stormy-beach

Is there something you need to do, something you’ve been putting off? The procrastination scale, I’d say, ranges from those who always take action, no matter how hard the task, to those who become so anxious and fearful about doing a particular thing that it almost paralyses them. At work I’m in the “just do it” category. At home I’m somewhere in the middle.

I’ve been putting something off. I knew I needed to get the thing done but I resisted it. Partly it was annoyance: “Really?! I have to do this? I have to prove myself again?!” Partly it was fear of being judged, of getting it wrong, of not being good enough. This thing had a deadline, so I knew I couldn’t put it off indefinitely. I also knew I didn’t want to do it at the last minute, in a horrible rush, producing something less than I was capable of.

I put the thing off for about a week, until I realised that it was becoming bigger than it needed to be. It started to loom, like a storm cloud, hovering menacingly at the edge of everything, and I hated that. I realised I’d begun to tell myself stories about the thing: “Oh, this will happen and then this. And so and so will say such and such.” The whole narrative was made up. How can we ever really know what someone will say or what will happen? We can’t. We know only what we will say or do.

I went for a swim, which is how I do my best thinking. Up and down the pool I went, watching the ripples of sunlight dancing on the bottom. I thought about “ahimsa”. It’s a Sanskrit word meaning “do no harm”. The principle is common to many religions and philosophies, but the important aspect of it that we almost always overlook is that it also means do no harm to yourself. As I swam, I thought about how the procrastination was causing me harm, making me unnecessarily anxious, weighing on my mind when it shouldn’t. And then I knew what I had to do:

  • Stop making up stories about what might happen.
  • Break the thing into smaller, more manageable pieces.
  • Deal with one piece a day, unless you get so fired up after completing one task that you want to keep going.
  • Allow enough time.
  • Be happy with what you have done.
  • Hope for the best outcome but have a plan B.

So that’s what I did. The first task was a phone call. I’d imagined it going badly but it didn’t. The person was chatty and helpful and I enjoyed talking to them. The second and third tasks involved writing. They took me two days. I did a lot of walking around the house. I thought about doing the ironing. But otherwise I sat down and wrote. The next task is a way off and may not even happen. I’ve done my bit for now and have to wait for someone else to make a decision. In the meantime, I’m thinking about plan B.

If plan A works out then my life changes in a good way. If not, plan B is okay until something else comes along. Either way, I’m happy because I’ve done my best. I’ve done what needed to be done. What about you? Is there something you need to do? By all means think about it and give yourself time…but not too much. Just get it done. Good luck!

sunnybeach