Procrastination makes easy things hard and hard things harder. -Mason Cooley
This morning I woke up in a good place. My eyes opened, I noticed the sun beginning to rise through the closed blinds of my bedroom, I took a few deep breaths, I forced a smile on my face and I took stock of how my body was feeling…head (sleepy, but waking), body (rested), attitude (good, my forced smile was turning into a real smile). With one more deep breath, I pulled my body up to a seated position, spun it around and pawed at the carpet with my toes. With teeth brushed and a full glass of water in my belly, I started down the stairs thinking of my to-do list when I was stopped in my tracks…AW CRAP! The view of my living room made me forget all the happiness and excitement I had been building.
Last night, my family and I were all beat from a fun, but full weekend of playing at the park, movies, cheat-day meals, going to church, art projects, nerf-gun wars, and general hanging out. I made the executive decision to allow us all to go to bed rather than spend a few minutes tidying up the house before we started our work/school week. I honestly was afraid that by getting the kids moving and working that they may lose their sleepy window, and it would be difficult to get them to fall asleep. Now, Nice-Guy Dad had deferred the work to Early-Morning-House-Keeper (also me).
The view from my stairs was not pretty. The clutter before me immediately pushed aside my morning momentum, and I slowly got to work returning our living room and kitchen to its former glory. Over thirty minutes or so I was able to get it back to its normal state.
Slowly as I worked my brain started thinking again. I put dishes in the dishwasher and clothes in the dirty-clothes hamper. My hands cleaned while my brain returned to my to-do list and began to prioritize what I needed to do for the day. It was a good feeling, but I couldn’t help thinking of how Last-Night Me could have really thwarted This-Morning Me.
Delaying a task until later is procrastination, and procrastination can kill your dreams. Letting things pile up causes you to work at less than your best. It also causes undue stress.
I have a feeling that in the future we’ll learn that procrastinators don’t live as long as others. I really believe that this type of stress is slowly, but literally, eroding our well-being and health. We now know that those living with too much stress are less effective and get sick more often than those who can manage stress.
You know how this feels. You decide you’ll do something later. It feels good to automatically have a space in your schedule. You relax. You enjoy the moment. You’ve given yourself the gift of time.
This enjoyment is not pure, though. In the back of your head, you know that you still have to complete the task. You are delaying the inevitable. You still have to complete the task, but now you have created another problem. Now, the task actually creates a more stressful situation. When you finally get around to doing it, you will also be angry with your self from earlier. He/she dumped this task on your current self, and your current self has other things that need to be done. Sometimes current you says, “F that old me for doing this to me, I don’t have time for it. I have other things to do so I am going to pass this task off on my future self. I’ll let him/her take care of it when he/she has time.”
This cycle often repeats itself until the task is due, or past due, and you sit in a heap on the floor and wonder how it has come to this AGAIN!
Do yourself (all versions of you) a favor, and get it out of the way now. Don’t put it off. You will have plenty to do in the future. Your future you does not need the stress of doing your work.
If you are a people pleaser, think of your future self doing all your work. It is not kind to him/her. If you don’t struggle with people pleasing so much, but have high expectations for yourself then imagine how much better you’ll feel when you can truly check the task off the to-do list instead of dreading it later. If you are a little of both then imagine both scenarios and just DO IT! You (present you and future you) will be thankful you did.
If you’d like to read more on procrastination, Tim Urban, from the blog WaitButWhy.com, does an amazing job of articulating how the mind of a procrastinator looks and acts. http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/10/why-procrastinators-procrastinate.html
Also, he has recently given a TED talk on his journey as a procrastinator.
I recommend both highly.