Make Hay…. Later

blogXmakingXhayGrowing up in central Pennsylvania, I spent a lot of time on my godparents’ farm. I learned the true meaning of the phrase, “Make hay while the sun shines.”

Making hay is brutally intense manual labor. Summertime is hot, of course, and hay is itchy. If you don’t want to get a zillion cuts and scrapes, or a Defcon 5 sunburn, you make hay wearing jeans, boots, gloves, a hat, and a shirt. Making hay wore me out to the point that I fell asleep standing up in the shower.

blogXcowXhayThe entire farm’s welfare can rest on whether the hay crop is good quality–which means it absolutely cannot be rained on, and must be cut at peak nutritional value–no matter what. I’ve made hay with a migraine, sick, exhausted, and sporting blisters on my blisters.  Make hay while the sun shines, or else.

BUT, today it got so hot in my little farmhouse that my computer went wonky. So I shut off the wee beast even though I was well short of my usual word count, and… recalled something else I’d come across recently, about procrastination.

blogXgoodXexecsProcrastinating is bad, right? Git ‘er done, we’re burning daylight. No time like the present! Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today!  Find me an English language aphorism that celebrates procrastinating and I’ll show you ironic humor.

Except… the English language is wrong. People who are moderate procrastinators are better at coming up with innovative, high quality, results than people who leap right in and get the job done early. There is value in pausing to consider, in allowing the subconscious to take a swat at our assignments, in sitting on a toadstool and watching the world go by even when the laundry hasn’t been folded. (Try telling your boss this.)

Jack-275x413I do a fairly good job of “productively procrastinating” in my writing. I’ve learned that I can’t “make a baby in one month with nine women,” when it comes to writing a book. I have to let the ideas marinate, then let the manuscript marinate. Back-to-back revisions don’t yield anywhere near the polish that the same effort, with breathing room between rounds, will yield, and to heck with the deadlines.

But in life… I’m not as successful at putting off until tomorrow what I might tear into today, just so I can say I got it knocked off the list. What about you? How do you build in time to ponder, or does hitting pause on task drive you nuts? Maybe it drives your boss or coworkers nuts?

To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Jack–The Jaded Gentlemen, Book IV, a story about people who had to wait quite a while for the right happily ever after.




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23 comments on “Make Hay…. Later

  1. Hi Grace,
    I am one of those unfortunate souls who is a natural procastinator. In the past, I have tried do things the other way with very poor results. I can’t work productively without my messy desk and sticky notes all over the place. If I am forced to make everything neat and pretty because others think this is better, my productivity drops. A very neat desk makes me crazy. I have tried, it’s simpler to not go against my natural instincts. Sewing is one of my hobbies. A project is completed in a more timely manner if I have the supplies a week ahead of time instead of six months. I say there is no right or wrong in this situation. I don’t fight it anymore. Different strokes for different folks.

    • Diana, it sounds as if you might also be what’s called a “right frontal” thinker. To other people, your space looks cluttered, but YOU know exactly where everything is. You tell somebody, “Go into my office, and as you stand facing the desk, look to your left. There are three stacks. In the middle stack is a piece of blue paper turned sideways. Look about half an inch below that, and you’ll find my January timesheets.” When somebody who thinks like this puts everything away, they can’t find anything, and they lose track of the to-do list.

      Ask me how I know this.

  2. Life gets in my way of the things I really need (want) to do. I never feel caught up and it’s not a question of procrastination in my case.

    Take the last two weeks for example: last week, the bee-u-ti-ful pine tree in front of our house died (it was deadeadead within weeks)from Pine Wilt. We loved it and noticed it was rusty-brown, the whole thing from top to bottom, and we know it wasn’t like that the beginning of May. It had to be removed and then, because it was infected with the critters causing the Pine Wilt, had to be disposed of correctly. I had to arrange all of those things and no, I wouldn’t allow Hubby to do since it was so close to the house AND the infected tree and all it’s branched/needles had to be disposed of properly. Sigh… took hours of phone calls to find out all that as well as scheduling the removal (the next day because it was an emergency)and then sticking around for the folks to do their jobs.

    This week, my autistic son, who is one of the most graceful people I know, developed an odd gait. He’s never *walked funny* like many people with autism so it was quite upsetting. Bottom line: he had a lumbar shift and, we had to physically manipulate him to get him back into alignment. The physical therapist told us to do it with him every 2/3 hours so that’s what we’re doing. He’s better but we still have to do it.

    Wish I could procrastinate… sounds like a luxury. Sigh. 🙂

    • Somebody told me that parenting is “an extended emergency,” and I think homeowning and owning old cars (or maybe an old body) fits into the same category. No let up, no breathing room. I hope the clouds part at least a little soon, because a little emergency goes a long way.

  3. Most of my life I would classify myself as a “moderate” procrastinator, but now that I have retired I’ve become quite expert at it (smile). I’m not sure if that is a good or bad thing.

    Looking forward to reading JACK. He will be on my kindle come Tuesday, but a signed paper copy would always be welcomed.

    • Mary, I’m amazed at how little I can get done in the course of a day, whether I’m home or at the law office. I have a special skills, I guess. There’s some optimal balance of having stuff to do that I like, stuff to do that I don’t like, and time. I haven’t found the best way to stack the deck… yet.

