“Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?”
– an unidentified perfect human who’s magically immune to procrastination
Well, condescending, nondescript quote man*, sometimes it’s all too easy to fall victim to the allure of a better tomorrow. Didn’t you ever watch Annie? That girl knows what I’m talking about.
Tomorrow, Tomorrow! I love ya, Tomorrow! You’re only a DAY A-WAY!
When I think of tomorrow it always manages to promise better circumstances, happier, more stable feelings, and more workable hours than today.
Tomorrow has fully mastered the art of appearing like a better option. And that appearance is only exacerbated by our own physical, mental, and emotional barriers to productivity. We may be feeling tired, hungry or cranky, or we may have already used our energy and time to do a number of other things. Even something as uncontrollable as the sun going down can deplete our motivation to do the things that would benefit us. The things that we want to do but can’t actually bring ourselves to do.
For some reason, those of us who struggle with procrastination are predisposed to believe that tomorrow is an idyllic land where all productivity and happiness lay. We find ourselves constantly chasing tomorrow, yet never getting there.
Take writing this blog post for example. I’ve shamefully fallen victim to the Tomorrow Trap repeatedly over the past week. Once the morning of “tomorrow*” came, I would genuinely intend to write but somehow always got distracted. By the end of the day there came that “tomorrow” promise again (I write quotation marks to emphasize my own bs). *sigh* You know that feeling where you’re getting tired of your own shit? Yep. I was definitely there.
Even worse, I’ve had a 2/3rds done script for a TV pilot on my laptop and my to do list which has fallen so deep into the Tomorrow Trap that FOUR. WHOLE. MONTHS. have managed to pass by.
This is important to note because I’ve noticed that the longer you give in to the lure of the Tomorrow Trap, the worse it gets. You get to a point where even YOU don’t believe the lie of tomorrow anymore. You don’t even bother saying it. When thinking of that project that you’ve been avoiding you simply go “AUGH! I gotta do that.” You don’t even say when. You just lament your own failure and throw it out there to show that you indeed haven’t completely forgotten about it.
So how do we get over our procrastination and pull ourselves out of the pesky mouse trap that is “tomorrow”!?
I believe that there are a number of tactics that we can employ to help with this productivity drainer. If you’re like me then it’ll probably take getting tired of your own shit first. After that, however, it takes getting over the mental barriers of fear and doubt. Assuming that whatever it is that you’re procrastinating from is something that you genuinely want to do, you’re probably putting a lot of pressure on yourself to do it “perfectly.” This is problematic for many reasons.
Firstly, let’s take out the word perfect and clarify that it’s impossible to be amazing or phenomenal at something that you’ve never done before, haven’t done in awhile, or have been doing infrequently over the past couple of years. Depending on what you’re doing, it may take much longer than you’d like or expect to become masterful at it. Sometimes it’s beneficial to put in the work at the ground level and keep working at it without the distraction of constantly looking up to see how far you’ve gotten.
Now, let’s address the word “perfect” and note that perfection doesn’t exist. Perfection is as elusive as “tomorrow” is when we’re stuck in the procrastination cycle. If I asked 5 people to write down their definition of perfect, we’d get 5 different answers. There’s no point in chasing “perfect” which shifts from person to person and from day to day with no rhyme or reason.
The best thing that we can do is our best and the beauty of our best is that it can change and grow and mature over time. There’s no need to judge our best in this moment because it is a reflection of where we are and what we know. As we learn and grow, so will it.
I find that loosening up, letting go of the pressure and reminding ourselves of the original reason why we set our goal, helps the work seem less like work and more like fun. And who doesn’t want more fun?!
Have you recently fell victim to the Trap of Tomorrow? What are the goals that you truly care about that you can’t bring yourself to accomplish? or if you’ve overcome the trap, what steps were helpful for you to start making progress? I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments!