So my column was due Saturday… It’s Sunday.. almost Monday. I’m just starting now. I mean, come on, I’m a person that thrives on dedication, respects others time, has integrity, etc. So why am I pushing this deadline? Welcome to my swirling undertow of procrastination. Funny, that in welcoming you, I have at least started to figuratively figure out how to swim parallel to the shore and out of the rushing current. That said, I’m still way out there, getting pretty tired treading water, and won’t actually be safe til I’m on shore, and the witty-yet-insightful closer is punctuated at the end of this thing.
My guess is procrastination is not a new concept to anyone reading this. If it is, I’m ready to hear your secret to this seemingly unachievable state, my email is Mel@melanieurtis.com. We’d make millions. For the rest of us, we’ve always got things on the to-do list… some go, some stay, and some stay for way too long.
So why do we procrastinate?
If this question were posed on Family Feud (something else I did instead of writing this), I’m guessing the number one answer would be this: that we make up stories in our own heads about how horrible, sucky, time-consuming, etc, a particular task is going to be, and therefore we avoid it like the proverbial plague. Of course that thought alone drains us and plops us down in front of the Game Show Network for another hour. With me?
Like vacuuming the carpets… oh the humanity! We think, “Man, I’d have to dig it out of the closet… probably change the filter before I even start… move all the furniture around to really do it… I might miss a call while I’m doing it… it’s definitely not going to be fun…etc.“ Then finally, after a week or two of avoidance, anxiety, and angst, we do it… and it takes us 8 minutes. Total. And we even took the tube out and got the edges and corners of all the rooms because once we were into it, we got on a roll and had the energy to rock it.
Phew, I get it.. it’s frickin’ HARD to remind ourselves how awesome it feels to finish stuff, or how easy things really are when our resident in-brain storyteller has our oblivious ear. Even harder to act on that reminder while battling those planted thoughts that keep us surfing people.com when we’d rather be knocking out emails.
The key.. the kapow.. comes in accountability. Each month as I near the deadline for my column, it works to get me thinking about it, and even starting it, but the rocket-ship, get-your-shit-together kick doesn’t actually come until I send Lara (BSM Editor if you didn’t know) my late-night, I-won’t-be-late email. Why? Now I’m accountable. Now, she has my word. I told her that I would be done by X time. And if I’m not, I go back on my word. NOT down with that. For many of us, that old cheesy phrase totally fits… our word is our bond. And a powerful motivator. Tell your to-do to someone you don’t want to let down… and have them follow up.
Accountability is not just a tip in this moth’s column, it’s a verifiable tool each of us can employ to ignite action where we currently have none. My guess is we all have stuff that fall into this category… Working out? Calling our mothers? Cleaning the team room? Sending our canopy in for a re-line? Setting up a retirement account? Sending coherently collected ideas to future 4-way teammates? Anything. … As I wrote that, I had an idea for an experiment… an opportunity. Just like the guy who is abnormally procrastination-free, send me an email with one thing you want to get done this week, and I will hold you accountable. Try it. I’m totally serious. I want my inbox to explode. I want gmail servers crashing across the globe from the unprecedented surge in three-line emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
So many people hear this concept, and say they can just do it on their own. And they’re right, we all can… we’re all taught how to get out of an undertow by ourselves, and most of the time we can make it happen without drowning, but in the end we’re exhausted and miss out on the rest of the afternoon beach time while we recover. Sure, we survived, but is survival all we really want out of life? Accountability, on the other hand, is like David Hasselhoff back in his Baywatch days… he’s watching us enjoy our swim, chillin’ in the tall chair getting tan. We know he’s there if we need him, so the moment we start struggling, we wave our hands, and he bounds out to save us with that red pointy lifeguard thing. So basically this month, I’m not Melsinore, I’m David Hasselhoff.. ready to pull you out of the swirling current, directly into a beach volleyball game where you’re surrounded by hotties… but only if you wave your hands. … Wave your hands. Hasselhoff, out.