Six Months Gone!
It’s so hard to believe that another month has already zipped right past us! I was thinking a lot about what topic I should delve into, and I couldn’t shake the idea of procrastination, and it’s clever disguises. I find it fascinating that my son Ethan wrote a paper on the topic at the end of his junior year. I’ll read it to you, and if you change out a few words to fit your scenario, I promise you’ll feel as if you wrote it.
Six Months Left!!
I know what it’s like to feel like I’m too busy, like the things that need to get done always take the back burner, and I know what it feels like to just get it done. So what gives? Why do we go between being unstoppable to being the world’s best excuse maker? I think there are a few things to blame, and hopefully, after diving into this topic, we’ll have the armor to finish out the last half of the year strong!
Discipline or Consequences?
The biggest thing that you must recognize about yourself is whether you’re motivated by the reward of completion, by the consequences of not completing, or both. I find that I’m first and foremost driven by the fear of not achieving a goal. Let’s take exercise as an example. Since I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, if I don’t work out, I’ll feel tired, gain weight quickly, and most likely be in a terrible mood. My daily motivation to workout stems from a desire to avoid all of the negative consequences of not working out.
From Task to Habit
Overtime working out has become a daily habit. Taking a task that you need to do, and doing it daily, will remove it from your list of things-to-do and put it in that list of habits that you no longer need to write down…like brushing your teeth. It will become something that is part of you. Maybe for you, the reward in this example would be to fit into a smaller clothing size. If that’s the case, let that be front and center when you’re deciding if you want to do a workout.
I highly recommend that you stop permitting yourself to bail out on specific tasks. I call these my “non-negotiables” In other words, don’t ask yourself if you want to do something, instead ask yourself when you will do it. If you give yourself an out, your tricky mind will always tell your heart that there is just too much on the plate for the day.
Shiny New Object
The sneakiest disguise that procrastinating uses is the shiny new object trick. If there is ever something that will derail me, it’ll be the prospect of starting something new. I find that we all experience this type of distraction, but what we fail to see is that the reason why we are quickly moved into a new project. It’s simply because we don’t want to spend the time needed to fix or continue on something that has lost it’s luster. It’s often a lot more intriguing to try something new than finishing a project that we have been working on for far too long.
The Struggle is Real!
We all struggle with this to some degree. 9 times out of 10, I would rather design a new printable, floss my teeth, or relace my shoes before I finish editing, do inventory, or clean my office. It’s good to know this when you’re faced with a new and exciting project. I think that’s why we start a lot of home projects, and right before we finish up a room, we decide it’s time to start a new space.
The best way to wiggle your way out of this distraction is by giving yourself the reward of starting a new task once you’ve completed the one at hand. I know the excitement of starting something new will be tempting, but the reward of seeing a finished product will undoubtedly outweigh the feeling of never finishing anything.
One of my favorite authors, James Clear, wrote the book Atomic Habits, and I feel it’s a must-read for everyone. In this book, he breaks down the three simple strategies to create a new habit. Let’s just pretend that procrastinating is a bad habit and that I’m trying to develop the habit of walking on the elliptical.
His first suggestion is to start with a habit that is so easy you can’t say no. For me, this may be jumping on the elliptical every day for 20 minutes first thing in the morning.
Understand Possible Setbacks
Second…take some time to understand exactly what is holding you back. In my elliptical example, I know that the thing that will keep me from working out is if my day gets too busy or if I shower first thing in the morning. This is where the shiny new object tends to sneak in too. You need to put on your non-negotiable hat and push ahead.
Third…develop a plan for when you fail. I’ve had days when things were so pressing that I had to start my day putting out a fire. On those days, my workout fell to the wayside. When this happens, I plan to walk in the evening or get on the elliptical before bed. Create a plan B, so you’re not left feeling disappointed that you didn’t do what you set out to do, is super important.
The best way to avoid procrastinating is to do a better job of owning your reason for being distracted away from your goal. If things remain undone and you don’t acknowledge why it’s happening, you end up giving your distractions the power. If you can tell yourself that you will no longer be distracted by X, Y, and Z, then the next time either of those comes around, you’ll see it for what it is, and you’ll be able to stick to your plan.
Procrastinating-A High Schooler’s Perspective
Now let me share Ethan’s outlook on procrastinating.
Procrastination is an evil enemy and entity that has loomed over me the entirety of my junior year. Procrastination is like the one person you know you’re not supposed to hang out with, but you do because it kinda feels nice, like a toxic friend. I don’t know about you, but I’ve dealt with my fair share of procrastination.
According to my parents, the people who created me, they would say that I am probably the most stubborn person they know, and I’m sure others close to me could testify the truth in that statement. This is because for years, maybe even my whole life, I have been trapped in the mindset, that if something doesn’t entertain me, or I don’t want to do it, I simply just won’t do it. Now it only takes an ounce of common sense to realize that this is a toxic way to live life.
