Updated: Mar 7
Have you ever noticed that you put off doing tasks till the last minute? Maybe you’re someone who is famous for procrastination, or maybe you do it once in a while. There’s something about that deadline that pushes us to get the thing done, but at what price?
Jane and Jill
Let’s say that Jane and Jill are both given this important assignment that’s due in 3 weeks. Both women are equally busy in their work and home lives, and they both have excellent reputations for turning in quality work on time.
Jane decides to get the assignment done right away, because that’s just how she rolls. She has learned that she hates the feeling of having something undone “hanging over her”. Even if it feels like an effort to get going, she knows that it’ll be fine once she gets going, and that she always gets a rush of pleasure and pride when she finishes something. She bangs out the outline and rough draft right away, and over the next week, she fills in the necessary data and finishes the report with more than a week to spare.
Jill knows herself to be the kind of person who “works best under pressure.” She has a few other projects that are either at or past deadline that she has to clear away before she can start work on this one. She knows it’s important, so she wants to get this assignment “perfect.” About a week before the deadline, she starts in on the outline and rough draft, but she gets distracted when researching the data she needs to “get it right,” and doesn’t get back to it until two days before the deadline. She ends up working flat out, getting very little sleep over the next 2 days, but finally gets it in right on deadline, feeling exhausted but triumphant.
What I choose
Our societal conditioning tends to favor Jane’s approach, but I find that I have a little of both Jane and Jill in me. Neither is right or wrong. Both are totally legitimate ways of getting the work done. But what I find is that sometimes one approach works better for me in terms of energy expenditure.
What I mean is that there is a lot more drama and energy involved when I’m being Jill. Usually, it’s when the deliverable is high stakes/important, unfamiliar territory, or seems risky in some way that I become very Jill-ish. I tend to judge myself, and have a lot of worry, dread, anxiety, negotiation, indulging in perfectionism, confusion and overwhelm. And what has helped me most in these situations is the recognition that there’s a part of me that likes the drama and excitement of sliding in over the finish line. Jill is an adrenaline junkie for whom life is more fun when lived on the edge.
Procrastination is not a character flaw, nor is it an incurable condition.
But there’s also a Jane part of me that finds the drama exhausting, wants to protect my energy, and prefers to sit in judgment, shaking her head over my Jill-ness. Jane prefers the hit of dopamine that comes from checking off items on her ToDo list. She often writes things on the list that she’s already done, just because it’s fun to tick off the box.
I used to think it was my job to become Jane and get rid of Jill, but now I realize that there is so much freedom in accepting both parts, and being willing to allow their contradictory views to co-exist. So much of my energy was going into trying to fight against Jill, but things became easier when I was willing to drop the judgment, forgive and even embrace her.
Procrastination is not a character flaw, nor is it an incurable condition. It’s simply a habit that’s developed from choosing to avoid doing the task. Perhaps it’s because the thing is hard or difficult, or feels risky in some way. Whatever the reason, I get to notice when I’m procrastinating and then decide if I want to keep avoiding or if I’m ready to just get on with it already.