How Being Late and Procrastination Helped Me Grow Up

Crusties in my eyes

The room is full of soft chatter and the light clicking of keyboards. Eleven students cluster around their computers, and I sit at the front of the room, my dress shoes facing forward and my eyes wide open.

It’s a far cry from three weeks ago.

Ever since high school I’ve been cultivating a habit, and it is (or was, thank God) very much a bad one. Maybe you got into the habit, too: staying up late. Gone were the days of early bed times; these were the nights of my youth, and I spent them with a vengeance. Even without the help of a gaming system (my first Xbox coincided with my first year of college, thanks to a tuition refund), I still averaged a bed time of midnight or later. I’ve maintained it ever since.

Some may say they do their best work at night, but if I was really truthful I couldn’t tell you it was for productive reasons. Sure, there was the occasional night spent working on a short film or essay for college, but for the most part it was books, internet, gaming, or staying out with friends. With each passing year my body’s clock was impressed more and more with a nocturnal emphasis. But in spite of all that, somehow I was still able to get up in the morning. I still managed to drag my tired body out of bed and make it to my 8am lecture classes.

I must be getting old, because that ability has fled. A decade of staying up late has caught up with me, as I was horrifically reminded of three weeks ago.

I woke to pounding on the front door. The room was dim and blurry. I scrounged for my phone, blinked at the glaring screen. My blood ran cold. I was two and a half hours past my alarm going off. I was late for picking up a coworker and arriving at work. Worst of all, I was late for my first teaching session with a new batch of media students. Several calls and texts were missed. The pounding was from the fist of a worried co-worker.

As I drove to the school to teach the few students who had waited for me, I asked the Lord why he hadn’t woken me up. I knew I couldn’t fully accuse him, but I also couldn’t help from asking why.

He gave the perfect parenting expression: a grim smile, a slight shrug of the shoulders. “You gotta learn,” he said.

As stated, today is three weeks later. I’ve gotten up at least by 7:30am or earlier ever since—a goal I’ve been trying to reach for the last two years. I’m actually tired by 11pm, rather than just catching my second wind. I’m able to get to work on time, or get to class and teach about editing with a clear mind. And no crusties in my eyes.

That pesky, helpful habit

As long as we’re on the topic of high school habits, let’s talk about procastination.

Somehow it’s not just a high school thing, though, because I still do it all the time. Except instead of essays or book reports now it’s paying rent, folding my laundry because Mom isn’t going to, doing the dishes, taking my car in for a tune-up, mowing the lawn—sheesh, what’s up with all these grown-up things? I always wanted to grow up, but I thought it would be more exciting.

Of course, it really is more exciting. I live in a new city, I have new friends, I don’t have to tell anyone when I spend the night at a friend’s house. You know, all of the exciting things of adulthood. But there are still things to be done, and that pesky habit of procrastination still stays my hand.

Which is why I’ve started using it to my advantage.

For a while at work I used procrastination in the wrong way. Rather than buckle down and address the creative projects in front of me, I took frequent breaks on Facebook or Twitter. I checked tech blogs and news sites, thinking it was okay because my creative mind needed a break.

There were two downsides, one obvious, one insidiously hidden:

  1. I didn’t get work done
  2. I had too much on my mind

The second one revealed itself during a production meeting. We were talking about current projects and upcoming ones and what we needed for that conference and who we could possibly hire to help out with—and I just couldn’t keep it all in my mind. I was thinking about what my friends were posting on Facebook and what that tech writer might be posting about the latest gadget. I had too much on my mind.

So I decided to stop. When I was at work I would focus on work, and all that other stuff I could check later.

Crazy thought, I know. But it’s helped immeasurably. When the urge comes to check Facebook, I tell myself, “You’ll get to do that, but later. You’re at work, so focus on work.” Now I’m getting projects done. I’m able to wrap my mind around all that we need to do. And when I get home at night, I have a day’s worth of content to peruse while I make dinner.

Learning to be an adult

When I was in high school, I looked at the seniors and marveled. They had facial hair and looked so mature. I couldn’t wait to get that old. Years later, I often feel like I’m still waiting to get there.

But these past few weeks have started to change that. I’m getting up in the morning, and I’m getting things done. I think I’m finally starting to feel grown up. The process kind of hurt, but the Lord is patiently teaching me how to be an adult.

Having a beard doesn’t hurt, either.

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