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Purposeful procrastination: A metablog

As a part of our communications lab launch here on the CTQ website (shameless plug--all Collaboratory members are welcome to join!), we are asking some of our writers to take a step into their process and help their peers through reflection and explanation of their processes.

My post was due over a month ago.

Procrastination is my constant plague.

The problem is never in finding a desire to write. The problem is in figuring out how to prioritize it.

Today I have a to-do list that includes the following:

  • Revise my meta-blog
  • Grade 60 Great Gatsby quizzes
  • Grade 60 Othello seminar prep sheets
  • Grade 30 synthesis charts
  • Enter grades into the gradebook
  • Call parents of failing students
  • Visit two of my instructional coaching classrooms
  • Work with one of my special needs students on improving her writing scores
  • Finish laundry
  • Pick up a prescription
  • Call my mom

While your tasks might be different than mine, I’m sure your list is no less daunting. As a teacher-writer, I constantly struggle with where my writing will fit.

I know it has the potential for impact and/or catharsis, but how can you chose what feels like a selfish activity over catching up or keeping up with the hundreds of student papers you collect each week? What should take first priority—my teaching or my writing?

I know that writing is important for me. That is why it always stays on my to-do list, even if I don't manage to do it. As a teacher of writing, it is essential in my mind to be a writer. I need to be able to share my struggles and practice with my students.

When I do make time for my writing, the greatest benefit to me as a teacher is how the process builds empathy for my students. I may have higher stakes and expectations for myself, but I'd wager that their anxiety about deadlines and craftsmanship are similar. Reflecting on this reminds me to allow for more messiness—and authenticity—for their writing process.

On the flip side, there are things that I can learn from my students as well. Even thought it is a constant source of frustration for me as their deadline keeper, they have a much better sense of balance in regards to their personal and “professional” lives. They don’t have nearly the guilt over choosing to prioritize free time. And that priority often makes them better students and humans.

I sometimes think that our adult tendency to be tied down by our to-do lists makes us neglect our humanness more than is healthy.  

Am I advocating the complete breakdown of a deadline system? No. My editor would not like that. Am I advocating that we, as teachers and writers, recognize our limits and allow ourselves to be human within those limits? Absolutely.

Procrastination for the sake of sanity is advisable.

So now I’d like to know more about you. What are your struggles? What are your strategies? Where is your balance of productivity and procrastination?

While you think about that, I’m going to go call my mom and take advantage of the opportunity to check two things off my list.

5 Comments

Lauren Hill commented on November 15, 2013 at 11:36am:

Oh my

This perfectly describes my everyday.  Thank you for articulating it so well.  I'd write and reflect more, but this isn't on today's list. I'll just say an emphatic thank you and get back to work.

Lauren

Kris Giere commented on November 15, 2013 at 4:48pm:

Allowances

What a powerful point:

Am I advocating that we, as teachers and writers, recognize our limits and allow ourselves to be human within those limits? Absolutely.

This is where I struggle most: allowing myself to be a human with limits.  Too often, I try to take it all on, not because I don't trust other or because I think I can do it best.  No, I try to tackle it all at once because I feel responsible.  I don't want to have limits because that means that I will let someone down who might need my help.  In the end, I find myself trying to do too much, and instead, I struggle just to keep up.  What gets sacrificed often are those things like writing or reading or socializing.  Some times, I feel like procrastination is less about drive and more about balance.

How can we balance that to-do list with our humanness indeed!

Sarah Goodis-Orenstein commented on November 16, 2013 at 12:09pm:

Amen

It is so refreshing to see similar sentiments to my own on your blog! I oftentimes find myself demanding work-life balance by, seemingly, making my life harder. I'll stay up later to watch TV or to read, or I'll put off grading a batch of quizzes so I can meet up with friends. I know the work will still get done, and that I am often more efficient when working under deadlines, as I imagine many others are, but I still struggle to quiet the voice in my head that insinuates I would be a better teacher if I poured even more of my time into my curriculum, grading, etc. 

Thank you for the reminder that it's ok to be human: "I sometimes think that our adult tendency to be tied down by our to-do lists makes us neglect our humanness more than is healthy."

Paul commented on November 20, 2013 at 10:48am:

I know that writing is

I know that writing is important for me. That is why it always stays on my to-do list, even if I don't manage to do it.

Jessica, nice reflection.  As for me, I feel like something is missing if I don't get around to writing.  I'll gladly put aside a stack of papers to grade if I feel like I have something to say, a reflection to write, or a required post for CTQ:).  The bottom line is, there are very few teachers out there with the desire to fit writing into their busy lives.  It's wonderful to be a part of this community, interacting with others who somehow fit in the practice.  I'm looking forward to posting in the Communication lab myself.

Bill Ivey commented on November 22, 2013 at 12:37am:

Me too.

Although technically anyone can write for our school blog, and there are at least five of us with specific bylines, in practice I end up writing around 90% of our entries, and some people actually call it "Bill's blog." To be sure, my contract calls for writing one essay each fortnight (originally to be included in the Middle School newsletter, those essays have been moved to the school blog in order to reach a larger audience), and moreover, as a (part time) member of the Communications department, I feel pressure to keep it up to date. And yet, no matter how much prep I have or how far behind on corrections I am (usually embarrassingly far), writing is an imperative to me. It's how I figure things out for myself, it's a way of teaching other people, it's a way of supporting my friends, it's a way of celebrating my students, and ultimately it's a means of trying to promote the cause of social justice if only within my own teeny tiny little sphere of influence.

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