Hot Tub Spaceship: Volume Two: Episode Nineteen
How To Stop Procrastinating To Reach Your Life Goals
My pastor preached on procrastination this morning. He used the following definition: the action of delaying or postponing something. “How can procrastination be described as an action? Isn’t it a lack of action?” he asked. Then he answered his own rhetorical question: “It is an action because we choose to do other actions in place of the action that is more important to us. Procrastination is action in a sideways direction from your preferred goal.” It was a good message because it got me thinking.
I remember at college I often had a hard time starting research papers. I knew that I needed to begin with some preliminary research, and then follow that up with a rough outline, and then add some more specific research according to the outline, and then write a rough draft, and finally the finished copy. Duh. But I often didn’t feel like doing it. I’d rather play foosball with the guys in the dorm, or tie a rope to my bunk bed and repel out the window with Black Robe and Chairman Mao, or go back to the students lounge to keep practicing talking with girls. But then I devised a plan to get me back into the library to write the research paper – a plan to battle distracting actions with the power of inaction! I’d go to the library and sit in a chair, with some books and paper in front of me, and just wait. And wait. And wait. Until I felt like working. “I’m going to wait you out, ” I’d whisper to my procrastinating self. “I can do this all day.” Eventually, of course, I’d win. I’d get tired of sitting, doing nothing, and pick up the pen and begin going through the process of writing a decent research paper. I defeated wrong action with inaction, resulting in positive action in the preferred direction.
I had another strategy I’d use to trick my procrastinating self. I called it the Thirty Minute Diversion. “Ok Procrastinating Self,” I’d say. “Let’s clean this house.”
“Sure,” Procrastinating Self would reply. “But let’s do it later.”
“Well,” I’d say, “I’ll make you a deal: let’s just clean for thirty minutes, and then stop.”
“Okay, deal,” Procrastinating Self would reply.
And we’d start cleaning. And then we’d get into it, and begin to see progress. Then later, once the house was all cleaned up, I’d look at the time and realize that once again, I had defeated my procrastinating self.
Do You Have A Vision For Your Preferred Future?
Fight Pastor once told me that people get more positive stuff accomplished when they have a vision for why they want to do that positive stuff. Do you put off going to the gym regularly? It’s not because you’re lazy; it’s because you don’t have a vision what you want to look like, or feel like, in the future, by going to the gym. You don’t have a guiding image of the preferred you to motivate you. (Or maybe you’re just not a gym person – stop being so hard on yourself!) Are you making little to no effort to fix a broken relationship? It’s not because you hate the relationship, or because there’s no love in the relationship – it might be because you don’t have a vision for what the relationship could become. You don’t have a guiding image of the relationship to motivate you to fix it. (Or maybe the relationship is not salvageable – see a counselor!)
Is Procrastination Only An Issue For The Young?
Speaking of relationships, I’ve stopped procrastinating on improving my end of my relationship with Lana – I’m never critical anymore, I’m intentionally sweet and supportive like never before, and I never make her feel pressure from any expectations – and I think it’s working; we’re like kids falling back in love. One positive action I do every day is making Lana a sandwich in the middle of her workday. She delivers mail near our house, so every day, in the middle of her route, she comes home for a delicious sandwich that I’ve prepared for her. Then she heads back out to work. Today, in between bites, we talked about this topic.
“What do you think about procrastination?” I asked Lana.
“Procrastination?” she repeated, like she hasn’t heard the word in years, “Is that still a thing?”
“I know!” I said. “It’s something we talked about in the nineties, right?”
“Maybe that’s it,” she replied. “Perhaps it’s a young person’s issue.”
“Yeah, ” I said, agreeing. “At our age we just do what we want to do, or not. I can’t even remember the last time someone accused me of procrastinating about anything.”
“Maybe we just don’t have people like that in our lives anymore,” she said. “Thanks for the yummy sandwich; gotta go back to work.”
What We Can Learn From Watching Children About Achieving Our Preferred Future
I got this part-time job – on-call casual playground duty officer – at my kids school. I refer to the job as the Call of Duty. Sometimes I wear my big brown coat. My daughter, Ellie, and her cousin, Kayla, come running over to see me: “You look like a big brown duty!” they laugh, and run away. Other kids aren’t as friendly: “Hey Duty! We kicked our ball over the fence. Get it! It’s your duty, Duty.”
“Pricks,” I mumble, under my breath, as I get their ball.
I was on duty the other day, when a little grade one girl ran over and asked me to tie her shoes. “Nice shoes,” I said.
“Thanks,” she said, “I’m a cat. Meow.”
“I think you have some (pause) food on your mouth?” I said, noticing some black food-like stuff on her face.
“That’s not real food,” she replied, as she ran away. “That’s sticks. We’re all cats looking for food.”
I looked around the playground and saw dozens of tiny kids, eating sticks, leaves, pine cones – one kid was licking a tree, another a rock, another the ground.
“Kids these days,” I laughed. “They just don’t give a fuck anymore.”
One day, I noticed a lonely girl, walking around near the fence that surrounds the playground. I called Ellie over. “Why don’t you invite that kid to play with you and Kayla?” So she did. The lonely girl had a huge smile on her face, as the three girls ran off playing with Ellie’s finger-puppets.
Maybe there’s a similarity between adults like us and kids like them – there’s a time to not give a fuck, and a time to listen to the voices of the preferred future.
Maybe a days worth is not measured in accomplishments, but how I stayed in sync with those voices. If so, then thats the vision of the preferred future I want.