Would you like to stop procrastinating and be more productive?
I used to be the worst procrastinator there was.
My house was a mess. And when I say mess I mean an embarrassing, keep the drapes closed, disaster.
I was extremely uneducated.
I used to stay up until 2:00 in the morning watching movies or wasting time on the computer and eating junk food.
I was tired and grumpy and depressed.
I hated myself and I wanted to change but I didn’t know how.
Then I noticed something interesting.
I would often rent a pile of $1 movies and I would watch movies and sew for days at a time. I made piles of beautiful quilts, most of them stitched and quilted by hand. (I hate all those quilts now but that’s another story.)
I decided once that I wanted to learn how to knit so I would drive to the local knitting store several times a week and I sat there knitting, asking the experts there to help me when I got stuck. Now I can knit anything I want.
I could clean my house so fast if I was having an interesting conversation on the phone.
I discovered that I am extremely productive when I’m doing something I want to do.
I started thinking that maybe I didn’t always have to be a loser because I had the power to accomplish things when I really wanted to. Maybe I could make something of my life after all but there was a trick to it. I had to stop trying to do things I didn’t want to do and I had to give myself permission to do things that I did want to do because that was how I made things happen.
If I want to take a nap then I take a nap. If I don’t, then I’m too tired to get anything done anyway.
When I feel like cleaning I clean. Because I feel horrible and can’t get anything done in a dirty house. If my house is a mess and I don’t feel like cleaning it then I probably need a nap.
If I want to play my violin I play it. Because I can’t let one day go by without learning something new.
That doesn’t mean I do everything at random times of the day. I have a schedule and I generally follow it because I also know that I can only accomplish certain things at certain times. If we don’t get our practicing and studies done in the morning then they will probably never get done because I’m sleep deprived and completely brain damaged by 2 p.m.
If you tend to procrastinate try doing only what you want to do.
You might not get all those things done that you think you “should” do but at least you will be accomplishing something. Probably something even better. Like getting some much needed sleep. Or doing something wildly creative. Or learning something amazing.
I know that every single person reading this right now is going to disagree with me.
“But sometimes you just have to do things you don’t want to do. That’s life.”
One problem with that argument is that there is a difference between liking something and wanting something. I do things every day that I don’t like to do but I am almost always doing something I want to do. I might not like to change poopy diapers but I love being a mother so I always want to change them. I might not like to eat healthy but I don’t like being sick so I want to eat as healthy as I can.
Another problem with that argument is that most people don’t just “sometimes” do things they don’t want to do. They are constantly trying to do things they don’t want to do and then they can’t figure out why they are always procrastinating and failing. In fact when I look around I see a lot of people wasting a lot of time and effort trying to make themselves, and the people around them, do things they don’t want to do. If you want a better life, teach yourself to want better things.
I’m teaching my children to do what they want to do. I’m teaching them to live a healthy lifestyle because they want to be healthy and not because I tell them to. I’m teaching them to be kind to others because they want to be kind and not because they think they should. I’m teaching them to take care of their things because it’s fun to have nice things. I’m teaching them to educate themselves because being smart is a lot more fun than being stupid. Do they always listen to me? Of course not but often they do and they are constantly doing amazing things so I may be onto something.
We have had several music teachers over the last couple years and they wonder why we improve so quickly. They say we must come from a musical family. We don’t. They say that we must have been born with musical talent. We weren’t. Truth is simply that we practice. We don’t practice perfectly but we practice every day and we do it because we want to.
Whenever I start doing things I don’t want to do I get into trouble.
I make other people unhappy. I make myself unhappy. I start feeling like a failure.
If I were to make a suggestion to people struggling with procrastination I would say…
Do what you want to do.
You will enjoy yourself more.
You will stop procrastinating.
You will stop wasting your time.
You will be more useful to yourself and others.
You will feel successful.
It will make all the difference.
This post was inspired by one of my favorite blogs, Farnam Street. The Common Pattern to Procrastination
And now I’m going to stop procrastinating and hit Publish on this post.