Today is Yesterday’s Tomorrow

Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? Isn’t that the procrastinator’s creed? It seems to be mine some days. I put the ‘pro’ in procrastination! Too cheesy? Sorry.

Time blindness and executive dysfunction are probably contributing factors to my tendency to procrastinate. Take this blog, for example. Yet again, I lost track of time this week, and Wednesday morning is already here. Holidays really mess up my routines. Anyway, just in case you aren’t familiar with these terms, I’ll do my best to explain them before jumping into my experience with them.

Time blindness refers to an inability to recognize how much time is passing or to understand how long a task will actually take, according to an article found on the Cleveland Clinic’s website (“What is Time Blindness? And Why Does It Happen?”). 

People who experience time blindness are often late, or they are early to avoid being late. (In my case, I enter “wait mode” and can’t focus on anything else except waiting for the time when I need to leave or when someone is coming.) Even if it’s something they do on a regular basis, the understanding of how long a certain length of time is just doesn’t seem to exist. 

Time blindness can lead to someone losing chunks of time to activities in which they get absorbed. Video games are usually a go-to example for this, but almost anything can trigger this loss of time - reading, watching tv, looking around your yard for tiny plants and bugs to use as macro photography subjects…. It happens to all of us at some point, but it happens to some of us all the time. Apparently, it’s a “consequence of hyperfocus,” as found in the Cleveland Clinic article mentioned above.

Executive dysfunction is more easily understood if you understand what normal executive functions are. According to another entry on the Cleveland Clinic’s website, the three main categories of executive function include: working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibition control. 

Working memory helps you remember what you are taking in or doing right now, in the moment. Cognitive flexibility allows you to move from one task to another, or one topic to another, assisting in adapting to unexpected changes and using creative problem-solving. Inhibition control refers to controlling your thoughts, emotions, and actions. Other executive functions that stem from these include planning, reasoning, and problem-solving.

When any of these are not functioning properly, it can result in a person:

  • being easily distracted and having a hard time refocusing on the task at hand.

  • either focusing too much or too little on one thing.

  • daydreaming when there is work to be done

  • having a difficult time planning tasks or moving from one task to the next.

  • being impulsive (can anyone say “late night snacks!” and “shopping spree!”).

  • finding it difficult to put into words what they are thinking. 

In my experience, these two symptoms mix together, making it really difficult to get things done in a timely manner, unless the deadline is right upon me and it has to be done NOW. Hence procrastination. 

Some things I have trouble with:

  • Not remembering when I’ve scheduled something and double-booking events.

  • Getting distracted from what I’m doing and having a hard time getting focused on the task again.

  • Losing track of time while doing things I enjoy or when something has all of my attention.

  • Adding too many items to my week’s to-do list because I don’t realize how long each thing will take, then feeling bad about not getting everything done. 

  • Finding it difficult to get started on a task because the steps involved are overwhelming me.

  • Forgetting to do things because my routine has been interrupted or abandoned for a time.

  • Feeling guilty because I want to do “the thing,” and I know I can do “the thing,” but my brain isn’t letting me do “the thing.”

  • Allowing my space to fall into unorganized chaos because the process of reorganizing is too overwhelming.

  • Being unable to focus because my space has fallen into disorganized chaos, and it’s distracting me.

  • Not being able to take all the ideas in my head and form them into words to add to a reasonable to-do list.

  • Being impulsive when it comes to snacking mindlessly and buying new musical instruments and art supplies (anyone need a theremin?).

Some tips and tricks I’ve learned that can help (some are simple, and probably obvious to most people, but if you have any other tips, let me know!):

  • Using the calendar on my phone to keep track of planned events. (It’s not foolproof, but it helps.)

  • Listening to soundtrack music to help keep my mind from wandering.

  • Taking time to slow down and carefully think through how long each item on my to-do list will take, and planning the day accordingly.

  • Sticking to a routine so that things like exercise, hygiene, and rest don’t get missed. (I’ve been doing a really bad job of remembering to exercise each day, aside from walking my dog.)

  • Setting a timer for a few minutes and committing to cleaning up what I can of my space in that short amount of time. (A friend shared that tip with me from some resources she had found.)

  • Breaking “the thing” down into manageable steps and setting out to do just the first step. This gets the ball rolling, and the momentum of that usually carries me through the rest of the task.

  • Before purchasing something, making myself stop and ask, “Is this purchase a necessary item? Am I shopping with my emotions or do I actually need it to complete a task? Is there a different way to do something so that I don’t need to make this purchase? Can I make this thing myself?” (I don’t always succeed in fending off impulsive purchases - just ask my family, but I have done better than I did in the past.)

So, while I definitely struggle with making the most of my time some days, I continue to try to use most of my time well. I still procrastinate, even though I’m working for myself on things I enjoy, and time still gets away from me. But as the bio on my Instagram account says, I’ll keep striving to “make a little change every day.” 

Did you catch the Nickole and Dymes reference there? A little change. Get it? ;)

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