The Learning Curve – Putting It Off

Well, December has arrived and my well-laid plans to have all three courses finished by the end of this month are on wobbly ground right now. The joys of being able to study in my jammies, curl up on the couch with a good novel and call it ?studying,? and not finish the assignment this week if I don’t feel like it are, at this moment in time, being overshadowed by that other joy of distance education?procrastination.

I studied by correspondence while taking my accounting designation. Living on a Gulf island, correspondence and distance education make sense. It relieves one of the pain of getting in the ferry lineup, going over to the Big Island (Vancouver Island) and driving up to the local university college.

That whole experience could take at least seven hours from start to finish, counting the three hours in class if you took just one course that day. This is mainly because you can’t rely on the ferry being on time, hence the necessity to take a ferry earlier than you actually need and, depending on the time of day you need to go in, not always getting on the ferry you want. So studying part-time at a bricks and mortar school is a huge time waster.

The difference between taking my accounting designation and my Athabasca studies is that, being accountants, we’re rather anal retentive, and the accounting association insisted that I submit assignments weekly. And I could only take one course at a time. And I could only register three times a year. And I had to take the exam on a specified date in a specified place. And on and on the requirements went. So, all this newfound freedom of registering when I want, for what I want, and sending in assignments in my own sweet time, while picking a favourite day on the calendar for an exam, is rather giddying.

Naturally, like everybody else, I can justify procrastination. Well, I’m busy aren’t I? I have contract work to complete. I volunteer. There’s the house to take care of. A demanding husband. The cat needs feeding. And It’s snowing.

It all started to fall apart when my husband noted that the only thing he demands of me is that I manage to get myself to the table to eat the meals he cooks; that he feeds the cat; that a woman comes by every second week to clean the house; and that, yes, It’s snowing outside but I’m not going anywhere am I? I confess. It’s all true.

So why am I only on assignment 2 of my French course when I carefully planned I’d be finished all five assignments and both essays by this date? Why am I still struggling with the contemplative essay for English, when the final research paper should be in progress? (Why I’m still on project 1 for COMP 200 is easier to answer: I have no idea what I’m doing!)

If you Google the word ?procrastination,? the search returns 819,000 entries. Most of these entries tell us why we procrastinate: we find more enjoyable things to do. What PhD figured that one out, I wonder?

One entry suggests that as soon as I receive a big assignment, I should plan to spend ten to 15 minutes a day working on it and then, golly, by the end of a week I will have spent an hour on it. It neglects to tell me by the end of which week.

My favourite professional development course put on by our accounting association is Time Management. I’ve been to so many that I can sleep through it. I know all about making lists. I’m familiar with the A, B, C rule: prioritize all your tasks using A, B, and C. The C tasks get done if you have time; the A tasks need to be done now.

The problem I’ve always found is that the C tasks tend to be more fun and/or easier to accomplish. So, my personal list always has me searching the Internet for the next kayak trip (a dubious C task) before designing a relational database (a recognized A task).

I like the idea that I procrastinate because I’m a perfectionist, as one Internet source suggests. It’s not true, but I like the idea. I’m particularly partial to the blogger who says I shouldn’t fight procrastination; I should just procrastinate well. I’m not quite sure what procrastinating well entails, but I’m sure I’m up to the task.

What I do know is that I have managed to spend a Sunday afternoon writing this article as opposed to finishing the essay and preparing for a French oral assignment that I should have done two weeks ago.

Never mind; there’s always tomorrow.

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