You know what’s silly?
I’m a self-employed portrait photographer, and like a good responsible business owner I charge sales tax for any physical goods sold (prints). Then I file and send in that sales tax, four times a year. Except, I missed a due date. It was the holidays, I was busy… okay I just didn’t want to do it. I thought it would be hard (even though the first time wasn’t) and I didn’t want to have to do all the math and look through my records, and I just… put it off.
Then I got pregnant and basically did NOTHING for a month or two. I felt so sick and tired all the time. Sure, filing for taxes takes almost zero physical effort, and my laptop was right on the couch with me, and the internet doesn’t mind if you have morning sickness. But I didn’t feel good and the last thing I felt like doing was filing taxes!
Then… I missed another due date. Seriously. I’m not kidding. That’s how embarrassing this is. Now, this second return I didn’t file, would have been a $0.00 return because I stopped selling physical goods and only offered services, to which sales tax doesn’t apply. That could mean “Oh good, filing will be super easy!”, but to me it meant, “I don’t owe them money anyway so it’s not a huge pressing issue and I still don’t feel that good and I’ll do it soon. Maybe.”
Then I got a letter saying I failed to file. Apparently they like their money? Weird.
Then I got a letter saying that I still hadn’t filed and if I didn’t respond within 30 days, they would estimate a return and just bill me for it.
AND I STILL PUT IT OFF FOR ANOTHER WEEK.
For this entire six month period, every time I thought about taxes I would feel a little pang of guilt, panic, anxiety, or regret. The longer I put it off the more uncomfortable it was to think about! How embarrassing that I would let it slide for so long. Even if I didn’t owe much money ($5!) it was irresponsible to put it off like that. How discouraging! How horrible! How uncomfortable!
Well, filing was on my list of Five Things today. When there’s only five things on your entire list, and one of them was blow drying your hair, it’s hard to make excuses to not do everything on the list.
I forgot my password, I couldn’t figure out how to do it, I had to mess around for awhile… and then it was super easy. I probably spend twenty minutes trying to figure things out, and ten minutes filing. Thirty minutes. For six months I was putting off thirty minutes of uncomfortable stressful work. For six months I procrastinated, stressed, regretted, and put off. I thought it would be hard – it wasn’t. I thought there would be a lot of calculations involved – I had to add three numbers together. Which I did by hand. I thought it would be stressful – well, not as stressful as getting threatening letters from the government!
So, this is why procrastination is silly. If something is uncomfortable and you procrastinate doing it, you’re stringing out that uncomfortable feeling for as long as you possibly can before disposing of it. Why? Sometimes we think it’ll be worse than it really is, sometimes we aren’t sure how to do it, sometimes we don’t want to dedicate the resources to knocking it out. But isn’t just doing it easier than dreading it and hating it and feeling bad about it – and then at the end, you still have to do it anyway? You have to do it either way!
Are you going to spend time hating it for awhile first and then do it, or are you going to do it now?