  4. I am a moderate procrastinator. My work life is very organized. I make a task list and work through it.
    Home, well that’s another story. I have my routine with the dogs and keep the kitchen tidy.
    But, my best work gets done at the kitchen table with papers, pens and corgis underfoot. I’d rather be walking the dogs than cleaning the house.
    I spent quiet time in the mornings before work with my dogs. We sit on the back deck. They listen to the birds and watch for the neighbor’s huge white cat while I have for me.
    Thanks for offering Jack via Gumroad. He was my guilty pleasure this weekend. Great characters….loved the townsfolk…and I loved the ending.

    • Sue, because I know you’re a book connoisseur, your thumbs up means a lot.

      I find I’m also capable of hitting a list, but too much of it, and I have to rebel in some other sphere. Thanks goodness the writing is for fun, because if that ever got to be something on the do to list, I think I’d be in trouble. I can’t put the books off, and I also can’t go over a manuscript many times in succession. I have to make haste slowly.

  5. Most of the time at work, I can’t procrastinate – retail works that way. If I have the time when I am resetting merchandise, I’ll put together a set with a few items and complete another task before revisiting the set to complete it. At home, I’m more likely to procrastinate – but usually with the chores that can’t really be improved by innovation such as house cleaning . . . . Although occasionally, someone else will do the job so I don’t have to (few and far between occurrences of this, but sometimes I get lucky).

    I’m looking forward to finding Jack on my Kindle Tuesday!

  6. Procrastinate – I wish I could! I’m my own worst enemy because the “responsible” gene kicks in and I have to do whatever needs doing NOW. Luckily for everyone my husband also gets things done, mostly, but with a good serve of humour and “if it is important, it will still be there tomorrow”.

    • “Nobody steals your work,” was something I first heard in law school, as a professor’s attempt to put the 3000 billable hours a year into perspective. So you take a day off–the work WILL be there.

      While your health, and your relationships…. erm.

  7. This blog post and the last brought tears to my eyes because BOTH are things I really needed to read. I’m a lawyer living temporarily in Europe and about to move from my former home to another state. Lots and lots of change, most of which is good. But change is scary too. Right now, we are cooling our heels for a few weeks before the busy begins in earnest. Yes, I DO think time to think is critical. With two little ones its not always easy to find that time. I’m convinced that making the time is one of the most important things we can do.

    • Everybody tells you that some day, you’ll miss the day-to-day stress of raising small children. That’s not quite how I view it. I miss that I didn’t take time to enjoy my daughter when she was small, because I was all about the groceries, the bills, and the housework, when I wasn’t earning a paycheck.

      We will never get those years back. You’re smart to keep the parenting close to center stage, despite the stress. There are plenty of other lawyers in the world, but those kids have only one mom.

  8. I am doing some archivist work on a volunteer project. We are starting from scratch. I am excited, but don’t know what I am doing. I am trying to work with mature ladies who are not in a rush and don’t do e-mail. My girlfriend is very much A type personality who lives on her phone. I have agreed to a 3 year term, so we’ll see what happens. I understand that the ladies prefer a personal touch and want to get to know me, my girlfriend just wants to send an e-mail and get it done.

  9. I like to take things at a leisurely pace because it is simply more enjoyable to me. And this makes me feel less self-damning about my personal approach:

    “Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” –Albert Einstein

    Looking forward to Jack on my Kindle in the a.m.!

    • I have never seen that quote from Einstein before, though I know his teachers thought he was slow and lacked self-discipline. My dad’s teachers sent a note home once that he was a nice boy, but he needed to develop “bookish inclinations.” I think he got his PhD in part just to show those teachers they were wrong.

  10. I put off things I really don’t want to do-like housework! ugh but I have adopted a routine of cleaning one room one day and another the next day. To me, it doesn’t have to all be done in one day.
    Your book sounds really good.

    • Somebody told me a long time ago that if there’s a task I loathe, then a) break it down into manageable chunks, and b) get it out of the way earlier in the day, so the funk of it doesn’t cling to me past the working hours. When I can follow that advice, I’m more productive.

      When I can.

  11. loved reading everyone’s comments on here. I am also looking forward to reading Jack on my kindle. Naturally I am rather an AC DC on again off again in spurts procrastinator driven then procrastinator then driven type person when I am at my leisure. When I taught my students called me the slavedriver and I only stayed structured and driving ( i.e. non procrastinating) on their behalf because I knew my tendency growing up was to procrastinate and I knew the importance of learning to meet deadlines. Housekeeping of course procrastination. Packing procrastination. I love to meander as well when I explore whether researching or traveling unless I am making arrangements and helping someone else and trying to make it special for them – then it is overly driven and focused and I drive my family crazy. I am also one of those who can find something in a pile easily on my desk visually but if it is filed out of sight it is totally and forever lost to me. Right now I am procrastinating getting my dining room table cleaned off where I used it for workspace spillover from my office.

    • Another visual/spatial thinker!
      One of my brothers has those two speeds–idle and overdrive. He’s great at both. When he’s idling, it’s barefeet and cold beer, and when he’s in overdrive, he can literally build a house.

      I’m more of a turtle. A great, big, peaceful turtle, when it comes to physical energy. The mental energy is the bunny rabbit. Sometimes, I’m going 90 miles an hour standing still. You know exactly what I mean, I’m guessing.