It’s not very often you discover a secret to life, but get ready—I just learned a whopper (you’re welcome).
Every goal I have and every weakness I want eradicated can be achieved by figuring out one thing: how to quit procrastinating.
I’ll start eating healthy after cleaning this bowl of cookie dough. I’ll write that chapter tomorrow. I’ll work out Monday. I’ll finish that to-read stack, clean the litter box, floss—later later later. I’m never on time for anything, and even hitting the snooze button is just a way of procrastinating six times before I get up.
I didn’t understand how procrastinating was single-handedly thwarting everything in my life until I read about “The Procrastination Doom Loop” in The Atlantic and realized “later” may never arrive. Why? We don’t procrastinate because of poor time management; we procrastinate because 1) we feel like we’re in the wrong mood, and 2) we assume our mood will change in the future, which—let’s face it—rarely happens. My aunt, for example, sent Christmas cards every year with the same message, “Will write more later”—a spectacular example of how to hang fire.
So, I decided kicking procrastination may be the key to life without regret. After all, fulfillment literally means “the process of doing what is required,” not “avoiding it at all cost.” I have goals and a vision for my life, but I need to break that procrastination cycle if I want them to become realities.
Procrastination is most detrimental to writers, who—ironically—are notorious procrastinators. On one hand, writing may be our livelihoods, and regular writing is the only way to improve, produce material, build a portfolio, or avoid seeing poor-quality pieces killed after squeaking them out under deadline. On the other hand, writing is more than a job (for some of us, it may never be our jobs). Writing is our identity, i.e. “I am writer,” or “I think, therefore I write.” If we’re not writing—if we’re only thinking about writing, tomorrow—can we even call ourselves writers? Who are we really? Just students or interns or baristas slinging lattes who imagine writing, the way I imagine I can do a pull-up (I can’t).
Sure, there are excuses for not doing something (we’re tired, we’re broke, we’re busy), but really we just don’t feel like it. That doctrine of procrastination is tied to waiting for writing inspiration to strike instead of treating writing like a discipline, like a skill we’re committed to honing every day.
Don’t misunderstand me: Inspiration hits—sometimes so hard it’s like your muse wallops you in the gut. That’s when you birth your darlings, when material pours out of you, when you write more in a day than you have in months. But those days are elusive, my friends, and limiting our writing to those rare days only wastes time and opportunity. Writing is, after all, a talent, and Michael Jordan could slam-dunk whether he felt like it or not.
I’m not sure what the secret to conquering procrastination is, but realizing we may never feel like completing our to-do lists is a start.
And my aunt? She wrote “Will write more later” every Christmas until the year she died.
She never wrote later.