Just Do It: When “Being Intentional” is Code for “Procrastination”

Abby was almost three weeks old the day Dave decided to screen in the porch.  We lived in base housing in Hawaii, with a nice little lanai on the back.  The trouble was, even though the weather was perpetually gorgeous, the flies were terrible.  Sitting outside was inevitably a short-lived endeavor.

So one day, with a newborn baby snoozing in the Pack-n-Play and a wife recovering from a C-section, my husband struck up the following conversation.

Dave: This porch would be so much nicer with a screen!

Me: Yeah, that would be nice!

That was the whole conversation.

The next thing I knew, he was scrounging through the junk drawer for his measuring tape.  After a few minutes huddled over a legal pad with a calculator, ruler, and pencil, he was in the car, off to the hardware store.

I couldn’t tell you how he did it, even though I sat there and watched the whole thing go down.  But by the end of the day, we had a screen hanging around our porch.  It was awesome.  And by that, I mean, I was literally in awe.

Easter grass
Photo by Jordan Sanders

The way he tackles problems is so foreign to me.  The idea of screening in a porch myself would never occur to me in the first place, but if by chance it did, I would need much more time to process the how and when, and I would likely get overwhelmed before I ever got started.

He just got up and did it. I can’t tell you how amazing that was.

Procrastination is a trait that runs deep in me. I’ve known this for years. But sometimes I still manage to amaze myself.  I have found that I can even procrastinate by telling myself I’m being intentional.  (It sounds impossible, but trust me, it’s true.)

Things I Do That I Claim are Intentionality But Are Really Procrastination

Do (too much) Research

When there’s something I want to do that seems daunting, I tell myself that I need to research the best method. Take potty training.  I was so worried about the logistics of potty training my daughter that I spent months reading all the blogs, watching all the YouTube videos and asking all my mom friends for their best advice.  I researched ad nauseum, trying to find the perfect plan that would guarantee quick success and minimal frustration.  After several months of this, I found myself holding a mountain of contradictory information and a 3-year-old who was still very much in diapers.

Make (an overly complicated) Plan

At the beginning of 2018 I made a list of 18 goals I wanted to complete this year.  One of them was “Establish phone-free times and zones.”  Just like with potty training, I tried to do some research.  Only this time, I didn’t even read the books I found on the subject of phone addiction and technology management.  I skimmed them, while listening to podcasts on the topic.  In my mind, I was working out when would be the ideal times, weighing one day against another and mapping it all out.  Then I’d get overwhelmed and scroll Instagram.

Wait for the “Perfect” Time

We live in a gated community that has two lanes at the entrance.  In the left lane, visitors stop to speak to the security guard and get a written pass with an expiration date.  In the right lane, residents with fancy electronic passes breeze through the automatic gate.  When we first moved in, it took me months to get the electronic pass.  Not because it was so complicated, but because they have specific hours when they apply them, and I had it in my head that I couldn’t do it with my daughter in the car (because you have to get out and go inside a building to fill out forms.)  I held out, waiting for the stars to align so that I was in the car alone during the right time frame.  It never happened.  So I spent a lot of time sitting in the visitor line.

anniversary backs

In all of these cases, I told myself I was being intentional when in reality, I was just procrastinating.  And in all of those cases, the thing finally got done when I abandoned all my overthinking, adopted my husband’s method, and just got up and did it.

Abby’s potty training? On a random Thursday when she got up from her nap, I told her she wasn’t wearing diapers any more.  We had a few messes and cleaned up a few accidents, but after a couple days, she was fine.

Going phone free?  One Friday afternoon around 4:00, I got fed up with my own mindless scrolling and impulsively deleted all my social media apps, plus one addictive game.  I left them uninstalled all weekend.  It was a little hard but mostly awesome.

Electronic pass for the car?  One sunny day I pulled in the gate, and decided on the spot to stop, get Abby out of her seat, and go inside.  20 minutes later she had a cupcake from the security guards and I had a fancy electronic sticker on my car that opens the gate and saves me so much time!

If I had been the one responsible for the porch screen, I would have spent way too much time on Pinterest and Youtube, figuring out the best materials and methods.  Then I would have agonized about whether I needed permission from the housing office to put something extra on the porch.  Then I would have thought about it and put it on the calendar for a perfect Saturday down the road (when inevitably something would come up).  It would then get put off for weeks until I abandoned it all together.

His way was better. He got the satisfaction of completing a project during his paternity leave.

I got a valuable lesson in avoiding procrastination.

And we all got a year of porch sitting, sans flies.


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