“What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.” ~Goethe
As a cynic, I’m unsurprisingly cynical about such a statement.
I’m a serial procrastinator—avoiding things is what I do, and I’m left wondering if good old Goethe was hiding the fact that he was potentially stumped with writer’s block, immersed in a bunch of chores he didn’t want to do and occasionally depressed.
He had a point, admittedly: if you don’t get up and do it, it’ll never get done. We avoid things for a lot of reasons; some things are huge and can be quite scary. Other things are relatively insignificant and often leave us wondering why we ran from them to begin with.
It’s easier said than done, though, isn’t it? If I got up and started today (finishing by tomorrow if all goes to plan), I would have written this over a week ago. There were things in the way that stopped me from harnessing my get-up-and-go. Like depression. Self-doubt. Su-doku.
I’ve started using Goethe’s maxim to clear away the small, annoying stuff that I’ll never be free of if I don’t start clearing them today. Which means that I’ll never get round to doing the stuff I really want to do:
1. Start embracing three positive things from your day.
This article—A Scientific Perspective on Happiness; Rules in Your Head—will tell you all you need to know. I’ve been using it for about two weeks and have already seen the difference it’s made in my attitude: I feel happier and proud that I can now bake vegan cookies successfully. No more masses of gooey dough in my oven.
Knowing that you achieved three things in your day that made you feel good and knowing why you achieved them helps evict the Doubt Monster—meaning that it won’t be in your way so often.
2. Don’t force it.
I’m guilty of believing that you have to be authoritarian with yourself in order to achieve; but all it does is make you feel worse if you don’t reach the often unrealistic goals you set yourself. Don’t be so harsh on yourself; it can take time before you’re ready to do those things.
3. Purge the frustration tank.
You know what I mean, right? You sit down to revise your budget and every single digit is sitting on the page laughing, throwing paper planes and blowing raspberries at you. You forget to pencil in your train fare; fail to see you didn’t carry the one about thirty sums back; and you’ve just realised your insurance company has been leeching more money from you than you’re comfortable with.
So you quit with the budget and stomp off to make a cup of tea, unable to face the torment again.
Take a scrap of paper and write down all of the things that are bugging you—it doesn’t matter how trivial. Ticking clocks drive me insane. Write them all down. Don’t miss anything. Once you’ve completed the list, tear it up and throw it in the bin.
I burn mine. Or, you could sit down and tell your pet everything that irritates you; cats are always the best listeners. With your frustrations vented, you’ll feel better prepared for tackling that budget with a clearer head.
4. Commit random acts of creativity.
You don’t have to be a world class artist, writer or musician to create. I commit myself to an hour a day to creating something, whether it’s clearer notes from my saxophone, fresh brownies, a charcoal sketch or a few paragraphs of a story.
Putting aside that space allows me to express myself without anyone else’s vested interests. Think about it: When do you get to express yourself instead of other people? Their views, feelings, needs – we spend a lot of time expressing and fulfilling those, so isn’t it about time we did the same for ourselves?
Procrastinating isn’t a bad thing. Avoiding the bigger issue to clear away the debris of a noisy, unhappy mind is a positive and healthy thing to do. That will make it a lot easier to start with the bigger things tomorrow.