Waiting until the Last Minute

waiting until the last minute

“If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.”

– Rita Mae Brown

Waiting until the last minute came to mind today because my 13-year old had midterms this week. I’ll bet you can fill the rest of the story in without my help, but here’s the short version.

He didn’t study until the last minute. He didn’t write the paper until the last minute. He didn’t even pay all that much attention to what he was supposed to do until the last minute.

So this week, with a lot of things due all at once, he’s been super-stressed and incredibly cranky.

Seems like everything worked out okay, as procrastinators know it often does. But, there’s a lot of worry that goes into all that waiting until the last minute.

Waiting until the last minute keeps your brain full

You may be wondering what on earth this has to do with minimalism. Surprisingly, quite a lot. Minimalism isn’t just about how much stuff you have in your home. It’s also about how much stuff you have in your head.

If you stop to think about it, you’ll probably recognize how much more space in your brain each thing you need to do takes than each thing you’ve completed.

Nearly 100 years ago, psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik noticed that when a customer asked for the bill, the waiter could easily remember what the customer had ordered.

If, however, the customer asked a question about the order after paying, the waiter had a hard time remembering anything about the order.

Zeigarnik believed the sense of closure essentially erased the order from the waiter’s memory.

“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.”

– Mason Cooley

In early posts, I mentioned a couple of ways to help keep your brain uncluttered: keeping lists and calendars.

Avoiding procrastination will also help, since you won’t have as many things to keep in the front of your mind, whether consciously or unconsciously.

If you’re a chronic procrastinator, check out Celestine Chua and Steve Pavlina‘s posts on why we procrastinate and how to stop.

What you will do with all that new free space in your brain you get from avoiding waiting until the last minute? How about inner peace, joy and gratitude.

13 thoughts on “Waiting until the Last Minute

  1. Guilty as charged! I am the procrastinator par excellence… I have never been a list-maker and pay the price for it It truly is an unnecessary stress that can be modified. I am definitely working on simply getting more organised and creating chunks out of my day (I figured if I chunk it out, it will be less stressful than following a list, which I hate doing!)

    • As I mentioned in my response to Lois’ comment, one thing I do to keep lists to a minimum is make routines (like changing sheets Saturday morning and scooping the litter box around the time I brush my teeth at night). Otherwise I have a devil of a time remembering to do things!

      • There are some routines, for sure (sheets, laundry, etc.) – it’s the big jobs that I am loathe to start as I know it will be looong…. That’s why I’m Learning to do chunks! (So I don’t get bored doing the same thing for too long…)

        • Oh yes, that’s exactly what I do for those awful jobs. My husband used to think it was strange. He’d just avoid the project forever and then finally do it all in one big burst, but now he’s been converted to my way. We’ve been painting our ceiling in the great room area in 3 segments. Easy that way. Only sucks up an hour or so of a weekend. Of course, we don’t have any entertaining to do that would make half painted rooms a problem!

  2. The mind is a powerful thing. Amazing that we have the ability to control itl to choose what we want to do and when, and that THAT even makes a difference to the quality of our lives is mind-boggling! The weight of undone things is heavy. Excellent reminder, Christy!!

  3. Hello Christy, Good post! I fear that I have the opposite problem. I tend to try to get ita all done now, then feel overwhelmed! I’m sure there has to be a happy medium!

    • That’s always the rub, isn’t it? The way I try to keep a happy medium is by getting all the really important stuff done early (e.g., paying the bills), and letting some of the other stuff (e.g. going through old papers to declutter) slide so I don’t feel rushed.

  4. Interesting. I generally try not to wait until the last moment, but what stresses me is a to-do list. It overtakes my day, of course I used to make them impossible to complete in one day and added to it as the day wore on.

    • I only occasionally procrastinate, so I don’t see it as too big of a problem for me (though usually if I’m putting something off I’m worrying about it). As for lists, I try to organize my life so I don’t need too many reminders and lists. Instead of making lists, I try to associate chores/tasks with other things. Change sheets Saturday morning, scoop the litter box when I brush my teeth at night, etc. Of course that works well for regular tasks. Unusual things do need to go on a calendar or list.

      • That’s a good idea and one I use to some extent in my daily life. For instance, I spray down the shower walls with white vinegar at the end of my shower to prevent having to clean it as often. I really do need to consider doing this more often.

I'd love for you to share your ideas and experiences.