Putting off something until the last minute, and then stressing myself until the point of utter disparity, most definitely is not the best way to live. I could try and come up with hundreds of excuses to explain why I feel this way.
Maybe it’s because I’m too stressed to work. Maybe its because I’m afraid of failure. Or maybe it’s because I’m just a teenager trying to embrace my few years of youth. Maybe I haven’t even realized the full truth and reasoning behind it yet at all. But what I can tell you is that I’ve learned that procrastination is a horrible ailment. Now I know that I’m not the only person in this room who has dealt with procrastination and dare I say there are people in this room who struggle with it more than I do?
I know that as a high school student, procrastination plagues many of our young minds, and deceives us into believing the dreadful lie that we will be better off having fun now and fulfilling our responsibilities later. If I’m being completely honest, I procrastinated this speech until Wednesday night, the day before the new extended deadline.
In all seriousness, procrastination led me to completely hate the topic I was writing about, throw it away, and write about itself at 1:00 am. I would say that procrastination, tarnished my view of junior year. As we all know, our junior year of high school holds great weight.
This is a weight most of us face, and if we don’t face it, we definitely feel it. Whether it’s taking on a heavier workload by taking AP classes or trying to cram as much monetary and useless information into your head as possible, to try and please a college board, we all feel some kind of weight upon us.
For me, the weight that I felt, was the weight of procrastination. For me, this included living out my junior year, thinking that if something was easier, it would make me happier. So I signed up for the easiest classes. I didn’t return back to play club volleyball (which I deeply regret). I didn’t take school seriously. I didn’t take my sport as seriously as I should have.
I didn’t take any of my personal responsibilities seriously. I even constantly left my room, looking like a horrible and horrendous hurricane ripped through it. In almost every aspect of my life, things were falling apart. I was falling apart. But I felt comfortable. Why? Because I was under the belief that
since I felt a sense of ease, and I wasn’t facing my responsibilities, that I was okay.
When in reality, deep down, I was pretty unhappy. When at surface level I was pretty happy with my easy schedule and my heightened carefree attitude, I started to feel stressed out and frustrated. I looked at my grades, and I started to wish they were
better. I started to feel my performance on the court weaken as I felt my sport slip into just my routine. I started to feel the relationships around me crumbling, and I started to feel a sense of disapproval from my parents.
While my procrastination may have tricked me into thinking that I was doing just fine, on the inside, I started to feel that weight, and it’s far too late now to try and salvage my junior year. But what I can do, is stand here before you and tell you what I learned in my junior year.
I learned that now is not the time to sit back and relax and that now is not the time to only enjoy the fruits of youth. But that now is the time, to grow, and to prosper, and become the person we want to be. I learned in junior year that it’s important to embrace our responsibilities, and move toward opportunity.
Unfortunately, I realized these lessons of self-growth, after going through a period of self-destruction. Procrastination is manipulative, just like that toxic friend, and its effects are terrifying terrible, and treacherous. My message to you, fellow classmates, is whether or not you struggle with this exhausting and extremely toxic trait, is to reach for opportunity whenever it strikes.
Because in the end, our high school memories won’t be determined by how much fun we had struggling to maintain our grades because we decided to binge-watch our favorite Netflix show. Or putting off yet another assignment to hang out with your friends. Instead, you will remember the pressure and the weight you felt, grasping at last-minute opportunities to turn in your work.
Because as the great Mark Twain once said “The secret of getting ahead, is getting started” Instead, my fellow classmates let us remember high school as the time we developed into the person we were meant to be. Let us remember it as a time for positive growth. And let us remember high school, as the time where we took advantage of our lives, and seized our moment, while we were still truly free.
Make the Change
How’s that for a bit of truth. I think the worst part about procrastinating is the feeling of despair, of things piling up, of feeling like you’re not in control. If my son was feeling this last year, and I can relate to it as an adult, isn’t it worth making a few changes to relieve ourselves from the feeling of drowning?
I’m a big fan of rewarding myself for following through and completing a project. It could be a small reward like scheduling a massage, buying new workout clothes, or going out for coffee. It doesn’t have to be monumental…it just needs to be big enough to propel me in the right direction.
I highly recommend you try it. I also take each task and break it down into daily goals to complete. If my goal is to upload new products on my Etsy shop by the end of the week, I will divide that goal into daily tasks. Those daily activities should lead me to upload my products within 7 days. Taking your responsibilities and breaking them down into bite-size pieces will be a sure way to get things accomplished.
6 Months Left
So there you have it my friend…a few hard lessons on procrastinating and the creative way that we learn to disguise it! You have 6 months left in 2020 to kick procrastination out of your life…I believe you can do it!
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