Over the last week we’ve talked about procrastination a whole lot on Facebook. Why? We needed something to do instead of what we should be doing, and talking about procrastination seemed appropriate. Oddly, having thought about the subject considerably, we came to a somewhat unexpected conclusion.
Procrastination is more about a lack of patience than putting off what you should be doing.
Think about it for a moment… Think about what you put off doing (I’m not talking about little admin jobs you let build up until they bite your ass, but the things that really matter). These things typically take up a lot of time, the results aren’t immediate, the outcome might well rely on the approval of others, that approval, if not received, could extend the completion of that project.
So take your novel as an example. Think about the time it takes from idea to draft, then from draft to final edit, then from final edit to submission. Then, once you submit it, you have to wait some more. You might or might not get the deal you want. If you don’t, you have to get back to work and wait some more. It’s a long process. It takes time. So instead of diving in and doing it, you do other things. Things that do have a guaranteed outcome (sorting the shed, doing the laundry, building a website, cutting the grass…).
Because the truth is, we don’t do NOTHING when we procrastinate. We fill our time with things we can finish quickly and easily. We get busy and we stay busy. Finishing things we can control feels good. Finishing them quickly feels even better.
So what does patience have to do with procrastination?
If we had patience, we could wake up in the morning and accept that the thing we want to do will take as long as it will take. When you accept that, starting doesn’t seem so daunting.
Patience is the thing that allows us to slow, think and love the ride. It’s the state of mind that allows us to enjoy the views of the journey we’re on. It’s the feeling of calm in a world full of chaos. It’s the acceptance that we are in charge of our daily actions and that freaking out over how long it takes us to get there will do nothing but delay us and give us an ulcer.
So be calm today folks. Be patient with yourself. Some things aren’t meant to be finished in a day or a week or a year. Some things take time. The more impatient you are, the more you will procrastinate, and the longer it will take. So be patient, accept things as they are, pick up your pen, and get to work.
Kick back and watch the grass grow. It will take as long as it takes.