Do you have something big looming on your to do list? Perhaps it’s been on there for a while and you just can’t seem to face it. Maybe you have even done other things you were dreading just to avoid doing The Big Bad Dreaded Thing?
This is my sad tale more often then I care to admit. I’m a lifelong procrastinator and while I’ve gotten better, I still tend to let certain tasks I don’t want to do fester. I’ve even created a fake productivity strategy around this terrible habit which I call “The Hierarchy of Procrastination” wherein I do somethings I don’t want to do to avoid doing other things I want to do even less. For example, I do the dishes to get out of doing homework, and I do homework to get out of sweeping the floor, and so on and so forth. It is not actually a very helpful strategy, because there’s always The Big Bad Dreaded Thing at the end of the list and there’s nothing I want to do less, so I just…don’t do the thing. So I have recently been putting into practice a much healthier strategy. It doesn’t have an awesome name like The Hierarchy of Procrastination, but we can see how far a fancy name got me, i.e. not very.
The idea for this strategy came from my love/hate relationship with running. I have been running for three years now. I’m not a naturally athletic person, I never enjoyed sports or gym class as a child, but over the course of the last three years, I’ve come to appreciate and ultimately depend on the benefits running brings to my life. I am healthier, mentally and physically, when I run. I’ve gained self-confidence and a more positive relationship with my body. But, between you and me and the computer screen, I totally hate running. It is THE WORST! It hurts and it takes time out of my day and it is very hard and I get bored, I don’t like running when it’s too hot or too cold outside but I also hate running on a treadmill. Does this make me sound like a giant human mess? Yes, because that is what I am and that is probably what you are too, my friend. How on Earth do I drag my whiney, messy self outside to run when I’d rather slouch on the couch and whine about it and how on Earth do you do that one Thing that’s looming on your to do list?
Here’s how: one step at a time, with some light self-deception.
Basically, I tell myself I don’t have to go for a run I just have to put my running clothes on. Then, if I still don’t want to run, I can just go for a walk instead. 100% of the time I go for a run. That’s because a lifetime of procrastination has taught me that worrying about the Thing and whining about it and putting it off is always worse then facing up to it and doing it. And all the putting off and whining and worrying just builds a massive wall that is dark and scary and the Thing itself probably isn’t even that bad. So what you have to do is put on your metaphorical running shoes and see how you feel. Lie to yourself a little bit and tell yourself you don’t actually have to start working on the project, but you do have to figure out what your first step would be. And as long as you’re figuring out what your first step should be, why don’t you list the next few steps and some deadlines? Maybe outline who you need to communicate with to get the project started. You end up breaking down the task into manageable pieces that don’t seem so bad and before you know it, you’re off and working on your project and I’m off and singing a Beyonce song to myself while I’m running and we’re both the happier for it!