hand?

The art of procrastination may be just that, an art — deliberately placed colors and lines, tactics and ideas, all lying precariously close to the brink of chaotic madness, somehow coming together in the end to paint one glorious picture. Perhaps I will once again be that punctual planner, but for now, this is me. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this approach and many might think I’m just procrastinating — the truth is they’re right.

My five time management techniques:

1. Create time management goals — and stick to them!

2. Use time management tools — day planner, reminders, to-do lists

3. Once you start a task, don’t allow yourself to become distracted until it is finished

4. Delegate and outsource

5. Focus — Use a “Do Not Disturb” sign when you need it

Tsaniff is business development manager for SWS Engineering, a civil engineering and land surveying firm in San Marcos, and is an active member of CREW San Diego.

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