The Perils of Procrastination
My mother has always played a prominent role in my life. She always been there for me, both through the brightest of times and even more so through the darkest of times. Her love and support have been gifts in my life that I can only hope other sons and daughters have had the blessing to receive from their mothers. I appreciate the positive impact she has had on my life, and the important lessons and principles she has taught me over the years.
One very important lesson my mom taught me came as I was learning to drive as a 15-year-old in Orlando, Florida. I still vividly remember taking that first drive around the Dr. Phillips area where we lived. Although a very comfy car, that long, boxy Lincoln Town Car with a V8 engine and horrible blind spots was not the most user-friendly car for learning how to drive. The instant you tapped the accelerator pedal ever so slightly the car would jolt forward. To this day it remains the most sensitive accelerator pedal I have ever encountered. I very nearly (like literally within inches) took out a mail box while driving out of our neighborhood for the first time due to the difficulty in handling that tank of a car. I recall my mom stomping the air brakes numerous times on that first drive, which is to mean that she would stomp on the floor board on the passenger side as if there was a brake pedal there, even though there wasn’t one there. In fact, I’ve noticed that she still does that occasionally while riding as a passenger all these years later, even with experienced drivers. Some things never change.
But stomping the phantom brake pedal while riding passenger is not the important lesson that I learned from my mom that day. No, the true lesson came a bit later in that memorable first drive (and through frequent reminders in many of our subsequent drives together). I was driving in the left lane, and my mom pointed out that we needed to turn right on a street that was still about 2 or so miles up ahead. I noted her direction, and remained in the left lane. She then urged me to get over into the right lane as soon as possible. I thought to myself, why? There is still plenty of time to get over in the right lane before we reach that turn. I don’t recall if I verbally questioned her advice, but I do recall her telling me something like: “You want to get over as soon possible. You don’t want to procrastinate, that’s what causes accidents.” That made enough sense to me, so I transitioned over to the right lane (far ahead of our actual turn), and I made the turn easily without any issue. My mom didn’t even have to stomp the imaginary brake pedal as she surely would have had I tried to make that turn at the last second (a reminder that procrastination can affect other people negatively as well). I still apply that advice in my driving to this day.
I truly feel that my mom’s get-over-early theory is a sound piece of driving advice. But it’s so much more than that. To me, it’s a pretty profound life lesson. Have you ever been stuck in the left lane without being able to get over for an approaching right turn? Have you ever tried to maneuver your way over into the right lane at the last second in an attempt to actually make that turn without passing it by? If you have experienced that scenario, then you know that it is very stressful. The rush of the moment leads to thoughtless judgment and poor decision-making. If you try to make that last second lane change and turn in traffic, then the odds are fairly high that you will either a) cause an accident, or b) miss the turn entirely, which will then require you to circle back around to make that turn. It’s so much easier to just get over into the turn lane in advance, thus avoiding unnecessary anxiety, stress and danger.
My mom also carried that principle over to other areas of my life. Whether it was pertaining to packing my suitcase for a trip, or studying for a test, or completing household chores, her message to me was always clear: Don’t procrastinate. Get it finished and out of the way early so you don’t have to worry about it in the eleventh hour. It was a lesson in preparation, it was a lesson in time-management, and it was a lesson in stress reduction. I am grateful for being taught those lessons at a young age (thank you, mom!). For the most part, I do a very good job with avoiding procrastination in my life. However, from time to time, I recognize that I allow some things to slip through the cracks and cause me undue anxiety and pressure. And you know what, those things stress me out. The good news is that they can be avoided by being proactive and avoiding procrastination. The bad news is that being proactive requires discipline and foresight, both of which can easily find their way to the proverbial back burner in the midst of a busy and/or unorganized life.
In fact, I have something in my life at this very moment that is weighing on me pretty heavily, but I have consciously kept it on the back burner for the past several months. It’s something important that I need to do sooner versus later, and I know it. Yet, I keep hesitating and delaying. Why do I keep avoiding it? Is it because I’m too busy? I am busy, but you know what, I could be working on it right now instead of writing this blog post. Is it because I’m afraid? I am a little bit intimidated by what lies ahead on this particular task, but that’s never stopped me before. So what exactly is it?
In full disclosure, my procrastination on this one objective is a combination of not being convenient for me right now mixed with a little bit of laziness. I know it’s going to take up a chunk of my already limited free time (a.k.a. me time) over the next 4-6 months, and quite frankly, that sucks. But this one thing is part of a much larger goal that I really, really want to achieve. I need to move on it now. The longer I wait, the more difficult it is going to be for me to achieve that ultimate goal. As it stands, I am already going to be a bit pressured/stressed because my window of opportunity has now been shortened due to my own delay (if only I had gotten started a few months ago when I first recognized the need to begin). So now I’m going to have to move faster than I’m comfortable with, which will make this learning process more compacted and difficult than it could have been. And that’s the reality at play here; procrastination makes EVERYTHING harder than it needs to be.
Sometimes the best solution for avoiding procrastination is to force ourselves to proactively take the first step (whatever that first step may be), and to take that first step as early as possible. Once we initiate the process we become committed to some extent. It then becomes much more likely that we will continue on to finish what we start in a timely manner. When you think about what you want to accomplish, you will know what that first step is. Whatever your upcoming right turn is, choose today to get over into the right lane early in preparation for that turn. You will feel the difference between proactivity and procrastination, and it’s a positive feeling that you will want more of in your life.
Note to Self: Procrastination is an avoidable hazard. Being proactive will help to keep you out of harm's way, and being prepared will strengthen you and assist you when you are confronted with unavoidable challenges.
Proactively Me Challenge # 5 | The Get Started Challenge:
Think of something important that you need to complete or accomplish within the next 6 months. Proactively take the first step to get started on it within the next 3 days.