If Not Now, When
One of my favourite ‘skits’ by Ellen Degeneres is her procrastinating skit. She lightheartedly describes a struggle most of us encounter on an almost daily basis - she needs to write a show and her journey begins at the stairs with a kitten petting encounter, which snowballs into a storm of delays. At some point she diverts to her cd collection where she gets stuck sorting them by theme ‘Bread, Meatloaf etc”. After meeting a friend for lunch (to chat about this procrastination thing), she never actually gets on to writing much. She ironically uses this to highlight how we try too hard to cram everything into life, and need to procrastinate – or rather to slow down and be in the moment.
So as I’m sitting here, it’s taken me a good hour to write the paragraph above. Since writing the first word I have:
- Answered a few emails
- Changed the paragraph settings, pondered on which type of bullet point to use because it cant look too ‘stiff’ but I need some structure as well
- Got annoyed as the stupid American setting keeps telling me it’s “favorite” instead of “favourite” (it’s not a spelling mistake!)
- Set up an 80’s playlist on Spotify (Video Killed The Radio Star!)
- Fed the dogs, and let a certain Mr Gilbert onto my lap as the Hadeda scared him
- Made my wife a welcome drink as she got home
- Sat with her to catch up on the day
- Poured myself a glass of wine, and……
- Ran back to my wife again because I saw lightning and heard thunder and we really have been looking forward to rain
- Ok now my dog is scared is panting and shaking. Not sure if it’s the thunder. I need to google this …..
Day 2: I’m back….it’s not dog cancer as Dr Google said it could be. That lump on the chest is just pure fat and the vet confirmed this (and told me to lay off on the treats). Think it’s between the lightning from last night and the Putco bus that came past sounding like a German tank that’s been hit by “Le Resistance”. Moving swiftly along
Day 2 – later: No time today. We have to walk the dogs, take the mountain bike for a spin, visit the in-laws and “wifey braai” a big steak, and then it’s time to hit the couch for evening series catch-up
So let’s get serious about this subject. Why do we procrastinate? (PS, there’s no synonym for Procrastinate – I just checked, unbelievable). Anita brought up that maybe you actually just don’t want to do it. I’m sure that rings true in many cases. Maybe you do not want to bother finding out why your pool engine stopped working properly because it’s a total schlep to get it fixed and besides… ponds are cool and we need to save water. Perhaps you do not want to put that one dish away when you’ve just stuffed yourself full of creamy bacon pasta whilst binge-watching “Vikings” on Netflix. Maybe, but perhaps these are just the lazy bits of being human. We often procrastinate on important things and then beat ourselves up in the process. Set goals we know we may not (or believe we may not) achieve to ground the negative thought ‘I knew you couldn’t do it!’. This behaviour is fear-based and can really do a number on you if ignored.
I personally find I sometimes do this, as I like working under pressure. I tend to do this at home and not at work though. At work I’m a total nerd, meeting deadlines before the ink has dried on the memo. On a personal level, I seem to like the stress of finishing something at the last second.
Timing is another one. It took me many, many years to stop smoking. I didn’t even try for the first 15 years, as I knew I couldn’t stop doing something I liked. As time went by though I really started feeling disgusted in myself, and set short-term goals. Cut down, don’t smoke in the morning, don’t smoke in the car. Ok. Once I reached that goal, then I moved onto the next goal, no smoking indoors ever, no vaping and so on. It literally took me 24 years to stop a stupid habit that started with a friend that said ‘hey try this stinky stick it’ll will give you a headrush’ when I was sixteen. How stupid are we?
- Other reasons why we may do this:
- Control – this way you are in control, but hold on too long
- Overwhelmed – as you only see the big task ahead of you, instead of dividing it up into smaller task to make it manageable
- Not focusing on what you are doing (this is for you lot that looked for a synonym for procrastinating because you didn’t believe me)
- Perfectionism - this can stop you from finishing something, as it’s never quite good enough
- No clear goal - which can leave you feeling undisciplined and with no direction
- You are lazy - seriously we can probably look at all the above, but at the end of the day you just need to get on with it or write it off.
So what now? For me, the most effective anti-procrastination method is to simply make a list and not to be so hard on myself if I don’t achieve them all. Also, review your goals and their importance in your life. Instead of me becoming a master bread-maker, I’ve settled with making one bread by hand and will do it again should I feel the need to create
There’s also a “2-minute rule” by James Clear that makes sense. If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it now.
Best is to find a solution that works for you, which could include procrastination on your list of things to do.