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#13: What Cured My Procrastination

Updated: Jul 18, 2019

I’ve done this to myself so many times and for some reason I still continue to do it.


As I pour myself another heaping glass of water, I peer down at the slither of liquid left in the Brita. Realistically, it’s a large gulp’s worth. Now, most people would say, “Hey, I should refill this.” Nope, not this girl. I seem to always justify my delaying the refill with some weird reasoning. “There’s no room in the sink to put the Brita,” or “The game is about to start and I can’t miss the kick-off,” or just the classic, “I’m too busy right now, I’ll get to it later” excuse.


If we’re being honest here (which why wouldn’t we be?) I’m just being too damn lazy. For no reason in particular I don’t feel like taking the 10 seconds to refill it and put it back in the fridge to be nice and cold for Future Lauren. Why, you ask? Because I always have this lurking feeling that I could be doing something better. Well, there’s also the frequent scenario of one of my kids needing something, so I naturally put whatever I’m doing onto the back burner.


The back burner is nice. It’s always there, not too close to the edge, not in my face, it’s just chillin’ in the back waiting for me to eventually make my way around. However, the only problem that the back burner poses is how easily it can be forgotten. Out of sight out of mind.


As it’s slowly simmering, I tend not to worry. “I’ve got time,” I console myself. But in time comes other duties and chores, and before I know it I’ve already been distracted seven times in five minutes—I’m running around trying to pacify babies and accomplish all of my halfway started tasks—and soon enough I’ve completely forgotten that ever-so-convenient back burner. My slow and soft, bubbly boil has now turned into a charred, overcooked, and inedible mess threatening to set the house aflame.


What I’m trying to say with this extended and rambling metaphor is that I’m notorious for putting things off to the last minute, because I don’t feel the desire to attend to them sooner. Then when that last minute comes my once tiny and not-at-all troubling task has now snowballed into something massively intrusive and potentially harmful.


The stakes may not always be as high as burning my house down, especially when we’re talking about putting water into a Brita, but you get where I’m going.


I’m a procrastinator at heart.


I always have been. I could have a year to do a project and I’d probably start planning it on December 26th. Sometimes, it really works out in my favor. Something about being under all that pressure just squeezes out some of my best work. I love that last-minute adrenaline rush.


Sometimes.


Other times, I get super pissed at Past Lauren. “Why did you wait until now to start?” I scold her. Because, of course, now is usually not a good time. I’m either sick, too tired, or got my hands full of babies and no will or capability to do anything else.


If I had just done it before when I had the time, energy, and availability, I wouldn’t be stuck in such a rut.


Before, Past Lauren had enough time to do it. There was no rush, just peace and quiet. Yet now, the Brita is dryer than a Nevada wind on a summer day and I'm waiting for the water to be purified for my now cranky, crying toddler, Charlie.


You’re probably reading this and saying, “First world problem, not so bad.” And I will 100% agree with you. But my purpose of this example is not to complain or paint a picture of a hard day’s work. Rather, it’s to explain how many of these little nuances that pile on top of each other and mold themselves into one of my more difficult days can actually be avoided altogether.


First, I quickly imagine a balancing scale. On either side I place the costs of my actions, and then I measure which would be a heavier burden to hold. So, the cost of refilling the Brita now is a few seconds of my time and maybe a slightly disconcerted infant as I awkwardly hold him and the sink faucet at the same time. On the other side of the scale, I envision some possible scenarios.


Let’s play out the one I mentioned above. Here, the cost weighs down quite a bit more. I now have to wait for the filter to finish (which always seems to take longer when you really need it) while I have shrieking cries from both kids due to lack of sleep and attention, and I have my own stress level approaching the red zone from a long day of mishaps and setbacks. Not to mention the other things I might be in the middle of—like a dinner about to overcook in the oven, the doorbell rings, or the representative who’s had me on hold for 39 minutes decides to finally answer and talk about her personal life.


If Past Lauren had just done Future Lauren a favor and did this cost-benefit analysis, she would’ve patiently poured water into that Brita without any trouble, instead of now having to waste more time, effort, and, let’s face it, sanity.


But what this $28 Brita has taught me about life is that my procrastination issue lies deeper than my laziness or not having utilized this balancing technique. It lies in the fact that I continually separate Past Lauren from Future Lauren, as if they were two different individuals.


As if Future Lauren wouldn’t have to eventually carry the slack that Past Lauren didn’t feel up to tightening at the time. And then Future Lauren becomes Present Lauren and she is straight up pissed at Past Lauren because she is so selfish and not aware of the other Lauren’s that have to one day come along and deal with her shit.


Think about it, though.


How often do you do something today that you know will hurt tomorrow?


Maybe you've gone out drinking and you know that you'll have a terrible hangover tomorrow, but you drink those last two shots anyway. Or if you're me, you saved your term paper for finals week and can’t go to the end of the year party because, well, your Past Self would’ve rather binge-watched season three of The Office for the fourth time.


I don’t know about you, but my past self is always getting into trouble with my present self. Because she never has to deal with the consequences—at least not in that moment—she feels that she can do whatever she darn well pleases. But what she fails to recognize (or straight up ignores) is that she will eventually have to deal with them—and they might be a lot worse than she anticipated.


As I sit here waiting for the Brita to get halfway full, I shake hands with my past self and agree to start uniting all of my selves into one person, whom I consciously decide to really start caring for. Because if we don’t first care for ourselves (and I mean all of them), then we can’t fully devote ourselves to caring for others.


A tugboat operating on one working engine, is now just a boat. No more tuggin’.

If you’re a procrastinator like me (and probably most everyone), ask yourself if you’re past self is your trusted teammate or your biggest rival.


Do you make decisions based on conscious planning for ultimate success or do you act on your subconscious whims and your desire for temporary comfort?


Or maybe you’re to anxious for the future? Also me. I’d rush into things wanting a result now.


I mean, if someone came up to me and said, “Hey, do you want this two-hour-old donut that’s maybe halfway decent? Or, I can give you one in four hours, hot and fresh and delicious.” Okay, other than the fact that a stranger is asking me this, the crazy part about all this is I’d probably choose the first option. How do I know that I’ll actually get one in four hours?! Is it really going to be that much better? Plus there’s a donut right here. I'd choose it because I used to always choose instant gratification over having to wait for something uncertain (even if it was better).


After diving into the depths of some hardcore self-realization, I’ve decided to live for more than The Now. Yes, that’s important—to live in the moment. But I also choose to use this moment right now to set Future Lauren up to spike the crap out of this success ball onto all of my upcoming endeavors.


Because all of those will one day turn into a “Now”.


At the risk of sounding like a hippie in a kumbaya circle—there is no past or future self. All of the moments we have and will live—they all have something in common. They are all just a bunch of Now’s strung together to look like a line. But, time isn’t linear. It just…is.


“Forever is composed of nows,” Emily Dickinson said.


And so, every moment is a chance to live it the best we can. That is how we succeed—by choosing Now to do what we know needs to be done.


So fill up that dang Brita. Grab that thing you don’t think you’ll need. Start your project. Prep for tomorrow’s dinner. Roll out the yoga mat. Eventually you’ll thank yourself for all these little favors you do.


And most importantly, just begin. Now. There really is no other time to do it!

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