(Let the record show that I did a fair amount of procrastination while writing this post, but I finally acted and hence now you can read it.)
In the Heroic Yes! Blog, I often write about creating ways to live our dreams by spending more time doing exactly what we want to do. However, I’ve found that, ALAS, sometimes there are simply things we don’t want to do that seem to be required of us to live the lives we want. These things can really pester us.
I learned this from being assigned homework in grade school. I loathed homework and found it an affront to my free time. But I also wanted to learn, progress, excel, and make good grades. So I did the homework. (Often after much procrastinating and a minor tantrum or two. My parents can well attest to this!)
While the last homework I was officially assigned came during my MFA program back in 1998, I realize that even now I still have homework, often in abundance. I still have things I don’t want to do that need to be done to live the life I want.
You know the things that really engage your procrastination muscle; the things you keep putting off…and putting off?
When we think of completing activities like paying parking tickets, gathering paperwork for taxes, or going to the dentist, we are often more inclined to drag our feet than dance for joy. We love the results of these activities, having clean teeth and staying on the right side of the law, but the activities themselves often leave something to be desired.
What things do you avoid doing even though you feel that doing them is necessary to achieving the life you want?
From years of struggle around doing things that I feel need to get done but just don’t want to do, I’ve discovered that it’s important to weigh the results of doing the dreaded activity versus not doing the dreaded activity. When you weigh these results, try to do so with the open mind. Always remember that you never actually have to do anything. If you like the results of doing the dreaded activity better than the results of not doing it, I encourage you to come up with a strong and joyful purpose for doing it. Having a strong and joyful purpose for doing an activity you would rather avoid can pierce through the fog of procrastination. This purpose can help you shift from focusing on, “I don’t want to do this” to “I’m doing this because I have a strong and joyful purpose for doing it.”
(The following example seems almost too simple, even to me, but I like it because it illustrates a powerful way to clear the fog of procrastination.)
Say you’re shopping and suddenly you remember that you are parked by a meter and your time is about to expire. So you leap over people to sprint out of the store only to find the meter three minutes past due and a yellow ticket envelope with a forty-five dollar ticket in it neatly tucked under your driver’s side windshield wiper.
You are mad as can be. Hasn’t the parking authority heard of a ten-minute grace period? You first instinct is to deposit the parking ticket in the nearest trash receptacle.
Then you quickly think, “No! I have to pay this ticket. It’s the law.”
But then with equal speed you think, “Do I actually have to follow the law? Well no, people break the law all of the time.”
So now you calm down somewhat and begin to contemplate the results of not paying the parking ticket versus the results of paying it. The results of not paying the ticket are attractive. By not paying it, you would save forty bucks plus the time of paying it. This all sounds great, so then you start thinking of additional possible results of not paying the parking ticket, which might include a far bigger fine, eventually going to court, feeling some guilt about breaking the law, and experiencing a high level of stress every time a police officer is driving behind you.
Then you think of the results of paying the parking ticket, which include following the law and getting it over and done with. The second course of action seems much simpler and like it will bring you more joy in the long run. So now you have the information you need to form a strong and joyful purpose for paying the parking ticket.
You proudly declare, “My strong and joyful purpose in paying this parking ticket is to make my life simpler and find joy.
(“Proudly”, “strong” and “joyful” may seem like unusual words to use in relation to paying a parking ticket. But doesn’t the above phrase seem more relaxing and empowering than being as mad as heck about paying a parking ticket?)
In the grand scheme of things, paying a parking ticket is small potatoes. You can force yourself to quit procrastinating, write out the check, put the darn thing in the mail and be done. Not that big of a deal, right?
But really thinking about the bigger reasons why you choose to do something as simple as paying a parking ticket and then creating a strong and joyful purpose for doing it can give you invaluable practice in passing through the cloud of procrastination to action. This practice is great so that when bigger things that you don’t want to do come up, you are ready.
Game of the Day
What is your game plan for the next time you feel like procrastinating?
Jason Freeman is a professional writer, and a one-of-a-kind public speaker. He is the founder and CEO of Heroic Yes! Productions. Jason has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Nebraska. He knows the pain of perceiving one’s life through a lens of limitation and also the thrill of moving beyond that mindset. For more information on Jason’s powerful message, or to book him to present to your organization, go to www.HeroicYesProductions.com