Purposeful procrastination: A metablog

When is procrastination necessary? When is it not? How can finding a balance be beneficial to you and your students?

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.

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