The Art of Procrastination

I’ll do it tomorrow. I’m too busy. I have more important things to do.

Those are only a few of the excuses we give when postponing a task. We use these little white lies to justify what some would call laziness, or as I like to think of it, mental preparation for the hard work ahead of us. When it comes to procrastination, we rationalize it in ways that make us feel better about putting off whatever it is that we should be doing.

For most people, myself included, there is a hesitancy in taking those first steps when attempting something new and unfamiliar. Beginning a project around the house, completing an assignment at work, or undergoing a journey in self-development are duties we all share, and they are all examples of things we tend to delay if we can. 

As a writer, the most daunting thing is a blank page with the first drop of ink being the toughest to spill. I envision a homebuilder’s most challenging moment coming well before his hammer strikes the first nail, and I suspect your biggest hurdle amounts to the same: just getting started.

It’s no secret that the first step is the hardest. Something as simple as cleaning your bedroom comes with a similar test as building a rocket does. Just. Getting. Started.

But why, why is it such a feat to make that first push forward and get the ball rolling?

It’s not laziness, at least not always, and it’s not because we need more time to prepare for what’s to come.

It’s fear.

Fear blocks us even when we don’t recognize it for what it is. Maybe it’s the fear of failure, or perhaps it’s being afraid of taking a risk and stepping outside your comfort zone – there’s no point in starting if you won’t succeed, and if it’s out of the norm, then it’s best to stick with what you know, right?

Naturally, that line of thinking is about as straight as a Slinky and uses the same logic found in trying to get the toy to go up the stairs instead of down.

As humans, we are creatures of habit, and disturbing our regular routine puts us in unknown territory, a place of discomfort and strangeness. Hiding behind that distress is fear, but if you push beyond that fear, you’ll find something else entirely: growth, happiness, and success.

Another reason we bully ourselves into procrastination is the tendency to focus on the ‘Big Picture’. Building a house is a mountainous venture, and just thinking about all the work involved is enough to make the strongest climber lose their footing – writing a novel can take years for a seasoned author to complete, and that fact has me cowering before an empty notebook.

Don’t get me wrong, thinking long-term and having foresight has its merits, but sometimes looking ahead stalls us in the beginning and prevents us from getting started.

So how do we kickstart our motivational engine and board the train toward productivity?

  1. Set benchmarks that can be easily achieved each day – make a habit of completing the little steps towards your final goal rather than taking one giant leap
  2. Break the big picture down into smaller frames – look ahead to where you want to go but remain focused on one thing at a time
  3. Be honest and hold yourself accountable – learn to recognize the excuses that lead to procrastination and challenge your fear

Lastly, learn to forgive yourself when you faulter. Beyond our habitual nature, we are far from perfect, and there are times when you will fall victim to the art of procrastination. There will be moments when your motivation is depleted and the ability to be productive slips through your fingers like fine sand.

But that’s okay. As Forest Gump said, “It happens.”

The important thing is to reflect upon those instances, learn from them, and then move on. Dwelling on an unproductive day only encourages you to delay even more, and that is another biproduct of fear.

With that, I urge you to listen for your call to arms. Fight the fear that slows your momentum, and face procrastination head-on!

The Davis Daily

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