The problem of procrastination
I talk to a lot of people about where they’re at on their How to Quit Working journey. One of the common threads is a procrastination or putting something off until tomorrow that can be done today. How many times in life do we put qualifiers on what we do?
I’ll re-landscape the front yard after we refinance the house.
We’ll go camping more when we have a trailer.
I’ll start saving money once all of my debt is paid off.
I’ll spend more time on my hobby once the kids move out.
I’ll take a road trip after I get a new car.
I’ll invest in my retirement when I get a pay raise.
We’re always waiting for something to happen, for our situation in life to improve before we take a leap. The truth is, if you wait until the right time comes along you’ll never get started. The right moment doesn’t arrive in a gift-wrapped box. The right moment is now. The time to change your life is today. The question is what is holding you back.
Old habits hold us back. We’re accustomed to doing things the way we’ve always done them. It doesn’t take long for a habit to form, but it does take time to break that habit. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to gain weight, but how hard it is to lose weight? It’s the same way with habits.
After I got married my husband and I settled into routines. One of our favorite was having ice cream while watching TV at night. We’d eat dinner, clean up (and before the two little ones came along) we’d sit down and watch TV. It doesn’t take long when you’re watching TV to want to have something to eat. We both love ice cream, so it became our nightly habit. We’d each eat a bowl of ice cream. After not too long my waistline started to expand and I realized that habit just wasn’t serving me. I have to say it wasn’t a hard habit to break, but I still needed to be conscious to make the decision to break that habit. Far greater habits can pull us down and keep us stuck.
Why we procrastinate
The habit of procrastination is a habit we all share in one form or another. I’ll do that later, I’ll do that tomorrow, I’ll do that next month. It’s so easy to procrastinate. There are a few reasons why people procrastinate.
1. The habit of perfectionism
A perfectionist wants everything they do to be perfect. If they are going to do it they want to do it just right. If it doesn’t turn out just right they’ll stop and do something else. I’ve experience this with painting projects. I love to paint with acrylics. The trouble is I don’t have a lot of time to paint and when I do make time, it’s not days, but hours. I’ve often started a painting project and abandon it half way. In my mind it should look a certain way, but because I don’t paint very often, I’m really not very good. I can paint much better in my imagination than I can in real life. When I realize it isn’t turning out the way I imaged I lose focus and interest and move on to something I’m better at.
The same thing happens with any new venture. When you start out, you never really have enough information. You’ve never really done enough research, or taken the right training courses. You begin and then you realize you kinda suck. And really you probably do. Who wants to do something that they suck at? Not many people. So they abandon the idea, or tell themselves that they don’t want to follow that dream anymore. They may not even pick up the paintbrush to start the project.
They know internally they aren’t going to come out the gate mastering their dream and they would rather hide behind the TV set, Facebook newsfeed, or a glass of wine then attempt their dream and fail. It’s much easier to sit on the sidelines and tell yourself that if you had the time you could be great, than to try and realize you suck. So people procrastinate.
2. Not taking control of your time
If you don’t control your schedule, your schedule will control you. Each morning after my prayer, meditation and exercise, I make a list of my daily goals. These goals are generated from my annual goals that I create at the beginning of the year and reassess monthly. Then I create a timeline for my day. Often, very often, I don’t end up following the timeline. I always think I can do more in a day than I do, but at least I have a framework. What I’ve found is that if I don’t have a framework and focus for my day, my day controls me instead of me controlling my day.
It’s also deeply satisfying to have accomplished a few things everyday, no matter how minor. I’ve noticed that so many people just float through life. Whatever comes their way that day dictates the outcome. There will always be unexpected events in your day. Today my aunt called, whom I don’t speak with very often, but who I love to talk too. She and I talked for over an hour. I didn’t have that planned in my day, but it was a great time of reconnection and our conversations always leaving me feeling happy and understood. My plan of attack for my time might not work well for your personality type and it might be a bit on the idealistic side, but it works for me.
Find a system that works for you, a paper calendar, a digital calendar or whiteboard, anything. Just come up with a plan and stick to it. Tell your time where you’d like it to go and you’ll be shocked at how productive you can be.
3. Lack of clarity
Procrastination can also take place because you aren’t clear on your purpose in life and you’re really not sold on what you say you want to do. I’ve found that if you aren’t 110% sure that you want to start a business you aren’t going to make it happen. Remember that you always need to be committed to the outcome but flexible to your approach. If you’re going down a path that your heart isn’t in you’re going to procrastinate. You are going to make up excuses to not do something because you know down deep that it isn’t right for you.
I’ve had this happen to me a number of times. Recently my husband really wanted me to develop a business coaching plan for CrossFit gyms. I loved the idea. There are 5,000 CrossFit gyms in the country and many of the business owners are passionate about CrossFit, but don’t know a ton about running a business. What a wonderful idea for me to provide value and service. I said I’d do it, and then I realized, my heart wasn’t in it. I love to workout, but I’m not a CrossFit enthusiast. I don’t share the passion and joy for CrossFit that most owners do. It just wasn’t the direction that I wanted to go. I didn’t even know what I should wear when I met with the gym owners. Was it best for me to wear workout gear or should I where a business suit. I had no idea. Most owners of these gyms are strapping muscle masses. While I work out a ton, that’s just not me. It was easy to procrastinate getting started because even though I saw it as a good business opportunity I didn’t have the passion and heart I needed to be successful. After talking with a colleague it was clear to me that this wasn’t the path for me. It wasn’t fulfilling my purpose. It is easy to procrastinate with your heart isn’t in it.
Do it now
The time is now. You don’t know what tomorrow brings. Take action today. When you get started you’ll get better, you just need to start. You won’t get the practice that you need, you won’t know if it’s the path you want to follow and you won’t be able to create a workable schedule if you are allowing old habits to tie you down.
As we enter a New Year, I’m focusing on getting started. Just do it. It’s that simple. You’ll never have the money that you need. You’ll never have all the knowledge, or be able to take all of the right classes or have all of the degrees. If you want your tomorrow to be different than your today you have to take action. You have to dive in headlong and go for broke. Without risk you’ll never have reward.
What I love about the internet is its power to connect. You are able to read this article right now because the internet is connecting us. You have the support of the entire online community. We’re all rooting for you. Taking daily action to meet your goals is difficult, but you can do it. And I’m here to tell you, you’ll never regret it. Even if it’s just a great learning experience, just doing it will change you for the better.
It’s time to get started!