The other day, I had a long list of tasks I needed to get done. There was one task I was NOT looking forward to. I had to call the insurance company to follow up about a claim regarding a car accident I was in when I was riding in an Uber. It wasn’t a complicated task, but for some reason, I was dreading it. I had this vision of being put on hold for a long time, or being given the runaround. I just didn’t want to do it.
I ended up putting off the task, and doing all of the other things on my list first. The problem was that throughout my whole day, the task was looming over me like a shadow. I kept thinking about it, and I kept putting it off. This pattern continued all day, until finally, near the end of my day, I just did it.
Over in Less Than a Minute
The person I needed to talk to wasn’t there, so I left a message on his voicemail. The task was over in less than a minute. The anticipation of the task was much worse than the task itself.
You Still Pay the Price
This kind of thing happens a lot in life. We anticipate something unpleasant, so we put off the task, kicking the can into the future. Even though we think we are escaping the unpleasant event (for a time), we still pay the price, because we experience the anticipatory anxiety in the present. There really is no escape or free lunch. Putting off an unpleasant event is its own form of punishment.
Do The Hard Thing First
So, what’s the alternative? Do the hard thing first. You have to do it at some point, you might as well get it out of the way. By doing the hard thing first, you eliminate any extra suffering due to anticipatory pain or anxiety.
Delay Tactics as a Trigger
What’s an easy way to remember to do the hard thing first? Use your delay tactics as a trigger. As soon as you sense yourself beginning to put something off, or kick the can into the future, FULL STOP. Stop what you are doing, and immediately take action to do the hard thing. See if you can get in the habit of doing the hard thing first, and the rest of your day will feel as if you are going downhill.
What is one thing in your life that you have been putting off? Can you stop everything you are doing right now and take one tangible step toward doing that thing?