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On Procrastination

“What a peculiar clean freak!” a curious person might exclaim, having examined my daily to-do lists from the last two or three weeks. Intrigued they will be, and why not, for there is one particular chore that I appear to take on every day without fail.

Apparent from my daily lists, I am fond of cleaning my garage, to the point that I do it daily. Now, that’s a standalone three bay garage we are talking about and tidying it every day would be peculiar indeed. How dirty does it get in a day, anyway?

No, my friends, the only reason this item is on my daily list, is that I have been putting it off. Even not-so-gentle reminders from my wife do not seem to produce enough motivation to get me roll up my sleeves. So, what is the reason for my procrastination?

There are factors that cause people to procrastinate. More often than not, we put off things that appear to be tedious, unpleasant, uninspiring, or unimportant. In my case, the garage chore seems to possess all of these qualities. Inevitably, other tasks pop up all the time that I can mentally assign more value, more appeal and more urgency to, and so the poor garage gets bumped again.

Don’t tell me in never happened to you. The only reason I am typing up this stuff now is because I know for the fact that homo sapiens is the species that invented procrastination. Imagine a bear dragging his feet on a new winter den, or a salmon figuring not to run upstream to spawn. It just does not happen in other species, as far as I know.

Here are a few pointers to help to get over the problem.

  1. Deal with tasks decisively. Tackle them as they appear, do not assign them to the ‘maybe tomorrow” category, and take pleasure in striking them off your list.
  2. Use simple task lists. As my case demonstrates, they don’t guarantee that it will get done, but at least they guarantee that is not going to drop off your radar. Besides, ticking things off the list is darn satisfying.
  3. Reward yourself. Do something you really like after you are finished with a dreaded chore. Have a coffee, go for a walk, listen to music, or play Solitaire.
  4. Delegate, if you consistently find yourself dragging your feet on a particular activity. Others may be better suited for it. Your chore may well be someone else’s enjoyment.
  5. Enjoy being productive. I guarantee that your energy level will shoot up if you deal with your task list with vigor and fortitude.

Finally, don’t dawdle, as that is even worse than procrastination. It does not take a whole day to write a project status update, nor do you have to debate with yourself whether to make that dreaded phone call. If you don’t feel like cleaning the garage right now, fine, but remember that you cannot ignore it forever!

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