There’s nothing wrong with procrastination. Or is there? I’ll leave it to you to decide, but only if you have the time.
~ Craig Brown
Procrastination is the path of least resistance in a world where we dwell on the past and expect many more tomorrows. It is easily mastered.
As I write this, life as we know it has drastically changed. The coronavirus COVID-19 has plunged us into the deep end of what psychiatrist Irvin Yalom calls the four ultimate concerns of life: death, isolation, freedom, and meaninglessness. These are trying times indeed as we struggle to come to grips with at least three of these. For many, all four are battling for our attention.
Rather than dwell on all the aspects of life that we cannot control, let’s use this unique situation as an opportunity for self-reflection.
Many of us have been given an opportunity to slow down and reflect on what is important. Some of us struggle with more time on our hands than usual.
What should we do with this time we can no longer fill with live social events and the busyness that we had become so accustomed to?
If you don’t know where to begin, start to think about how you have been spending your time and how you would prefer to spend it.
Regardless of how you choose to fill the hours of these days of uncertainty, this time of heightened awareness is perfect grist for the mill.
One thing that I have learned during my quest for greater presence is:
When we become committed to presence, procrastination begins to lose its hold.
The Fallacy of Not Enough Time
Postponing and putting things off until an unknown point in the future works against us on many levels. It feeds negative self-talk. It keeps us mired in past regrets. It bogs us down with if onlys. It is quite literally a waste of time (exceptions apply).
Have you ever found yourself saying:
I’m too busy.
I don’t have enough time.
If only I had more time, I’d….
The gift of time is one we often squander.
With social-distancing and coronavirus lockdown measures around the world, time is being returned to us.
Many of us are beginning to realize that, as it turns out, not having enough time is not the real reason for our procrastination.
The not enough time excuse is a fallacy for many of us.
We now recognize not having enough time for the excuse it is. There are other reasons we don’t do the things we say we want to do. They relate back to the four ultimate concerns of death, isolation, freedom, and meaningless, but that’s a deeper topic for another day.
Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.’
~ Lao Tzu
Reclaim Lost Time
Through awareness and reflection, we can begin to spend less time procrastinating and more time doing what we want to do.
An important step in the process of mastering the art of not procrastinating is getting clear on whether or not we really want to do the things we are procrastinating. How essential are they? Are they essential enough to start taking small steps to ending our habits of procrastination?
How do you really want to use the time you have?
Whether COVID-19 has given you more free time or less, there are ways to begin shifting the way you spend your time.
The first step is to take an honest look at how you spend your time. Next, be honest about how you want to spend your time.
Once you have identified your priorities, you can begin to make subtle shifts in your environment and behavior that will work for you instead of against you. I’ll talk more about this later.
For now, take a moment to ask yourself a few questions:
How do I spend my time? (both mentally and physically)
How many hours of screen time do I average each day?
How much time do I waste procrastinating?
Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.
~ William Penn
Procrastination Ends Where Value Begins
At the beginning of this year, I woke up with the gift of a question. Before this question came to me, I had been contemplating an endless list of things I wanted to do. I struggled to figure out what to focus on, what to give my time to. Waking with this question helped me figure out how I wanted to use my time more advantageously. It has been guiding me ever since.
If, like me, you struggle to use your time productively and aren’t sure where to begin, that question might be useful for you too. That very simple question is:
Where does my time belong?
It is not for me to tell you how to spend your time. Only you can do that. And you do. This isn’t new. However, because life has suddenly and drastically changed, there is an opportunity to slow down, stop, and check in with yourself.
Begin to value your time. Find the value in doing the things you put off. How would it feel to have them done?
The things we put off hang over us. They can make doing nothing feel undeserved. Their weight is real. It can be lightened.
What is one small thing you can do each day that will take you in the direction of making more space in your life for doing nothing?
Rather than seeing productivity as getting things done and checking things off a to-do list, can we instead see it as spending our time and energy in the best possible way?
Time spent talking with family and friends and time spent doing nothing can be just as valuable and productive as time spent tidying or tackling projects and crossing things off our to-do list.
If doing nothing is what you need right now, then it’s important to honor that.
Down time is important.
Doing nothing might just be the most productive thing you can do for yourself.
Now, more than ever, we need to be gentle with ourselves. We need to guard our time and energy carefully. In doing so, we may find that doing nothing is a step in the right direction. It might be just what we need to feed our fire.
If staying cozy under your blankets in the morning after waking up feeds your soul, choose it. Value it. However, if it causes you stress and uses up time you would rather spend doing something else, then limit it.
Become the master of your time.
If you have been stuck in unproductive habits of procrastination and want to start making some changes, stay tuned. I know exactly what I want to do with some of my time, and it is to share what has worked for me in order to help others get unstuck and start removing some of the weight of things left undone. I’ve been there. There is a way out.
By beginning to recognize behaviors that are unproductive and unhelpful to your emotional well-being, you have already taken the first step.
Find what makes you present.