Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Procrastinating 101: Winding Up the Lateness Cures

If I were due to be someplace at 12:00, the minute hand on the clock face at the left would be in the "Whew!  Just made it!" position.

A position I'm hoping to confront less and less.

Likewise the "Yikes!  Not again!  What lame excuse should I offer this time?" configuration, with the minute hand (and in my defense, almost never the hour hand) several points on the wrong side of the appointed hour.

So what can I take from the final pages of Diana DeLonzor's  Never Be Late Again:  7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged as we conclude our Procrastinating 101 consideration of her work?

To set the stage for an appreciation of the difficulties ahead, this quote from H. L. Mencken, presented by Ms. DeLonzor to head her chapter on habit change:
For every complex problem, there is an easy answer, and it is wrong.
Okay.  So nice and easy's off the table.

DeLonzor provides "three keys to successful habit changing," which shake out to more like six keys.  They are:
  • Developing the right attitude
  • Observing yourself
  • Setting your goals and rewarding yourself
and also, under "Developing the right attitude,:
  • Go cold turkey
  • Don't expect it to be easy
and under "Observe yourself,"
  • Keep track in writing.
All pretty self-explanatory.  I would add that, with the cold turkey recommendation, Ms. DeLonzor aligns herself, along with The Happiness Project's Gretchen Rubin, with those changers Rubin calls "abstainers."  Abstainers are the cold turkey crowd.  Moderators, on the other hand, approach change incrementally, avoiding lines in the sand. 

I suspect, from my vast experience of attempted habit change, some successful and some, well, not, that I am a moderator in abstainer's clothing.  That is to say, I am more successful when I persist in acceptance of the gradual nature of change and the inevitable (for me, anyway) slips.  However, I continue to operate out of an abstainer's mindset, and to pay the price.  When my perfect change doesn't work out as planned, I am prone to gradual abandonment of the goal.

Given this recognition, I think it unwise to adopt DeLonzor's advice that I shoot for immediate whole-hog timeliness.  (Am I detecting a barnyard animal theme in my approach to this subject?)

DeLonzor's "Final Note" (which isn't really, since it is followed by a final chapter for those early birds who have to deal with the likes of us, and Appendix A's 20-item "Action Plan for the Perfectly Punctual," and Appendix B's pretty useful "Meditation Instructions") is a little pep talk in which she sends the reader off, armed with new insights and awareness, identification with "one or two" lateness types, four or five appropriate exercises, written goals and an action plan, to "start practicing what you've learned."

She cautions against energetically rushing on to tackle other personal flaws and/or habits (should we have such things) before consolidating the practice of being on time.  And she suggests that the services of a personal coach (which she happens to be, so she should know) might prove useful should we bog down along the way.

She ends with "Good luck" wishes and an Emerson quote.

In retrospect, I think the book includes some good practical advice about taming our inner Mad Hatter.  For myself, I think it may be time to stop attempting across-the-board personal reformation and accept that I will probably to continue to struggle with lateness.  But now I understand some of why that is.  And despite the lateness of this final posting on DeLonzor's manual, the laxness of my approach, and my lack of a strategic plan, I have begun to observe small occasional instances of being on time.  And to learn how to experience them more frequently.

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