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The Funny Thing about Procrastination

Thursday morning, I started working on a little project that has been sitting unfinished on my desk at home for FOUR YEARS!!!!

The wee task is culling and properly storing the photos I took in the many years when I was doing a lot of travel writing. They have been sitting in little yellow boxes and ancient plastic slide sheets in a blue steamer trunk. The trunk was full. Thousands of pictures of places I’ve been: Jerusalem, Krakov, Quito, Kerala, Chapel Hill…

In the late fall of 2006, I realized that, if I wanted to keep any of them, they would have to be put in archival plastic sheets, not the kind that stick to the emulsion.

And so I began.

You might think that this would be a very pleasant project, and it is, but just too large, and such an interruption of my precious reading-and-crossword-puzzles leisure time. Also there’s the enormous number of slides, all reminding me of a moment, and each one requiring a decision: keep or toss. Toss? Keep.

So I allowed myself to be distracted by a teaching assignment. Now, almost exactly four years later, I’m back to the slides again, and determined to finish. I’m only a couple of inches from the bottom of the trunk.

What I discovered was that I could have finished what was left of this project in one weekend, and done it long ago.

I can probably wrap it up now in three or four nostalgic hours. The feeling of actually getting close to the end is wonderful.

This phenomenon was well-described in a recent Daily Om message. Here’s how it begins:

“Most of us have had the experience of tackling some dreaded task only to come out the other side feeling invigorated, filled with a new sense of confidence and strength. The funny thing is, most of the time when we do them, we come out on the other side changed and often wondering what we were so worried about or why it took us so long. We may even begin to look for other tasks we’ve been avoiding so that we can feel that same heady mix of excitement and completion.”

I can’t say that I’m currently hunting other stale mega-projects to tackle, but maybe when the last slide goes to its permanent home. Then I’ll see the amount of space in the room and exult. I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

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