That Time I Worked Ahead (But it Didn’t Matter Because The World Shut Down)

My biggest procrastination struggles often involve my own creative projects, passions, and self-care. Like many people, when it comes to worldly expectations (going to school as a student, having a career with deadlines, paying bills, etc.), I’m often diligent. 

Sometimes too diligent. 

What I mean by this is I am driven by an anxious motor that always wishes to be ten steps ahead with the false belief that early closure will ease my anxious mind.

It doesn’t.

I’m always working just as hard as anyone who runs behind, because the self-imposed expectation since I was 10 years old is that I would be ahead.  

Around mid-March, I was finishing up some extensive paperwork for part-time summer employment and I was even six weeks ahead on the blog! I derived a minute sense of accomplishment from these small personal feats. 

We all know what happened next.

The World Shut Down

It’s never happened to such an extent before, but this situation made me realize I often have a genuine problem with being too early. My paperwork? Completely irrelevant now. Basically a waste of several hours.

The blog? Well, I had six weeks of posts that were completely irrelevant to most people’s lives. I even had one about taxes when tax day was moved.

Like back in high school, (when I would work ahead but then suddenly the teacher would make the assignment easier), I stood looking around kind of shocked.

Quite frankly, I was stunned and frozen for several weeks, wondering who or what I was trying to please by being “ahead” all the time.

(Always trying to please the beast inside - whatever it is.)

A Lesson in Flexibility

I doubt my personal trait of ultra-eagerness will change, but it was worth noticing the downsides to it this time around. 

Seeking closure is something our minds love to do. (This article by Bree Rody tackles the topic well.) However, research shows early closure doesn’t usually assist creativity. And if it doesn’t assist creative projects, it probably doesn’t assist overall creative living.

As researcher Adam Grant notes - sometimes procrastination can even be a good thing.

Most of all, working too far ahead means you are out of step with the world. It means you are in a fictional land where systems, routines, and daily sanity barrel along as they always have.

My imagination (even with all of its mind-bending power for worry) never saw this crisis coming. My imagination was only locked into the way things were, projecting that old version into a future where I could be “ahead.” 

And a lot of my work was just a waste of time because everything changed underneath my feet.

On that note, I’m glad to be back in present time with you (only a few weeks ahead on the blog).

I didn’t write anything creative for the past six weeks. I’m not sure if I will keep up a weekly writing schedule now to be honest?

I’m not planning to be an amazing person through all of this. I’m just hoping to survive, teach my online students well, cultivate empathy, read a lot, and love my family. (While I read, it will definitely be history focused and seeking more stories for the First Creative Dollar series.)

Until next time, thanks for reading and stay safe.

“Life going nowhere

Someone help me

Someone help me - yeah

I’m staying alive”

- Bee Gees

Have you ever worked ahead and had it backfire? Do you see the pros to staying present?


6 Replies to “That Time I Worked Ahead (But it Didn’t Matter Because The World Shut Down)”

  1. Hi Michelle—it’s been a while since I’ve had time to comment on your blog. I’ve missed connecting with you!

    This post hit home for me. I also try so hard to work ahead on things when I can. And like you, I’ve also been bitten in the bum for trying!

    For the most part, I think it’s a wonderful character trait, to be eager to do our best and be ahead of the game.

    But yes, we do sometimes have to watch ourselves and not get too far ahead. However, this crazy situation we’re all in was totally unexpected (for most of us).

    As you’ve said, let’s be gentle with ourselves during this time. Focus on the things we truly need to focus on and let the rest of the chips fall where they may.

    I’m really enjoying these raw, honest posts from you and others bloggers. We need more of this so we can care for ourselves and support each other.

    Thanks for your honesty. I hope you and your family stay safe and well.

    1. Thank you for stopping by the blog Chrissy. Glad to see your blog is still up and running through all of this! The truth is – my blog only kept going because I worked ahead. For several weeks, I was too stunned to write anything of any use. As you said, for the most part it’s a good character trait that serves people well.

      I’m still surprised by how much I didn’t see this coming. I find posts like this are pretty quick to write, so it’s nice to hear that you enjoy them. Being honest and real is the only thing that works right now.

  2. i used to share an apartment with an executive chef when i was young. he was a real hard charger and achiever. i asked him one day if he was one of those people who walked down the escalator to get there faster because it will take you where you’re going.

    your post also reminds me of expectations of ourselves. we host the occasional party and feed people. i remember mrs. smidlap saying something about running out of time not being able to make some fancy dish. my response was “nobody will know what we intended to do. they’ll be happy they came over and had some good company.” those are contrasting expectations between host and guests….or readers and writers if you like.

    1. Good analogy Freddy – (with the hosts and guests compared to readers and writers). No one knows how big and elaborate my “self-actualization” dream is for the blog (music, interviews, research galore, streamers, balloons, vintage hacks, etc.), so maybe I should just keep it to myself how far behind I feel (ha).

      Glad you’ve kept coming around the past few weeks – huge thanks!

      People with vision can have a way of moping around when the world gets in the way of their easily imagined plans – luckily, I’m way more flexible than I was when I was younger. When I was younger, this situation would have caused me to be really hard on myself. Now I can roll with it a little bit better and realize what’s my responsibility and what’s not my fault, especially if I get behind but stay sane and healthy in the meantime. That’s far more important and useful.

  3. Hey Michelle and hope you and yours are doing well. Enjoyed this article as I too have the same hyper-diligence anxiety motor that causes me to always be out front and early of stuff in life whether it was school work or papers, work projects, life projects etc. The motivation was the same in that it would put me ahead or get me to a place of completion/closure only to realize that there was always more on the horizon to complete/close. Even knowing that, I still continue to operate the same way, but don’t fool myself about it making me feel different.

    That said, with my creative endeavors like the blog and my new music project, I am never working in advance – very in the present (actually, usually behind). For whatever reason, this doesn’t trigger my anxiety motor as much. I think part of the reason is that there is low external expectation and no real adverse consequence if I get behind. Also, they are ongoing projects with no definitive end, making them “closureless” per se, so even if an article is late or a song not written it’s inconsequential so long as the creative process itself continues to progress over time.

    1. I’m finding a lot of people I meet online are wired in a similar way. I’m happy for people who find a way to be relaxed with their blog – I think it’s insightful for me to realize even my “fun” brain turns things into an assignment (ha).

      I like your quote about “operating the same way” as you’ve gotten older but not fooling yourself that it will make you feel different. That’s a great way to look at it.

      I also appreciate your thoughts on the creative process – it’s realistic and relaxing to realize once and for all – it’s never done. It’s just a way of being…

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