A twitter friend recently asked her followers to keep her accountable to going to the gym that day. As I followed up with her to see if she did, I asked her if she noticed how good it felt to actually keep to her word. That’s something I’ve really noticed recently as I’ve been starting to run. Every time I did it, not only did the exercise feel good, but doing what I said I would felt even better. For those of you who are not procrastinators you may not be very familiar with this feeling because you’re used to just doing things.
I am not.
My name is Jess and I am a procrastinator. I am a terrible procrastinator even though I am a lot better than I was as a teenager. I think procrastinators know how much procrastinating is like drugs. You do it, it feels really good in the moment, but after it feels terrible because there are consequences to your procrastination. It’s this awful cycle of procrastinating, feeling overwhelmed by the tasks, then procrastinating more to feel in control, and then the tasks pile up etc.
But I’m a recovering procrastinator! I have learned a few things about myself. Here are 4 key things that have helped me just do it when I don’t want to.
1. It doesn’t feel good.
I have come to recognize that the cycle doesn’t feel good and it feels much better to actually do stuff NOW. A lot of times I need to coach myself and remind myself of previous times when the reward for doing it now was much greater than putting it off. It goes a bit like this: “Remember the last time you went for a run even though you didn’t want to and it was your favourite one? And it felt so good to not let your laziness rule your life?”
2. The problem you’re trying to avoid will be bigger and badder if you don’t face it.
If you put off approving this reimbursement right now like you said you would, it will go into a pile of things to do that will pile up more and more until the pile is actually overwhelming instead of just appearing an overwhelming. Not confronting this person right now will make it much harder and likely more messy later on. No one wants that. If I take the time to think through the consequences of my procrastination I usually see that it isn’t worth it.
3. You can build momentum by just doing it.
I found this as I was starting to run. I did it and it was good, which motivated me to do it again, which was exciting, which motivated me to do it again, which was thrilling. Every day I didn’t put it off I found I gained more momentum in just doing it because I hadn’t let that good feeling of doing it wear off or did diminish. If you stick to your plan, you don’t feel that guilt. The last two weeks I have nott run, yet I didn’t procrastinate. I didn’t run because the sidewalks were icy and I was trying to figure out what was next for me. I didn’t let guilt build (which often promotes procrastination because you feel crappy and disempowered) because I gave myself grace to figure out this new situation. I’m still excited for my next run when I have the opportunity and I won’t put it off.
4. Procrastination is a sign of disorganization in my life.
The reimbursement example was me. I also have two other finance related things that have been put off since August that I keep forgetting because I got out of the habit of using my system I first blogged about. These are important signs to me that my life is piling up and I’m not managing it properly. It’s a sign to me that I’m making poor choices. It’s a sign I need to re-evaluate and get back to that. I read a very important book a few years ago called Organizing Your Private World which talked about how if our inner, personal life was out-of-order there would likely be evidence in the “real” world. Messy desks, filled up inboxes, piled up laundry, empty fridges to name a few examples. For me it means I’m feeling overwhelmed and I need to get back on top of things. By staying on top of my inner life (do I feel overwhelmed and stressed? Or empowered and inspired?) I am better able to manage my outer life. Sometimes though, like today, I just need to hit ‘reboot’ and get control of my life again. With time, I think it will become more and more natural.