The Art of Procrastination
Procrastination is something many of us would rather do without. To some people, procrastination seems unnecessary and it represents an act of laziness. However, to create something worthwhile, sometimes we need to break away from our work and go for a walk instead. This breaking away, or procrastinating as some might say, allows us to come back to the task at hand with fresh and clear eyes.
Good work cannot be rushed. The idea that we can, or should, avoid procrastination is somewhat naive — it is like eating a fruit before it ripens. Procrastination, or stepping away, is a crucial part of the process. It is a test of our patience and it give us the room to evaluate where we are and where we are headed.
Good decisions can be made quickly, if trained properly, but they are seldom made when we are rushed. A person who tries to avoid procrastination entirely is susceptible to feelings of urgency. Often, these people have an unshakeable sensation that their life is an emergency and they must keep going at full speed, no matter the cost.
Nothing is worth pursuing at all costs. This is how tyranny is created, both politically and personally. It is made when we convince ourselves that sacrificing today is justified because it is cultivating a utopia in the future. A utopia can never be made off the back of the present moment. If we ever reach the magical future we imagined, we will likely spot a new destination shortly thereafter — we will spot a new utopia to sacrifice for.
Procrastination is a strange and beautiful opportunity — it is an opportunity to better understand the gifts we have been given and the gifts we are meant to share. It is a chance to unravel the mystery behind who we are and who we are meant to become.
Sometimes procrastination happens because our heart is trying to tell us there is something else we need to explore, something we are neglecting. Maybe our procrastination is a blessing in disguise, maybe it is trying to show us someone or something we would have never seen otherwise.
For example, while writing this letter, I had a serious case of writer’s block. I had been trying to write something since last Monday, but nothing came to fruition for an entire week. I tried forcing a few ideas here and there, but nothing felt right. My usual enthusiasm was missing.
I remember waking up every morning and staring out the window. The sun was shining over the trees outside. I could hear the birds chirping. I could see people smiling as they walked their dogs across the street. Usually, this would be the perfect setting for me to write. Everyday I expected the words to start flowing but the river felt dry. I felt stuck.
I could feel the clock ticking as last weekend got closer and closer. I worried I would not be able to finish this newsletter in time. I convinced myself that if I missed my Sunday deadline everything might fall apart — people might stop caring about my work and forget about me.
However, then I took a step back. I started to think, “What would happen if I postponed this newsletter? From a reader’s perspective, would they rather read something that was rushed or something that had ripened? What would make the world a better place?”
Maybe there is not one right answer to the questions I asked. Maybe the right answer is a marriage between seemingly opposite choices. Maybe the best approach is a mix between speed and patience. However, last week I felt I was leaning more towards the former choice — I felt rushed.
This is not just an issue for me, it is also a major problem in today’s culture. Whether we are in business, media or art, we rarely give our work — or ourselves — enough time to mature. We expect things to have been done yesterday. When we see our impending deadlines, we scramble to put things together as quickly as possible and this happens over and over again. We feel like we never have enough time. It is like we stepped onto an imaginary treadmill with the speed and incline set to the highest level. However, treadmills never take us anywhere, no matter how hard we run.
After processing all of this, I decided I would postpone this newsletter for a week. I wanted to give this letter time to mature and I also wanted to see if my procrastination was the result of something else calling me, something I was ignoring.
In the meantime, I worked on other projects. In particular, I started experimenting with videos. Making videos was — and still is — something that feels out of my element. Putting my face in front of a camera is nerve racking. Sharing a photo, a letter or a podcast is one thing, but posting a video is much more revealing — it makes you vulnerable from all sides. However, in hindsight, this was an irrational fear holding me back. I can make good videos. There is nothing inherent that makes me incapable of doing so. I just need to set aside the time to practice.
Instead of writing every morning like I usually do, I decided I would put down my pen for the week and practice recording videos. At first, I felt awkward talking in front of a camera. By the middle of the week, I was much more comfortable. I started to get somewhat of a flow going too. Near the end of the week, I started envisioning where I could take this medium. I started imagining these newsletters being the framework for future YouTube videos. I also thought about making videos on completely different topics too. In the strongest sense, my inspiration was sparked again. I was excited and committed to see where this new path would lead.
I have always had a passion for videos. Somewhere along the way I forgot that. In the early days of YouTube, I would post videos of my friends and me skateboarding. I would create video montages of our weekend skateboarding trips, usually with our favorite song at the time playing in the background. This week, I tried looking for some of these videos. I found one from 2008 that was still on my computer. Watching the video took me back in time. I could almost feel the rolling wheels and board under my feet again.
The feelings associated with a video are completely different than the ones sparked from a photo, a letter or a podcast. One is not better than the other; they are simply different. They each have their own unique qualities and values. If I want to give my career the best chance to blossom, I need to grow my craft in all mediums because there is something magical and empowering about each of them. I feel like my procrastination last week was trying to tell me this — it was trying to remind me to experiment more.
Like most people, I am sometimes reluctant to experiment, especially when I am comfortable. I am very much a creature of habit and I love my routines. I eat the same breakfast every morning. After breakfast, I drink coffee on the same chair in my living room and I read for about 30 minutes. Finally, I sit down at my desk near the window in my office and I start working. I love this whole process. However, while having routines and schedules are important, unless they are elastic we will never last. We need to be flexible otherwise valuable opportunities will pass us by.
Sometimes we use our routines as an excuse to avoid challenges. We tell ourselves we do not have time for “X, Y or Z.” However, if we ignore things just because they seem challenging, we will never grow. I am not saying we should actively seek discomfort, but we should not steer away from discomfort either. Life is going to throw challenges our way whether we look for them or not — it is our choice whether we turn those challenges into opportunities for growth and change.
When we embrace the things we are subconsciously avoiding, our minds become clearer. After giving myself some space, my writer’s block started to fade away, which is evident from this letter you are now reading. There was something new I needed to explore, something I was previously ignoring. Once I discovered this new thing, my procrastination disappeared — it is almost like it was never here.
Procrastination does not stop us from creating unless we give up. If we stay committed with a curious and open mind, what is meant to be will reveal itself so long as we are willing to see it. Procrastination is not a sign of our inability — it is merely an opportunity to open our eyes. It is a chance to discover someone or something we never knew we knew; someone or something that is looking for us too.
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