Ok, so there is this trick about tomorrow. It never really comes. Now that seems like a silly thing to say. Of course tomorrow will come, and when it’s over we will be one day older, hopefully one day wiser. But the way we use the idea of tomorrow when we procrastinate does not really exist.
There is no tomorrow in which today’s tasks will some how be less scary or difficult. So why do so many of us believe in this idea of tomorrow as some magical place where we will with minimal effort sail through tasks which today fill us with such anxiety we can not even bring ourselves to start?
But we all engage in this type of day dreaming, we imagine ourselves eagerly cleaning every nook and cranny of our house smiling all the while, spending four hours at the gym we haven’t been inside for months, easily balancing our budget though we haven’t looked at our bank statement for weeks. Though we know nothing has or probably will happen between today and tomorrow to significantly change the way we feel about these tasks. We some how rationalize that tomorrow for no apparent reason we will jump out of bed bubbling over with enthusiasm to tackle these tasks.
How is it that our minds manage to trick us into believing in this fantasy tomorrow again and again? We fall for it even though we know from experience our task will be more difficult the longer we procrastinate.
Inevitably, we must at some point clean our house, exercise our bodies, and manage our finances, but often we put these things off to the very last moment. We justify our procrastination by imaging that at some point in the near future our drive to complete these tasks will do such a 180 that we will merrily over compensate for what we failed to do today. The problem is that day never comes.
It is true that you can wait till the day when your back is up against the wall and you hurriedly attempt to get done what you should have started many yesterdays ago. If you are lucky you produce something of acceptable quality - if you’re lucky. If you’re not so lucky, that last day may include the bank repossessing your house, a diagnosis of diabetes or something even worse.
When we think of procrastination the obvious scenarios pop into our minds. “This report at work was a little late” or “I meant to go over those bills today but I just don’t feel like it. I’ll do it tomorrow”. These are the small things that come into our minds when we think about the negative consequences of procrastination. But this small seemingly insignificant habit of putting things off one more day or one more month can affect our health, relationships and financial futures in ways most people don’t realize.
For example, what is the cost of procrastinating when it comes to putting our finances in order? A wise man once said, “Ignorance is expensive indeed”. Do you know the rate of interest you pay on your credit cards? Have you shopped around for the ones with the lowest interest rates or ones that give you the most sensible money saving rewards for your situation? Is the yield on your savings account competitive with other banks and financial institutions? Is your bank or credit union federally insured by the NCUA (National Credit Union Administration) or the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation)?
Today more than ever we are seeing the consequences of financial ignorance. Many people would not immediately link financial irresponsibility to procrastination. But what is procrastination but understanding we should take action to do, to know or to change a current situation but fear stops us in our tracks. And what type of information do we fear more than the truth about our finances? Many people would rather have their appendix removed than sit down and take an honest look at their finances. We know we should learn more about money and take better care of our finances but we put it off till tomorrow. We’re still ok, right?
We see something similar happening with obesity. We know what we should eat, we know how much we should exercise but we are scared to change. We are scared no matter how hard we try we will never achieve that ideal weight; we will never become that confident beautiful person we imagine we might be if we could over come our fear and stop procrastinating. Health issues are also one of the last things that may come to mind when the word procrastination is mentioned. But at the heart of many peoples daily struggle with health or weight gain is procrastination. It’s the idea that tomorrow we will go on a diet. Tomorrow we will take the time to prepare nutritious food and stop eating unhealthy snacks. Tomorrow we will go to the gym and do cardio and resistance training until it hurts. Tomorrow we will have the will, desire, and strength to make the changes we could be making today.
Hopefully what you have taken from this short essay is a better understanding of the many ways procrastination can adversely affect your daily life. The question remains, now that we know how harmful procrastination can be, what can we do to stop ourselves from procrastinating?
I think a common misconception that people have is that we can not do things in fear or discomfort , we can not with shaking hands or tight throats do a financial inventory of our household, we can not dredge through an exhausting work-out or eat a meal that is less than appetizing until our tastes change. And yes, cravings and tastes are learned and will change with time.
In this country we abhor discomfort and pain and that’s not always a bad thing, but it creates a misconception. And that misconception is that emotion must come before action and that everything that is good for us and important should feel good as we are doing it. In reality it is action that is taken in spite of emotion that has the power to set us free and unlock our greatest potential. In truth we are more than capable of acting in fear and discomfort and I believe that some of the world’s greatest accomplishments were acted out under such circumstances. It is after we have gone through the uncomfortable process of changing our habits and facing our fears that we feel the joy, pleasure, and contentment that comes with taking action.
Sure we could wait until tomorrow to start unlocking this potential, but then, there is that trick about tomorrow…