Author Margaret Atwood recorded a podcast in which she gave a great analogy about procrastination, likening it to jumping into a cold lake. She aptly described how people waste time by dipping their toe in the water and debating ‘yes or no’ as to whether they are going to go into the cold because they “run in screaming” eventually. She urged that if people were going to do something anyway that they plunge right into the “run in screaming” part and avoid wasting all the time that leads up to it.
Oh, have I been there – both on the edge of a literal lake and dipping my toe in a metaphorical one (writing blogs comes to mind!). Somehow, I always brave the cold but I absolutely could save some time and anxiety if I avoided the pre-jumping ritual.
I should know from experience that, more often than not, the mental buildup is worse than the task itself. If I can get my fingers to the keyboard, a dot will get written. If someone can take the pot out of the cupboard, dinner will be made. If you pick up that phone, a sales call will occur. If someone puts on their exercise shoes, it’s likely that they will head out on that walk.
So, the next time you find yourself avoiding that task that you know you will do eventually, skip the dabbling and go right for the “run in screaming” part. Just as with a real cold water experience, it’s always much better to get fully wet all at once than to prolong the pain by doing it slowly.
Source: Adam Grant’s Work Life podcast The Real Reason You Procrastinate, March 9, 2020