A Day Without Procrastination

Editor at large Danielle Claro recently gathered her most neglected tasks and a no-nonsense companion, vowing not to return home until her long ignored to-do’s are done. Here’s her play-by-play.

  • Danielle Claro

I’m often mistaken for someone who’s on top of her game. (I work at Real Simple, after all.) But I have a list as long as my arm of exclamation-pointed chores that I’ve shut my eyes to for years. Years! Hence the notion of Unprocrastination Day, hatched with my friend Wendy. We kept postponing it (of course). But the call of duty finally won out. We did it so that you, dear reader, might follow in our humble path. I won’t pretend it was fun. But as the old joke goes, it feels so good when you stop.

9 a.m. Strategize. At the local diner, Wendy and I pull out our lists (hers is typed; mine is on Post-it Notes). We map out our day while downing eggs and coffee. I start to whine. Wendy says, “This is fun!”

10 a.m. Tailor. Wendy is going back to work after three years at home and has suits to alter. My five items, once fixed, will vastly improve my office wardrobe. The stop takes a full hour, but it’s worth it.

11 a.m. Lighting store. I have a kooky-but-beautiful blue glass lamp left behind by a roommate 20 years ago. When I was young and artsy, it was funky to have a bare bulb in the living room (whoo!). No longer. We make it to the store. But the lamp people adamantly refuse to sell me a shade without fitting it on the actual lamp. “It’s too big and fragile to carry,” I tell them. They give us appropriate boxes (Wendy has a similar situation) and send us to fetch our goods. The thought of two trips to the lamp store makes me ill. Wendy, however, is pumped. “We’ll weave it into the day. It’s fine!” This is why I brought her. When thwarted, I drop a task to the bottom of my list for another few years. Wendy, of strong New England stock, just becomes more resolute. We take the boxes, but secretly I plan never to return.

11:30 a.m. Home Depot. Wendy takes some tubing in for credit. I wait in the car. Costco looms in the distance, but my car is too full of boxes and bags to accommodate the massive blocks of paper towels we had planned to buy there. Lesson learned: Borrow a big car when schlepping a lifetime’s worth of slacking.

12 p.m. Car wash. There’s no possibility of emptying the car, so we stuff the back full and embrace the fact that it won’t be vacuumed. But it’s good enough. (Another lesson of the day—lower the bar!)

12:15 p.m. Post office. I wait in the car again. Wendy sends gifts and online returns and buys prepaid boxes to use for future mailings (smart girl).

12:30 p.m. New local gym. Well, not that new anymore. It’s been open for two years, but it’s new to me. I tell Brian, the buff personal trainer, that we’re in a hurry and need the quickie tour—just pool, studios, price. As I suspected, it’s a little more than I can bear spending. Starbucks is underneath. Whew.

1 p.m. Lunch for us, curtains for my daughter. Our plan had been to not head home until we were finished. But because of the lamp debacle, we have no choice—this, we learn, is inevitable on Unprocrastination Day (U.D.). You’ll be going back and forth. Back is easy. Forth is painful. But unrelenting commitment is what sets this day apart from any other errand-based Saturday. Getting new curtains for my daughter was high on my U.D. list, but I had forgotten all about them until we pulled into my driveway. We take the dimensions for the window hardware while I warm up some soup. We eat, then run, loaded with lamps.

1:30 p.m. Jewelry repair. I barely stop the car on Main Street and Wendy jumps out. By the time I make a U-turn, she has returned, having dropped off two necklaces for fixin’.

2 p.m. Lighting store, again. Praise be. Three gorgeous shades (one for me, two for Wendy), a new socket (“This thing is a fire hazard!”), and compliments on my inherited lamp. Also in hand: a case of special bulbs that will allow me to resuscitate two excellent floor lamps. Wendy rides in back to babysit the fragiles.

3 p.m. Bed Bath & Beyond. One of my more trying destinations (go in for a corkscrew, come out with an empty wallet). I need curtain hardware. There are plenty of adequate rods, but the perfect one is not there. Alone, I would have left empty-handed. Wendy’s glare shames me into grabbing the best option. At the register, we edit impulse purchases, which keeps our totals in check.

4 p.m. Lamp drop-off and coffee-table pickup. It has been 3 ½ years since I moved into my house, where I found a beautiful round midcentury coffee table in the basement. It has a bum leg and needs refinishing. I made an appointment with the furniture-repair guy for today, but I realize the table won’t fit in the back of my car. Privately I tingle over this opportunity not to complete a task (it’s like cutting eighth-period gym), but for Wendy’s sake I feign disappointment.

4:45 p.m. Mail (and wine). In general, I have a problem opening my mail—there, I said it. But I especially don’t open it when it looks scary. Sitting with Wendy (an accountant), I open an envelope from the IRS, which turns out to be not scary at all. We eliminate papers, fill out forms, create trash.

5:30 p.m. Set up online bill payment. I have been e-banking for a while, but when the bank replaced my debit card, I never bothered to reregister. It takes only a few minutes.

5:45 p.m. Wash off-season clothes. I plead the Fifth on which season they’re from. Let’s just say there’s sand on my laundry-room floor now.

6:30 p.m. Spend the gift cards in my wallet. I deplete every last one, whether I need something or not. What I have to look forward to: a trinket from Anthropologie, a novel that I can stash for a friend’s birthday, and a massage I’ll probably cancel the day before.

7 p.m. Recap and forgiveness. Midday, Wendy had said, “Let’s do this every three months!” Later she amended that to every six. At this point, we look at each other and know our Unprocrastination Day will be annual at best. But even if we never manage to book the time and muster the energy again, a glance at our stunning, perfectly proportioned lamp shades will forever remind us of this one shining moment when victory was ours.

Want more strategies for keeping you on task? Read on to learn how to stop procrastinating.