”Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?” I can think of at least a hundred reasons right now― all of which sound remarkably legitimate.
I’m a deep thinker. I’d rather read poetry and watch the birds flitter in a backyard puddle than do anything that requires focused effort. Therefore, I have become a skilled procrastinator. You might even say I’m the queen of procrastination. But I’m also an entrepreneur. So where does that leave me? For many years, you could find me pulling all-nighters on the eve of some deadline, eyes wild with ambition and fingers flash dancing on the keyboard. When I wasn’t procrastinating, I was living life in panic mode, and I quickly discovered that putting things off was actually self-destructive. So how did I, how does any well-meaning, even energetic, entrepreneur end up in such a mess? Tomorrow is to blame...
The Myth of Tomorrow
How many times have we vowed to do a task tomorrow? If you’re like so many people I know, you use the “t’ word often, and it’s a trap I tell ya! Here’s the truth about tomorrow: it never comes. It’s a mythical span of time where motivation mingles with commitments. Tomorrow is what I tell myself so I’ll feel good about putting something off today. But “tomorrow” is a placeholder, a procrastination tool I have used like a shovel to bury those critical tasks I’d rather not do. Sound familiar?
Procrastination is Crafty, Not Necessarily Lazy
There’s no shame in admitting to this nasty habit. It’s actually something many entrepreneurs struggle with. And in our defense, it’s not always a sign of pure sloth. I am not a lazy person. In fact, I often use work as an excuse to procrastinate. Because busyness can be bullshit, too. Here’s a peek at what procrastination looks like for me: I open my inbox to find 26 emails awaiting a response. My calendar reminds me that I’ve got 11 pages of content due on some insipid subject outside of my expertise. I’ll have to do research, and fact-finding, and the whole process will be a snoozer. Groan. Suddenly, I have the insatiable urge to spring clean my closets, run 3 miles, mop my floors ― anything to keep me from the tedium of those other tasks. So I keep myself busy doing important things that aren’t pressing. Meanwhile, time-sensitive tasks are rotting in my office.
The truth is, procrastination is the sneakiest form of self-sabotage. And when I put off the inevitable, I only make a bigger monster of that monotonous chore, at least in my own mind. And that’s why procrastination is the opposite of self-care. It’s a surefire way to mismanage my time and push myself into unpleasant predicaments that leave me scrambling to do that which I should have done yesterday. In the interest of finding more balance, I’ve begun developing better habits.
Here’s How I Avoid the Procrastination Pit
I visualize every consequence that comes with procrastination. I imagine the emotional mess I will create by my actions, and the frenetic pace at which I’ll have to work if I delay my project. Then I imagine the feeling I’ll have if I just dive in now and finish the work― the sense of accomplishment, the freedom.
Secondly, I ask myself these questions before I begin doing anything at all:
- Is this the best use of my time?
- Is there something more pertinent I’m potentially avoiding?
And before I allow my feet to land on a slippery slope, I vow to practice self-care instead…
Because sometimes self-care is doing what hurts now to avoid a greater pain later.
I won’t say these tactics are effective every time ― because “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Still, I have become more conscious of the ways I procrastinate, and more valiant in my efforts to stop it and other self-sabotaging habits.
This article first appeared in the Elements for a Healthier Life Magazine. To read more rocking content, find me here.