There’s a popular joke which can be used right at the moment when someone is aiming at something, say, a dart at a dartboard. As they’re lining up their shot, drop in with a, “Nice aim, but I’d be more worried about the people standing beside you than the board.” Watch as laughter ensues! (unless of course you cause someone to actually miss the shot, in which case sticking around is not advisable).
The joke about aim is exactly how I feel about being a master procrastinator. If I find myself hurled headfirst into a job, I can pretty much guarantee I will get every single task around it done efficiently, all the while completely ignoring the main priority at hand. But contrary to popular belief, I argue this is not necessarily a bad thing. Wait, hear me out. Before you off-taskers falling down the rabbit hole of YouTube, or you Netflix bingers finishing up your third season of something or other rush in to agree with me here, understand that I am not recommending procrastination. And I certainly do not believe that all types of procrastination are created equal (looking at you, Netflix and YouTube, at the bottom of the rung).
I simply want to make a point for all of us out there without the iron will of a feral dog, locking onto a task with steadfast jaws absolutely refusing to let go. In other words, I’m speaking to the rest of us poor, easily distracted masses – procrastination does not have to be such a harrowing word. This word, so long indicted with its bad reputation, can be multifaceted. Procrastination can have two faces, one that you love and one you may hate, with the fact remaining that not all procrastination is perpetuated the same.
The key, after all, behind procrastination is resistance. Resistance is the Don, the Godfather, the main reason behind why dreams die and creative ventures don’t get made. Whenever we let a drop of our soul’s inspiration land into the bucket of determination, Resistance is the hot wind that blows by trying to dry it up. And one of Resistance’s favourite tools is to send in Procrastination, his right-hand man, to try and mess us up. Because most of the time, it works.
One of the worst lies we tell ourselves is the lie that we’ll ‘do it tomorrow’ or on Monday; or maybe we find ourselves waiting for this thing to happen or that thing and once it does we are definitely going to start then. These lies are dangerous, specifically because we tell them to ourselves to let us off the hook. We know there is something that needs to be done – all signs inside point us in that very direction – but resistance holds us back from believing we can accomplish it.
By telling ourselves we will do it later, we appease our screaming conscience through the white lie that it is going to be done. Meanwhile in the background, we can hear resistance purr with satisfaction because it knows it will never be done. When we procrastinate like this, by taking a total kind of detour away from our purpose, resistance has won.
What about the other kind of procrastination, the road less traveled that does not necessarily stop in a dead end, throwing its riders off a cliff to crash and burn? Anything worth doing, after all, is not going to be easy. Even if you are possessed of that exalted personality type, capable of staying on task from start to finish regardless of what your DVR is teasing, or what your fridge is constantly tempting. Usually when we commit ourselves to a creative endeavor we are not signing up for a walk in the park. This means even if you begin with the focus rivaling a world champion of staring contests, at some point fatigue is going to get to you, and almost certainly procrastination will follow by peeping out its ugly head.
What do you do when you know you should be writing for example, but that stack of envelopes in your bottom drawer wants to be organized RIGHT NOW? And how long has it been since you last cleaned out your closet? Procrastination has long been associated with distraction, something unnecessary that pulls you off task, and in the worst case (but also most likely, let’s be honest) takes you off task completely. For an indefinite amount of time. It is every university student’s worst nightmare, and what fuels coffee sales the week before exams (or the night before – I see you, oh you reckless).
What if we thought of procrastination, not as distraction, but instead as a break? When you are so focused forward but the weight of the task demands a rest, give yourself permission to take one. Rome was not built in a day – but they used slave labour so there probably wasn’t a say on the subject anyways. Don’t be your own slave master, treat yourself to much more kindness. If you are losing your focus it’s your minds way of telling you it needs a second, some time away to regroup before it can process the task at hand. Give yourself that time. Set down a limit so you don’t enter into a free-fall, but then take off and enjoy. Clean your bathroom, go out with friends, organize all your old photos by date. Then come back, new and refreshed, and try again.
Your road to engaging in a creative life is a long one, and no one is asking you to take it in one shot. When you get tired, remember to rest. Listen to what your body wants. The more fruitful the break to what your psyche is craving, the more energy you will draw from it, and the further the next leg of your journey will unfurl. Taking breaks are the blessings along the way that save us from trying to quit. They are important; they are necessary. When you procrastinate properly, you can clear your heart and your head (and also the dust in your bathroom, bonus!). There is much to be gained – listen to yourself, hear what you need, then follow it.
If you don’t quit, resistance cannot win. Don’t be lazy or be stubbornly bull-headed working yourself into the ground, for neither will achieve your aims. You don’t have to fall off the wagon or furiously drive it forwards until all its pistons break, no, choose the middle ground, the third option. Choose to just ride that journey, stopping when necessary along the way, and to arrive at your destination both healthy and sane.
And please, a cautionary tale from a reformed Netflix junkie – getting caught up in a show is almost never a good idea, so if that is your procrastination poison of choice throw some caution to the wind. Ten episodes in (“I’ll only watch just one”), when you finally come up for air, bleary eyed and unshaven, you can forget about trying to get back on track to what you were doing. Trust me, and stay safe out there.
Author’s Note: If you like what you read, be sure to Like, Follow, and Share the post! It would really help me to get the content out there and to reach more awesome readers just like you (and you know you’re awesome, right?) Thanks a bunch, I appreciate it, and I’ll see you back here next Wednesday 😀