Procrastination - OK I stopped putting it off.
Procrastination is too common in my life. For instance, I have been thinking about writing this blog post all week and just didn’t get it done until now. It is one of those things that I believe affects all of us at one time or another, and for a variety of reasons. I want to make a couple of different points here. I want to point out some reasons why we procrastinate, and I want to point out three areas where we should never procrastinate.
“Don’t put off till tomorrow what can be done today”, is the oldest of the sayings that I recall my Mother drilling into my skull about homework and school projects. Yet I continued to delay and delay, but why? The big term paper that I had weeks to work on, became a last-minute fire drill way too often. I believe it is because of either pleasure or fear.
We are hardwired to do what makes us feel good. So, if there is a task which is not inherently pleasant, we will push it off and do something else that is fun. In today’s world there are so many things to do at any moment, it is hard to focus on one thing. Modern technology has added to the list of distractions that I encountered as a kid in school. Cable television, the internet and mobile phones place way too many options in front of us regardless of where we are. We will tend to gravitate to the tasks which are fun. Managing and filtering the distractions is critical if you want to be productive and get things done, especially the hard stuff.
Fear could possibly be fit into the “wanting to feel good” category, in that we want to avoid pain; whether it’s physical, pain, emotional distress, anxiety or embarrassment. We put off tasks that cause us to be uncomfortable, especially if the discomfort is linked to our fears. We fear failure or embarrassment, so we delay in putting ourselves out there. We don’t want the stress of being rejected in any way. Fear can be a powerful demotivator, forcing us to stay still when we should be acting.
Procrastination can not only link to work type activities, but we can get so busy that we lose focus on what should be important to us each day. I have spent a lot of time over the past two years learning to live in the present, the now. Not focusing on the past or worrying about the future. Bottom line is that “Now” is the only time we know if ours so why waste it? That said there are three key areas where we should never procrastinate.
We should always make the time each day to tell those around us that we love and care for how we feel and that we appreciate them. As I think back on 9-11, one of the common remembrances was the recordings from people calling their loved ones one last time. How often do you get up and moving with out saying I Love You to your partner or child? When was the last time you called your parents or siblings? I don’t want the regret of losing someone after I missed an opportunity to say and show my love. A key lesson from 9-11 is that tomorrow, they may not be there.
A lesson I have learned is to enjoy the peace and quiet, to slow down. Like I said before, life is busy and filled with distractions. We need to take the time to breathe, meditate, center ourselves. I have always enjoyed nature; the beauty of a sunset or a wildflower in bloom, a butterfly or hawk flying above me or even the wind blowing through the trees. It is not healthy for me to delay making time to enjoy the quiet moments. I try to capture some of these moments with my camera, but no picture can compare to the beauty around us. Everyday, I stop to smell the flowers.
The third is simply to be grateful to God who has made all this possible. My friends, family, home, nature, sunsets and sunrises are all gifts. I must make time to give thanks. If I fail to recognize the source, I am missing out on a deeper peace and serenity in my life. While I do not ever want to force my understanding of God on anyone else, I do believe the spiritual practice of gratitude is critical to health and happiness. This practice also calms my fears and confirms my feelings of self-worth.
Act! Don’t sit and wait for things. Move! Put your fears aside and take the leap. Love! Know that in your journey and the challenges that beset you, that you are not alone. Enjoy! Take pleasure in the path and the scenery that surrounds you. But don’t miss the opportunity to share your love and your thanks.
You can put things off until tomorrow but tomorrow may never come.