I have learned over time that procrastination is one of the biggest hurdles you will have to overcome in order to get the life you dream of. Even if you like doing something, there will inevitably be times that you just don’t feel like doing it. I can come up with endless excuses for almost anything if you want me to (it’s a talent). In addition, if you are trying to make a change in your life, but the change itself is something you consider to be a hard process or something “not fun”, procrastination becomes all that much easier – even if you know that the end goal of that change will ultimately take you to where you want to be in life!
So why is it so hard to do what you know you should be doing?
Let’s start with what procrastination is. I looked up a few definitions, but the one I agree with most and found to be most practical was on Wikipedia. It states that:
“procrastination is the practice of…doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time.”
I know that’s why I procrastinate. It’s because what I need to do is either something that takes too much time, is something I don’t entirely know how to do or understand, or something I just plain don’t like to do. Who wants to spend what little free time that you have doing something you don’t want to do, even if the outcome at the end will be worth it?
Actually, a lot of things in life are easily procrastinated – even good things! Exercise is probably one of the best examples around. Now, I know there are plenty of people out there that enjoy exercise (I’m one of them!), but even if you like it, there are always days where you are too tired, too hungry, too busy, too cold, too hot, don’t have the right clothes or shoes, don’t have enough time, can’t fit in the shower you would need afterwards, maybe it’s bad weather and you don’t have a gym membership, etc. The list of excuses can go on and on! (See, I told you I was good at finding excuses!). So you procrastinate and say you will do it tomorrow. Then the next day poses another set of challenges so you delay it again. It can be pretty easy to let a week or two pass without really engaging in any physically activity and pretty soon you feel “comfortable” with the idea of letting your workout pass altogether. But is this really going to be good in the long run? Pretty soon you can feel yourself getting out of shape. You may be winded climbing up a flight of stairs, chasing after your kids, or feel your pants getting just a little tight. If you let it go even longer, you will start to experience other negative side effects as well – decreased health, increased weight, increased blood pressure and cholesterol, plus all the side effects that go along with those medications you will have to take in order to manage your new health problems. Not mention the cost of the medications themselves. Procrastinating exercise felt ok in the moment, but the long-term side effects are just not worth it.
Procrastination in organizing your life can be just as bad. The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy will always increase over time. And what is entropy? Simply put, it’s disorder. So even physics is working against your organizational goals! Let’s take an example of physical clutter in your kitchen. Pretend that you went one week cooking all your meals in your kitchen and never cleaning one dish. You just tossed them in the sink or on the counter because you didn’t feel like dealing with it. What would your kitchen look like after that week? Now expand that to a month, or out to a year. Pretty disgusting, huh? I don’t know many people that like doing dishes, but I know most people recognize that it is a necessary evil in life. No one is going to come in and do your dishes for you. Without a little effort on your part, your kitchen will tend towards disorder.
And this is true of everything else in life that you don’t pay attention to – your health, your relationships, being organized, your finances…you name it. Procrastinate in an area long enough, and the effects can be detrimental.
Procrastination can result in stress, anxiety, a sense of guilt, a sense of crisis and emergency, health problems, and overall give you a loss of productivity. If really severe it can even result in a loss of respect by those around you for not meeting your responsibilities and commitments. “Working better under pressure” is really just a myth as well. Even though a looming deadline may spur you to action (say, losing weight for an upcoming event like a wedding), you won’t be putting forth enough of your time and energy to get the best result. And it’s likely that once that deadline has passed, your desire to keep up those needed changes will fade away. Plus, the added stress it puts in your life is hardly worth the extra gray hairs or years off of your life.
By far, I have found the worst side effect of procrastination is the loss of your time. Time is the one resource you can never get more of, and once it’s gone you can never get it back. What are you doing with your time when you are procrastinating something? Checking your social media accounts? Reading the latest celebrity gossip? Playing Fortnite? How many hours of your time each week is spent on these activities? Once you have a guess in mind, I want you to pause and dream for a minute. What have you always wanted to accomplish in life? Think big. Have you wanted to write a book? Travel? Volunteer with a specific organization? Start your own business? Or even just spend more time with your family? Now remember how many hours each week you calculated were spent procrastinating things you didn’t want to do, but needed to get done. Why are you wasting that much time on things that don’t matter in the long run and don’t enrich your life when you could be focused on using that time to your advantage?
After all, what you spend your time on is what you spend your life doing.
My call to action to you this week is to pick one thing right now that you have been avoiding doing and make a point to get it done in the next 24 hours. If it’s a project that will take more than 24 hours to accomplish, then at least write out an action plan with set dates on when each step will be completed so that you can get started today.
As you move towards your best life, procrastination will likely happen. Motivation and willpower can only take you so far. But it is my hope that this will help you recognize when you find yourself procrastinating and allow you to reset and take steps towards being more productive. Break down what you need to do in small, manageable steps. Face your fears about what may be involved. Then tackle the task head on. As you start to make progress, you will be encouraged by each small victory and the motivation you need to continue will come back.
I’d love it if you’d send me a message and let me know what you procrastinate the most. What do you know that you should be doing, but just find that you don’t do it? I can’t wait to hear from you, and I make sure to read every message that comes in!
All the best,