As I briefly alluded to in the opener of last week’s issue, I might have a little problem with procrastination. This is not an unusual trait, especially for those in the quote unquote creative fields. Many readers are currently nodding their heads while imagining the classic Toothpaste for Dinner comic:
Procrastination is so common that there are entire industries devoted to the diagnosis and cure of the disease. There is even a charismatic leader who has discovered the true path and countless disciples who follow in his wake and minister to the flock.
For me, the tipping point came in 2008 when I was splitting time between a failing startup and a budding freelance practice. Without the infrastructure of a company propping me up, I was rudderless and disorganized to the point of failure. I had read about GTD on 43 Folders back in the day, but I never “needed” it until then. But even now with years of practice and a solid system (Field Notes for capture and ideation, Omnifocus for next actions and reminders, Evernote for project organization and reference materials) I still push many tasks off until the very last minute. Even the central thesis of this newsletter (frequent, consistent communication on a regular schedule) is a crutch just to get me to Do The Work. But if I am aware of the problem, there must be some intangible reward that is outweighing the rapidly escalating costs of lost sleep and increased stress.
Like many not-so-young men, I have long since given up my dreams of becoming a professional athlete. But one thing that never goes away is that rush of endorphins, that spike of adrenaline that comes from succeeding at a given task. And no victory is sweeter than one snatched from the jaws of defeat. Developers call it Crunch Time and while it is most commonly associated with the uneven work/life balance required by shoddy management in video game development companies, the run up to completion of any project – be it game, website, newsletter article, or what have you – is a stressful time followed by a sweet release.
We’re wired this way. The buzzer beater, the overtime goal, the walk-off home run – this is the stuff of legend. But the rational ones among us will argue that a run scored in the first inning is worth the same as one in the 9th. If we did more good work earlier in the process, we wouldn’t need last minute heroics. And I’ll admit that those are true statements, but where is the fun in that?