Defeating Procrastination One Sock at a Time

Sock designed by Leslie Ranchon from The Noun Project
Sock designed by Leslie Ranchon from The Noun Project

Dear Jack,

I’m a fantastic procrastinator.  It’s something I don’t love admitting, but it’s horribly true.  I procrastinate on things that I know I should be doing – from household projects to work assignments, from taking out the trash to writing letters to you, from replying to emails to putting my clothes away.  It’s awful.  What transpires is twofold: (1) I acknowledge there is some task to do, but I figure I’ll get around to it just a little bit later.  And then (2) all these tasks keep subconsciously piling up in my head (or KanbanFlow) that I know I need to do and a “little bit later” still hasn’t happened, so I have a mini-mental-breakdown and I knock them all out at once, swearing to stop procrastinating so much.  Sometimes.

More often than not, I have a wife who patiently reminds me that the trash needs taken out.  The cars need moved.  The dog needs fed.  The dehumidifier needs emptied.  All things I know, all things I’ve put off – either for a few minutes, or hours, or days, or weeks.  As much as it infuriates me, it must be doubly infuriating to her (and yet her grace abounds – praise the Lord for that).

On multiple occasions over the years I’ve made spontaneous and unqualified declarations of victory over procrastination and took solemn pledges to change my lazy ways – and each time have failed.

So a few weeks ago I decided I’d start small and win some minor victories in attempt to modify my behavior over time.  And I mean small.  Laughably small: I decided to make sure to throw my dress socks in the hamper each and every night I come home and change.  It’s sad, but most times I throw them next to the bed, thinking I’ll throw them in the hamper later that night (which doesn’t happen), and then think I’ll do it tomorrow morning (which certainly doesn’t happen).  What does happens is Lydia puts them in the hamper.  Or every few months she wisely lets them pile up until I say “Hey I don’t have any clean dress socks!”  To which she makes mention of the dirty pile I’ve accumulated.

So – I’ve had marginal success with this small endeavor.  But it’s got my mind thinking and processing in other ways to do other tasks I know I need to do right then at that moment.  Whether it’s putting socks in the hamper, or taking the trash out right after dinner, or making follow up notes from a client meeting, or replying to that email before logging off.  I can’t claim victory over all procrastination (I’ve been thinking of writing this letter for a week now), but I think I am taking some steps down the right path.  Hopefully.

The key, as in most things in life I’m learning, is to start small and build from there.  Start defeating procrastination one sock at a time.  Start running one half mile at a time.  Start writing one 15 minute session at a time.  Start prospecting one phone call at a time.  Figure out what you can manage to do on a regular basis, keep that level sustained, and build up from there.

Most people I talk to, it seems, struggle to some extent with procrastinating, and I think when we end up putting things off, it robs us of the gift of enjoying time.  We end up lamenting the past because we were lazy, we end up not living in the present because we’re thinking of what we should be doing, and we end up robbing the future of other opportunities that may get squeezed out after we finally catch up on all the things we should have already done.

Till next time, Jack (which, if I keep putting my socks away and building on that shouldn’t be that long).



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