Monday Musings…Maybe Later…

I gave my class a list of weaknesses many of us struggle with. In every class, the same issue rose to the top – procrastination. You may be thinking, no big surprise for College students, but maybe it’s time we look at our own lives.

How often have you put off today, what you convince yourself you’ll do tomorrow? The housework, the meal prep, that email you don’t want to respond to, that conversation you don’t want to have… It’s a common mental trick we use to convince ourselves that right now we have other ‘more important’ things to do – like watch Netflix, go on Facebook….

Bottom line, it comes down to your priorities. You know you have to work so you can eat, put a roof over your head, and take care of those you love. And so many people go through the motions of everyday life trudging off to ‘bring home the bacon’, often begrudgingly. I guess, if I have to, I’ll work. No one would dispute that having an income in a household is a necessity. If your partner works and you stay home, your role may be to keep on top of the household and the plethora of duties that entails. Again, you know the tasks that need to get done, and you say the same thing: I guess, if I have to, I’ll keep-the-home-fires-burning. And you do. You are able to do those tasks.

With a priority mindset, it’s amazing what you can accomplish in a day.

When you think: It must be done or else… it completely changes how you approach any task. Essentially what you are saying is it really matters if I don’t do this. Your mind will tell you if you don’t do X, the bills won’t be paid, the house is going to fall apart, your children will feel neglected, your body will start to fall apart… and the list goes on.

You put off doing things you don’t really want to do because in your grand plan of life, it doesn’t really matter to you in that moment. You continue this mindset even though you know it will catch up to you eventually – you’re out of clean laundry and it’s your child’s picture day at school; you awkwardly encounter that person who sent you that text message last week you didn’t respond to; your excuses for not going to the gym catch up when the doctor announces that you have high blood pressure; that midterm paper that you haven’t started is due tomorrow and at midnight you discover you’ve run out of ink and paper when you’re required to hand in a hard copy.

If your mind says ‘meh’… it won’t get done. You have to guard against that inner voice that says Maybe later.

The trick then, is to realize that every single task that you are given in your assigned roles, matters! Look at that task and consciously examine how it fits in with the purpose you have and the order you want in your own life. Reflect on how working at it ultimately will reduce anxiety and give you a sense of peace and accomplishment. The completion of this task reinforces your worth and value to your family and your community, no matter how small or insignificant you think it is.

So, when you’re not feeling it, do it anyway.

One of my students years ago, told me his trick to keep himself on task. He puts a timer on for 2 minutes. That’s it. And then he starts. When the buzzer goes off, he tells himself he can quit or keep going. He said he’s usually in a groove by then and so he just keeps going. I’ve tried it and it really does work! You just need to start.

To break the procrastination habit, realize first that the unwanted task actually matters in the grand scheme of things. Then muster up the energy to just start NOW. You don’t have to like it, but if you follow through you’ll actually train your brain's reward activating system to crave these tasks, as it produces that dopamine enhancing, positive feeling of completion. And that is a good thing for us to remember on a Monday morning!!

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