Look. I take it for granted that you’ve read books on how to combat procrastination, so there’s no need for me to list all the “tips and tricks”. If that is what you’re looking for, those tips are readily available elsewhere, and many of them do work, and good for them! This book is a little different. It’s a collection of journal entries and essays on the nature of procrastination. Its aim isn’t necessarily to get you to STOP PROCRASTINATING RIGHT NOW. It’s not a moralistic manifesto, although it is preachy at times. I touch on some possible solutions to procrastination because, I admit, procrastination is a problem. I was trying to procrastinate and write productively about procrastination. Mostly what follows is the result of just procrastinating while reflecting on procrastinating.
Disclaimer: I sometimes contradict and repeat myself in this essay. (And with that one disclaimer, I now feel guiltless that I did not feel like proof-reading this text for repeats/contradictions.)
Chapter 1 – Love The Unknown
Procrastination is not a virus that you catch. It does not start in one part of your body and take over the rest of your being. It is the direct result of very specific things that are troubling you. It’s not just that they are boring or tedious or annoying or time-consuming… they are TROUBLING you. You are DISTURBED by them in some way. This mental pain is real pain but we often view it as just a character quirk, bad habit, something that will pass etc. We just know that we will have to battle and deal with the EFFECTS of procrastination, and nevermind the cause! Well, I think the cause is very important, and it is this Procrastination is the result of a bad relationship with THE UNKNOWN: an overactive defense against the unknown, intense fear of the unknown, avoidance of the unknown, etc.
This seems like the wrong stance to take. You should be curious about the unknown! The fact that you have an awareness of the unknown makes life interesting and open-ended. You should love the unknown IN PRINCIPLE. You should treat it like a goddess. Put down your to-do lists and life hacks and appreciate the unknown.
Your tasks/problems are very specific to your life and situation. I can’t personally help you. Your family and friends can’t help you. Your boss can’t. You’re staffing agency can’t. You’re YouTube gurus can’t. Only you can help yourself by managing your relationship to the unknown. Your relationship to the unknown is within your control. Realize that most of your future is unknown. You may have plans – even very specific plans – but there is so much that will 100% COMPLETELY blind side you, even if you’re not a wild risk taker.
Take these mundane examples, all of which can lead to massive life changes.:
- You’ll meet someone.
- You’ll come across a new idea.
- You’ll try a new hobby.
- You’ll get laid off and find a new profession.
- You’ll realize a huge mistake you made and your world will collapse around you.
Sit down and acknowledge how much you don’t know – how much you couldn’t possibly know. Feel how small you and your “knowledge” are in the grand scheme of things. The world seems dizzying complex only if you think you need to have a grasp on all of it. You do not need to have a grasp on all of it. You need to acknowledge that some things reside properly (for now) in the domain of the unknown. Be grateful for the few things that you know and follow them (if you want). Most things are outside of your knowledge. The unknown is larger than you will ever be, than any one person or people will ever be. Stop striving for absolute control over the unknown. Stare into the unknown, respect it, seek to understand the glimpses that are given to you. Know that you were not built to have total control over it.
Now, you might argue that it’s not the unknown that’s the problem – the problem is just all the mundane things I’m putting off. But even if your problem is seemingly mundane things, I think your problem is still… with the unknown.
By putting things off, you are closing yourself off from the future (which is always in part unknown.) You’re dwelling on the tedious or terrible part of the future that you KNOW (or think you know) and imagining that that’s all there is to it. But there’s always an UNKNOWN part to the future, even for mundane tasks!
For example, let’s say you start to do a mundane task – like doing the dishes. A few things could happen:
- The task is easier than you thought. Maybe there are like 4 dishes in there.
- The task is harder than you thought – actually SO much harder. You actually you need to do 10 other more difficult tasks first before you can start this one. Maybe the dishes are buried numerous party supplies from the night before.
- You could realize the injustice of the fact that these are YOUR ROOMMATE’S DISHES that you are being forced to do AGAIN. Maybe this realization could set you off on a quest to rectify that relationship!
Procrastination ignores the unknown, instead dwelling in arrogance about one’s own knowledge, and forfeits the gifts that the unknown has to offer.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying the unknown always has great things in store for you. Get interested before you get scared. Get interested before you begin drafting your massive complicated overwhelming plans. Realize there’s always something you don’t know that could help you. You’re lucky that there’s more to this problem than there seems to be right now. You don’t have all the answers and information.