Hi, I’m a procrastinator.
I’ve always sort of known I have a propensity to put things off. I delay, I make excuses, I come up with 50 reasons why “tomorrow” will be a better day to do something. Of course, tomorrow becomes tomorrow becomes tomorrow. I procrastinate taking photos, I procrastinate working towards my goals, I procrastinate hard work. Heck, I am even procrastinating writing this post.
My habit of procrastination is broken up every now and then by a surge of energy when I read something motivational, see somebody else “making it” and being successful, or even when I get sick of sitting in neutral and cry, “Enough is enough!” In the spirit of a New Year’s resolution, I’ll upend my life, buy a new self-help book or two, make lots of changes, write a big list of goals and start on them in earnest. As anyone who’s ever made a New Year’s resolution will attest, that initial energy, motivation and drive – exciting as it feels – doesn’t last very long.
Take the example of gym memberships. According to some statistics, as many as 67% of people aren’t using a gym membership they’ve paid for. One day they decide, “Enough is enough! I’m sick and tired of being fat!” They feel that motivation, that rush to lose weight and eagerly buy workout clothes, sign up for the gym and bust their butt for the first few weeks, feeling euphoric after each session, smiling at the knowledge they’re changing their lives. This time will be different. This time I’ll reach my goals, I’ll try harder than all the other times I failed. Eventually that energy and motivation drops off and the monotony of traveling to the gym and working out 3-5 times a week sets in. The weight loss results come slower than they were expecting. One day they wake up and they’re not quite “feeling it”, so they don’t go. The next day they’re still not feeling it. Nor the next. They likely don’t return to the gym (that is, until their next “surge of energy”).
Lately I’ve been reading The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness, well worth a look if you haven’t read it. In it, Jeff Olson talks about building small daily habits instead of trying to do everything at once. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nobody who’s successful did it all at once. Jeff says there are two paths you can be on: either an upwards path working towards your goals, or a downwards path where you’re essentially wasting your life. There is no middle path; there is no “treading water” or “sitting in neutral”. Every day you think you’re sitting in neutral, you’re really on that downwards path. And every day you spend working on your goals just a little bit – even for just 15 minutes – is a day you’re climbing that higher path.
I’ve started applying this in my own life over the last few weeks, and I’ve already noticed a change. Instead of procrastinating my workouts until I feel that “surge of energy” and throw myself into it, I’m trying to set a more reasonable goal of working out a little each day, consistently. I’m making better food choices every day, rather than just throwing myself into a diet and inevitably giving up a few weeks later. I’m writing a little each day, adding little bits until I’ve got enough for a full post. I’m working on my photos each day, a little at a time.
Things are easier when you do a little bit – just something – each and every day.
Are you a procrastinator like me? Do you put things off until the last minute? Do you constantly make New Year’s resolutions and then fail to see them through? I have many photography friends who’ve started multiple 365 Projects or 52-Week Projects and given up after a couple of weeks. Maybe the answer is to do a little each day, to constantly choose that upwards path towards our goals, rather than the downwards path away from them. So today – right now – choose 1 thing to work on each day, just a little. Set aside a few minutes a day to make progress on it.
Drop a comment below and let me know: What things do you procrastinate? And what successes have you built in your life through consistent daily habit?