How I learned not to procrastinate

Carmen I’m not much of a procrastinator. And I owe that to Carmen. (Montse, be sure your mom hears this!)

When I was 12, every day after school we went to Carmen’s house. We all sat around the table and, after eating a snack, we sat there and worked on homework until we were done. Carmen either helped us with our homework, or if we didn’t need help, she sat with us and knitted or ironed. (And before my sister and I learned Spanish, she’d spend time teaching us new words and reading books.) That habit of sitting down and just doing it has stuck with me. When you have a lot to do, you sit down and do it.

Some background.

We moved to Spain when I was 12. Although I was born in Spain we moved away when I was 2, so at age 12 when we returned, I spoke no Spanish. My parents put us in a Spanish speaking school. Then they got jobs teaching English in the evenings and arranged for us to stay with Carmen and her family after school. The first day I ended up in the wrong classroom. The first month, I got a zero on a homework assignment I didn’t even know I had. And I couldn’t even tell the teacher I didn’t know there had been a homework assignment. (For someone used to getting all A’s, that was traumatic!)

After school Carmen patiently spent hours working with us in the evenings. First helping us to do our homework, pantomiming all sorts of words and looking them up in the dictionary when that failed. Then when we were done with our homework, she’d bring out kids’ books and have us read them.

Over the months, we got better and faster at our homework and had more time to play. And eventually my parents got jobs teaching during the day. But for years afterwards, I still stopped at Carmen’s house after school just to sit at the table and chat. I still do, whenever I get to Barcelona!

I didn’t realize until recently that she had taught me how not to procrastinate. Don’t get me wrong, I still procrastinate, especially when I’m not sure how to do something, but it’s nothing like what it would be without the habit of sitting down and doing it. And it was a fun, friendly environment. One that I returned to even when I didn’t have homework. We all sat together at the table, Carmen, her two kids and my sister and I. We ate, worked and talked together.

Now I just have to make sure I pass that on to my kids. I guess I’d better start sitting at the table when my son is doing his homework!

How did you learn how not to procrastinate?

And here’s how I deal with the times I do procrastinate.