Planners Vs. Procrastinators: Of Control Freaks and Slackers

I am not a control freak… except when it comes to my own time.

Despite being a pretty social person, I could essentially see myself as a loner who happens to be outgoing and have good people skills.  But my personal time is closely guarded.  And I happened to marry someone who is the same way.  That means when friends invite us last minute to an event, the answer is usually no.  On the other hand, we are such planners that if friends invite us to an event at least several days in advance, we will definitely be there.  Not only that, we will not back out of the plans or be late.

Because we are such planners, every day is already accounted for: even if the event we already planned is to “do nothing” for the afternoon.  We don’t prioritize our calendar’s events based on the seemingly most exciting thing going on.  Instead, we go by what was planned first.  I think the psychological reason behind this is that one of my biggest pet peeves is being interrupted; jumping on board with last minute plans is an interruption to my schedule.

While there are so many elements in life I can not control, my schedule is something I am able to have a decent amount of control over.  My schedule is my time; my time is my life; if I can control my time, I am therefore able to control my own life.  I may not be able to control other people, but I am able to be in driver’s seat of my own life.  Not shotgun or in the sidecar.

Heckler from the crowd: “You just wait ‘til that baby gets here… He’ll be the one controlling your calendar from now on!” Right, I get that, but… we will still find a way, to the best of our ability, to “find a method to the madness”.  (I have this habit of placing clichés into quotation marks.) Because that’s what we “control freaks of our own lives” do.  We are wired that way.  The schedule will be built around the unpredictability of a newborn, yet still in some sense, there will be a schedule and consistency.

The irony here is this: For so many of the things in life we think we have no control over, we still can choose how we react to those situations; therefore, having control over the situations.  I used to get irritated when I would be two minutes late to work on occasion.  Because I couldn’t understand why if I left at the same time every morning, sometimes I would be two minutes early, sometimes on time, and sometimes two minutes late.  Then I realized that in order to never be late, I just needed to leave five minutes earlier, causing me to always beat school buses, grannies, illegal immigrants who always drive 25 miles an hour because they are driving without insurance, and the rest of the phase of commuters like me who all left at the same time.  But now, I outsmart them all.  They no longer have control over my life (and my stress level).

Of course, not all annoying things in life can literally be planned around or outsmarted.  But when that’s the case, I remind myself that either I am in control… or the event is in control.  If my Internet isn’t working right, then I shut off my laptop and find something else to do- I don’t allow myself to become irritated over a piece of technology.  If someone is tailgating me while I’m driving the speed limit, I pull over and let them pass.  I just know that if I’m am consistently getting stressed multiple times a day and I can feel my blood pressure going up, the problem is not the problem itself.  The problem is me and how I am choosing to react.  I have to choose to be in control of my own sense of well-being, if nothing else.

I am a planner.  I can plan around certain uncertainty.  I can plan around my own unrealistic expectations.  I can even plan to be spontaneous.  But even then, I still plan for it.


Take This Year’s New Year’s Resolutions Seriously Because Convenient Procrastination is Self-Sabotage.

“No more messing around and living underground and New Year’s resolutions… To tell you the truth I’ve said it before; tomorrow I start in a new direction.” –excerpt from the song “Come Downstairs and Say Hello” by Guster

A general rule of life that I have stumbled upon more recently is this: If I really wanted to be doing something, I would already be doing it. And if I don’t yet have the means to do it, I will save the money to afford it or study the material to become qualified or expose myself to the daily discipline and patience it takes to accomplish the goal. So in theory, nothing is holding me back from doing anything I want to do. Not even myself is holding me back.

And really, we ourselves are often the biggest obstacle keeping us from accomplishing our goals. For the most part.

People are consistently late to events because they consistently leave the house 10 minutes late. Not because of an alarm clock or too many red lights.

Some people consistently set themselves up for failure. Not because they themselves are failures or are incapable of change, but because they don’t truly want to accomplish the goal. As the 4th grade cliché goes, they are simply not applying themselves. Subconsciously, they are assuring themselves they won’t have to make an inconvenient change.

The biggest red flag I know of is the sure-to-fail system we call New Year’s Resolutions. Two of America’s most popular resolutions every year are to lose weight and quit smoking. But the holidays are filled with constant stressful situations and plentiful meals of comfort food. So people wait until the testing time is over (January 1st), trying to outsmart the system. It’s easier to “start over” in the New Year. But like uncooked spaghetti thrown at a wall, it doesn’t stick.

The holidays are the necessary boot camp, the true test whether a person is serious about making a lifestyle change. The new year isn’t a magical time that makes things suddenly easier.

The argument is that some people need goals to be motivated. I am one of them. But to set a goal further out into the future for no other reason other than convenient procrastination is self-sabotage.