A Few Thoughts about Procrastination … finally.

 In Blog, Cool Stuff

I was having lunch with a friend and mentor of mine the other day, who is a great writer, and he mentioned that “I noticed you haven’t sent out a newsletter in awhile.”  Thanks for calling me out Sir, this one’s for you…;)

I started going back through my dusty mental file cabinet to figure out why that had happened, what I had been up to, and when was the appropriate time to get restarted.  Well…there was the holidays… first I was out for a week with my daughter over Thanksgiving.  Then there was the canoe trip to the Everglades in early December, that was another week.  And then the Christmas and New Year’s holidays shut everything down to about half-time hours for two weeks.  January was spent mostly trying to catch up in work and in life, and that brings us to today.

An apology of sorts – In a way, this is not so dissimilar from what happens with a lot of my clients and prospective clients.  And now I have to eat a little crow concerning my advice to another friend who was putting his divorce off until sometime after the holidays.  I had pretty callously advised him not to procrastinate, but I ended up doing the same thing concerning this newsletter.  I’ll call myself out on it, just to save him the trouble 😉

Why does this happen?  I can only speak for myself, but it smells like procrastination to me.  According toPsychology Today and Dr. Joseph Ferrari, there are three main reasons for procrastination – Arousal (waiting for the last minute for a euphoric rush); Avoiding (fear of failure or success, concerned with what other’s may think); and Decisional (avoiding a decision to avoid responsibility).  That’s interesting, but not particularly helpful.

I read an interesting article in Forbes Magazine by Kevin Kruse here, which referenced a psychological study which determined that merely changing the metric by which we measure time (i.e., to “days”) subjects were better able to connect their future self to their present actions (or inactions).  As Dr. Jordan Peterson likes to reference, per Homer Simpson – that’s a problem for future Homer…man, I don’t envy that guy! [followed by Homer then pouring a fifth of vodka into a mayonnaise jar, drinking it, and immediately passing out].  You can watch the YouTube clip with Russian subtitles here (and you should).

Let’s give it a shot.  (not the mayo).  Christmas is basically less than one year away, right?  Doesn’t seem urgent, does it?  What if I told you Christmas was 10 months, and 19 days away?  What if I told you it was 46 weeks away?  What if I told you it was exactly 322 days away?  You may start to feel like you better start saving for Christmas again, or at least I do when I think of it that way.

But maybe Christmas isn’t that significant of an event for you.  What about your retirement?  Let’s say you’re 50 years old, and plan to retire at age 65.  Your retirement is 15 years away, right?  How about retiring in 5,475 days?

Still not urgent enough?  Let’s take it a step further.  Again, let’s say you’re 50 years old, and your typical life expectancy is 80 years.  You have 30 years left on this earth (hopefully).  How about 10,950 days left?  That makes you think a little, or as the study states:

People assume they should attend to the present; their future self can handle the future. This seemingly plausible rule of thumb can lead people astray, in part because some future events require current action. In order for the future to energize and motivate current action, it must feel imminent…Time metrics mattered not because they changed…[but] because how connected and congruent their current and future selves felt.

If you did what I, or something similar, you just lost 106 of your maybe 10,950 days. It’s forgivable, but it’s not nothing. – Here’s to your future Homer! Good luck 😉

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