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Robbing your future self

MOST of us procrastinate because we get more pleasure from not doing something rather than doing it.

Take exercise, for example. I have a goal of doing 25 push-ups a day. There were days when I was about to drop to the floor, I thought of something more enjoyable. You know, more woo-hoo stuff like social media or a hearty breakfast. After clicking “Like” for the 20th time or cleaning up my plate, it was time to go to work.

Guess what was missed along the way? And guess how I felt? Yep. Regret. Frustration. Maybe some self-loathing. How could I be so undisciplined? I promise to do a better job next time.

But on the days that I did the 25 push-ups, I was after a grander goal: to be healthier when I get to be age 60 than at any earlier time in my life. What were my metrics? Among them, greater strength and stamina.

I realized that for each day that I skipped the push-ups, I was robbing the future Nelson Dy with the greater strength and stamina. But for every day that I did those push-ups, I was investing on myself. I would be running circles around my wheezing, doddering friends.

That’s why the cure for procrastination is not will power. The oft-repeated mantra of “just do it” tends to focus on the dis-pleasure of the task that needs to be done. Given human nature, we are then drawn by the pleasure of doing something else. Yes, we know that procrastination will cost us something, but we don’t see or feel that loss yet. So between a guaranteed pleasure now and a vague pain in an undefined future, guess which impulse gets the upper hand?

Visualize the regret of “I wish I had done this earlier.” Personally, I feel the strongest urge to goof off in the late afternoon. I would sweet-talk myself, “Why do it now? I can do it tomorrow morning when I’m more energetic and inspired.” Then, for example, the neighbor’s dog keeps yapping the whole night. The next day, I drag my carcass to the office, see the paperwork I wish I had done yesterday… and groan.

But when I discipline myself to finish that task before the day is over and go back to the office the following morning — whether I am recharged or run-down – I am very satisfied at the sight of an empty in-tray. Knowing that you have no backlog is a great way to start another working day. So do yourself a favor. Spare yourself of tomorrow’s pain and do it now.

So, the next time you are tempted to delay:

  • Having that difficult conversation
  • Doing that homework
  • Strategizing your business
  • Saving up for an emergency fund
  • Building your network
  • Enrolling in that course
  • Quitting junk food and cigarettes

Don’t. You’ll be robbing your future self. Pay the price now, and someday you’ll thank yourself for it.

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