Last week, I wrote about how much I learned as I sat stranded on the roof of my house in the hot sun of a late Halifax summer trying to deal with the small garden growing up out of my eavestrough.
I could tell you nothing like that had ever happened to me before. That I’ve never put off doing something I should have and that the delay ended up causing a bigger problem. But that would be a lie.
In my musings about this, I’ve realized that I tend to put off tasks that I don’t understand, don’t feel equipped to deal, feel overwhelmed by, or have no interest in. These are things like taxes, house maintenance and design, cleaning out sheds or basements, and shopping for anything other than food, books, and stationery supplies.
The irony is not lost on me (or likely many of you who do the same thing!). By delaying dealing with these things that don’t have any positive charge for us, we actually make them even more important! And, in the case of the garden on my roof, much BIGGER than they should ever have become.
For those of you who have known the joy of finally doing a job you either thought you couldn’t do or had put off doing, there is a great deal of momentum in just doing the damn thing.
I’ve called this post the Just Do It Advantage because of the incredible power available to us by taking the time to look at and take action on the things we would rather not.
Tackling something that we think of as a “problem,” as it occurs, rather than putting it off, is not only empowering, it’s efficient. It saves a ridiculous amount of time and energy that we spend beating ourselves up, writing the same thing on our to-do list 36 times, and obsessing about the undone thing.
Not only do these negative feelings suck time and energy, but they take us away from being present to the rest of life. I can so easily conjure up the intense fear and dread I felt in my 11-year-old body leading up to my very first grade school speech. And also, the whoosh of relief I felt after completing it. I felt “alive” again, like I could enjoy my life without that terrible thing to worry about. How sad! The fear of giving that speech robbed me of so many great 11-year-old moments!
Whenever we are caught up in fear, trepidation, doubt, or worry, it causes us to be “elsewhere” every time, missing out on so much else.
Back to that “whoosh of relief” for a second. I believe that when we finish the unwanted task, meet the fear head on, or stop procrastinating, the well-being that is always there (that has just been temporarily blocked by our adhesion to the fear and worry) kicks back in, and wow, does it ever feel good!
So, for all of us who suffer from procrastination and feel robbed of being present to life, what can we do?
Colleen is a good friend of mine with a unique take on tackling unsavoury jobs. She routinely schedules time for “administrative” tasks because she considers it an important way to take care of herself. To do things we don’t want to do and call it self-care is a real twist. I like it. The “whoosh of relief” tells me it’s true. And isn’t it stunning how when you actually do a job you’ve been dreading, it’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be?
Which leads me to wonder: do we use procrastination as a way to be hard on ourselves? Could we rightly label it “self-sabotage”? If we know that we are going to end up feeling bad about ourselves for not “taking care of business,” why do we allow ourselves to put things off?
Lezlie is another friend who made the enormous and hateful job of cleaning out her basement manageable by setting aside one hour per day to complete one small piece of it at a time. Day after day, she did a little bit, and after a few weeks, it was all done. She told me that it wasn’t as bad as she thought and the best part was the daily feeling of accomplishment. Instead of being hard on herself up for not doing the basement, she congratulated herself every day on her progress.
When my daughter and I do a house project together, like cleaning up the playroom, I notice that if I take the time to make it fun, we both benefit. Sometimes we time ourselves, setting the clock on the stove for 30 minutes, and doing as much as we possibly can before the buzzer goes off. Amazing how much you can get done when you’re being timed! Other times, we offer ourselves a “carrot” at the end, which is usually a carrot of the ice cream variety.
Two other friends of mine have other strategies. One cleans naked in front of her partner (apparently very arousing for them both) and the other eats chocolate-covered coffee beans. He says it’s a kind of fuel.
Whatever gets the job done!