MITCHELL’S MUSINGS: Springing into action

As I ponder whether I can actually start spring cleaning around the house and yard while it still feels like winter (my wife thinks it’s a delaying technique when actually it’s a deep, philosophical inquiry that’s best contemplated while on a couch in front of an NHL playoff game), other things come to mind after a painfully long winter, at least for these parts…..

…..speaking of procrastination, OK I admit I’m part of the problem with the spring cleaning thing, I’m pretty good at it. I always have been.

I was the kind of college student who had all semester to write the essay, worth 50 per cent of the mark, but somehow almost always found myself writing it the night before it was due.

Arrrrrgggghhh.

And every time I would get all stressed and swear I would never do it again and, of course, the following semester there I would be again.

Once in my pathetic attempt to learn from my mistakes I bought a Psychology Today magazine that featured procrastination on the front page. Apparently I have a perfectionist complex whereby I can justify my second-tier marks in college by saying “yeah, well I would’ve done even better if I spent more time on it.”

That way I can secretly, and wrongly, rationalize I’m actually smarter than my college marks. Sounds good and it might fly on Oprah, but in the harsh reality of the day I was just too undisciplined, immature and lazy to do better when I had the chance. Heavy sigh.

That’s why I get so frustrated when my kids use the same tactics as I did when it comes to school work.

“Yeah, I’m gonna study right after this game,” the boys say and I get upset because they say you hate most in others what you hate most in yourself (Oprah?), and it’s like an echo from my past. Again, arrrrgggghhhh.

….Except, you know what, I’m now much older and wiser and I’m still not that much better with my procrastination problem.

Like last weekend for instance. My wife was away in Vancouver for a conference and I had the house, and the kids, to myself.

I even went as far as making a list of things to get done. Even at work, if I don’t have a list, I have no chance at getting things done. Having said that, however, there are probably lists around the house from 2003 that almost but not quite have everything crossed off of them.

Anyway, the allure of guilt-free TV watching (The Masters was on after all) and newspaper reading while my wife was away proved to be too much for my undisciplined brain to handle and before you know it it was Sunday afternoon, a couple hours before my wife was due back, and I had crossed absolutely nothing off the list.

I quickly cleaned our bathroom (my half anyway and it actually was on the list) and made dinner (not on the list), hoping she’d notice and consider my last-minute, one-hour’s worth of hard labour enough to justify my existence over the last three days.

It sort of worked but not even I can give myself a passing grade on this one and when you think about it I haven’t advanced very far since college, procrastination-wise that is…..

……maybe that’s why I got into the newspaper business. If it weren’t for deadlines I’d be hooped. And although some around here might say I’m still not very good at making deadlines, we somehow manage to get the paper out three times a week.

When people ask I compare it to having three final exams a week, or having three term papers due a week. It’s challenging but it also keeps the blood flowing and at least the threat of real deadlines helps me get my job done…

…..maybe that’s what I need at home, real actual deadlines that have consequences. Something to ponder this weekend as I make my list (or pick up last week’s), probably check out the NHL playoffs on TV, and wait to see if spring is actually going to show up one of these days so I can start crossing things off the list..

—Glenn Mitchell is the managing editor at The Morning Star.