If you did it now, it would be done. And if you did it now, you can bet your life it wouldn’t take very long. But instead we put things off and we worry about them and we spend eleventh-billion hours thinking about something that would take us ten minutes to do.
I’d say more but haven’t I just said it and haven’t you just nodded at me? I’m going to shut up and get on with some stuff. Join me. I’ll put the kettle on – no, no, I won’t, I’ll do this first, then I’ll put the kettle on.
There are limits here: if you want to quit your job then you should indeed wait until you can do it but what you shouldn’t is wait to begin. Start doing the thing that will get you out. Start now. Stop waiting.
Productive people sometimes confuse the difference between reasonable delay and true procrastination. The former can be useful (“I’ll respond to this email when I have more time to write it”). The latter is, by definition, self-defeating (“I should respond to this email right now, and I have time, and my fingers are on the keys, and the Internet connection is perfectly strong, and nobody is asking me to do anything else, but I just … don’t … feel like it.”).
When scientists have studied procrastination, they’ve typically focused on how people are miserable at weighing costs and benefits across time. For example, everybody recognizes, in the abstract, that it’s important to go to the dentist every few months. The pain is upfront and obvious—dental work is torture—and the rewards of cleaner teeth are often remote, so we allow the appointment to slip through our minds and off our calendars. Across several categories including dieting, saving money, and sending important emails, we constantly choose short and small rewards (whose benefits are dubious, but immediate) over longer and larger payouts (whose benefits are obvious, but distant).
In the last few years, however, scientists have begun to think that procrastination might have less to do with time than emotion. Procrastination “really has nothing to do with time-management,” Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, told Psychological Science. “To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.”
The Procrastination Doom Loop—and How to Break It – Derek Thompson, The Atlantic (26 August 2015)
Read the full piece. Via Inc.com and Lifehacker.
I’m working toward various BBC Radio proposals – you get to submit them via producers in what’s called the offers round at certain times of the year – and I’ve done this a lot. The proposals. A lot. I mean, a lot. Quite often an idea will go very far through the process before it becomes clear it isn’t going to fly.
That’s not for any bad reason, it would often enough be that the BBC released notes on what they specifically didn’t want this time around and an idea or two of mine might be exactly one of those. Even then, the usual reason BBC Radio doesn’t want a certain type of idea is that they’ve just done too many of them. But like anything else you do a lot of, you keep doing a lot of them because they work. So sooner or later, they’ll be asking for exactly that type again.
Usually when it’s been suggested that I bump an idea back to next time, whenever next time is, I’ve mentally regarded that as a rejection. I’m not being pessimistic or self-immolating about it, I think it’s factual. Because ideas go stale.
You have a finite time in which the idea is viable and exciting to you. After that, you’re at least struggling to get back the passion or you’re not even struggling, you’re just pretending.
Plus, I think that even the producer who says – and means – to bring it back next time will often not use it then for much the same reason. They’ve got their plate full of new ideas, one from last time will just seem stale.
There are exceptions. I’m involved in one right now. We’ll see how it goes but I’m into it with a passion.
But. Presume that this isn’t going to happen to you, so that you can the better enjoy it when it does. If you have an idea you want to write, write it while you still want to.
Or to put it another way, get on with it.