Thoughts On Procrastination And The ‘Someday’ Disease
Someday in the future I want to get out of my apartment and move into a house complete with a garden. I’ll be able to play my music as loud as I want and have somewhere to kick a football around. Someday, in a few years time perhaps, I would like to learn a new language and even learn to play the guitar. Someday. Maybe.
It’s that fan favorite topic again. Procrastination, as widespread as the common cold. We tend to focus on the little things when it comes to procrastinating, stuff like reports that needs finishing or the piles of washed clothes that need to be put away. But there is a side to procrastination that doesn’t get covered nearly so much – the far more pervasive, harmful effect it can have on our long term goals, dreams and aspirations. That’s what I want to look into today.
Whether it be a big hobby you want to try or that company revamp you’d like to implement, that classic film you’ve always wanted to see or that friend you feel like catching up with, ask yourself why you’re putting off doing all these things. Go on, do it now. What do you come up with?
From my experience I’ve found this bigger picture procrastinating manifests itself with a certain mindset. There is the believe that conditions have to be just right – that you have to know enough, have enough, etc. In other words you believe all pieces of the jigsaw have to be in place before you can take action. This is well intentioned but in the real world grossly naive.
I’m just as guilty of it. I want to learn Spanish, but part of me feels I can’t do it right now because I need to make time for it, need to build up the requisite motivation, research the right tools and study guides to help me… The end result is that I’ve put it off till someday in the future when, somehow, all those little issues will have magically resolved themselves. Crazy thinking right? Except at the time, all those excuses kind of make sense.
Consider this quote by Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Work Week which probably sums it up best:
“Conditions are never perfect. ‘Someday’ is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. If it’s important to you and you want to do it ‘eventually’, just do it and correct course along the way.”
I think with this in mind there are three critical rules, or truths, that we need to realize when we come down with ‘Someday’ disease, and start making up excuses to not take action:
- There is no such a thing as the ‘right’ time
- Putting things off doesn’t make it any easier
- You learn more by taking action
There is no such a thing as the ‘right’ time. When you’re waiting for the right time to do something, what you’re really saying is you’re waiting till you’ve run out of excuses to start. Very rarely will everything come together perfectly just when you want them to. You might have enough money but not enough time, you might have a great idea but not enough knowledge to put it into practice… that’s life, that tends to be how it works. Whatever the excuse, understand that things will never come together unless you take action first.
Putting things off doesn’t make it any easier. Of course, taking that action and putting yourself out there can be scary and daunting. However, regardless of how much preparation you put in or how long you put something off for, things will remain challenging in one way or another. The fear or embarrassing yourself in front of colleagues, or the worry that you might find things too hard and not know how to deal with them, can be crippling. You need to accept that not only will conditions never be perfect, they will also be challenging.
You learn more by taking action. Reading and researching or waiting till you have enough experience is all well and good, but none of it compares to practical training in the field. Kids starting out in the workplace realize this, university graduates discover this. It doesn’t just apply to your job, but every area of your life. You learn the most by doing things and from subsequently making mistakes, not from reading tutorials and theory.
If you are interested, I have written a follow-up piece where I delve deeper into the ‘Someday’ disease and consider five ways you can cure yourself of it.