I’m a procrastinator. I will not deny that. I find that I work better when nearing a deadline. I focus more, because I realize that yes, I absolutely need to have this project done by X day/time. I hunker down and get things done under the wire. If projects don’t have a deadline and I’m just making them for a gift, or to (eventually) list for sale on my website, I almost never complete them. I found myself getting into this habit in college. I’m pretty sure I understand why, too.
Back in my grade/middle/high school days, my mom never had to say to me “Do your homework.” I came home from school and sat down and did my homework. I held myself accountable. I wanted to get good grades and make my mom proud of me. The idea that my mom might be disappointed by me was a HUGE motivator. Because my mom was (and still is) the coolest person ever. And here’s why.
My parents split when I was young. Kindergarten? First grade? I don’t remember exactly. But I know the exact moment when I found out their divorce had been finalized. I was in third grade. My mom collected me and my sisters from school that day and we drove from Michigan to Pennsylvania to attend my cousin’s wedding. My mom had told us that we wouldn’t be able to go to the wedding if the divorce hadn’t been finalized. But we went. So it was. Though, third grade was a long time ago so it’s entirely possible that I just made all of that up in my brain.
So there’s my mom. Single. Raising three kids essentially alone. In a place where she had no family but her daughters. (We had moved from Pennsylvania, away from her family and friends, because my dad had gotten a job in Michigan.) She had to get a job, something she had never intended on doing after becoming a mother. She had to figure out finances, daycare for 3 kids, having a social life, and making it seem like everything was hunky-dory for her daughters who weren’t really old enough to understand relationships and how life works.
And it was rough. For all 4 of us. For a long time. But we all tried to make the best of it. One year for Christmas, my mom bought each of us a Game Boy. TO THIS DAY I cannot figure out how she pulled that off. But I’m eternally grateful that she somehow managed it.
But here’s the thing. I grew up watching my mom work, and work HARD. She had 2 jobs; she took ballroom dance lessons and worked hard at that too. When we got older, we became latchkey kids. We looked after ourselves, and each other. Sometimes we failed at that. Two specific memories of me failing to be a good older sister to Amanda come to mind. (Sorry you broke your collarbone. But really, it was your own fault. Love you!) But our mom trusted us to come home safely, to have a snack, sit down, do our homework, and generally behave while she was working to keep us clothed and fed and cared for.
So I worked hard because mom worked hard. Luckily I was somehow one of those people who didn’t really have to study too hard in order to succeed. I feel like if I had actually done some serious amounts of studying, I would’ve done much better. I mean, I DID maintain an A average, but you know those kids who somehow manage to get a GPA above a 4.0? Yeah, those guys were jerks.
And I think my ability to get by without studying really killed my motivation. When I went to college, there wasn’t as much “busy” work as in high school. No teachers were saying “complete this set of math equations by class tomorrow, it will be graded.” It was more like “Oh hey, if you don’t study this stuff, you’ll probably fail?” But since I could sit in class and take notes and still do well on exams without having daily homework, I basically just cut down on the amount of time I spent staring at textbooks, on the amount of time I did actual work.
What about writing papers, you ask? I’ve been knocking those out of the park since elementary school. I LOVE looking stuff up and learning things, however briefly my silly brain retains them, and then trying to impart them to others. So I coasted by in college. I was on the dean’s list nearly every semester, and I managed to get into grad school and get an advanced degree, but there was never really any pressure to get “homework” done by a specific time or date. And so I started putting things off, and putting them off. And TO THIS VERY DAY I look at the project I’m working on and what it entails, then turn to the calendar and think “yeah, this doesn’t need to be worked on until …. next week?”
I need people other than myself to hold me accountable. Even though my mom never actually had to say “do your homework,” her presence in my life was my accountability. And not that she’s gone from my life or anything, but she’s 750 miles away. She doesn’t know what I’ve got on my plate at any given moment of the day. I think I need to join some sort of art collective or something, where the members keep track of each other and say “did you finish that Pikachu you were making for so-and-so? No? Isn’t it supposed to be in the mail by Tuesday? Shouldn’t you finish that?”
How do you work best? Do you need somebody to remind you about projects? I’m sure there are people that would find it annoying to have somebody watching over them. To think that people were keeping track of them and “checking up” on them like they were small children.
I would actually find it flattering if somebody remembered what I was working on and seemed interested in my work. Even if it was just a feigned interest. Occasionally a friend will ask about one project or another and I think that’s great, it makes me realize I’ve been slacking. But I need that on a regular basis, consistently. I have very little internal motivation. At least I know that about myself and can work on it, I guess, but still. If you know me and at all care about the stuff I make, I URGE you to send me a message now and then saying “did you finish that thing yet?” and I’ll probably reply with an enthusiastic Thank you! and some sort of crocheted gift. Deal?