Putting Off...

There is a comedian, Tom Papa who does a regular routine on Live From Here, called "Out. In. America."  Part of his spiel is that he tells a story of meeting different individuals across the country and then poses questions,  "Have you ever....?"  which moves along the preposterous story he is telling by his replying with a deep pause and resignation,  "I have." 

In the tone of Tom Papa, "Have you ever put off doing certain projects or activities?   I can certainly say, " I have."  

Sometimes I wonder, "why?".  I know all the right techniques, thoughts and attitudes to jump on things and get things done: do the hardest thing first thing, break it down into smaller details,  reward yourself upon completion.  Try as I might,  procrastination is still my default.

Lately, I have a couple of big projects that I need to do yet I am finding that I am having difficulty either starting, or in the case of some of them, difficulty in the finishing.

Have you ever felt that way- stuck in the not-yet or frozen in the not-done?

I have.

It seems as if I am paralyzed with the not-yet.  Part of it stems from the not-knowing.  Projects that I have to do are not fully formed in my mind; I cannot see its entirety- start, middle, end. I am not quite sure how to start much less what it will look like as I go through it and finish it.   I get paralyzed with that blurry unknown.  I don't want to start lest I do something that needs redoing. 

Other times I am paralyzed with the not-done.  Part of this stems from a lack of excitement over the project.  Many times a project has been long and drawn out and I am just tired in thinking about it, much less wanting to actually work on it and complete it.  There is a loss of "newness" in the project and subsequently a contempt of the familiar.  It is only when the balance is tipped in that I am more "fed up" with something hanging on my to-do list then not, will I finally complete it. 

To get myself engaged, either with new or old projects, sometimes I just have to trick myself into doing it. 

Kind of like my approach to entering the water.  When I was a kid, I was one of the first ones in the water (whether it was the pool, sound or ocean) and one of the last ones out. As I have aged, I am ridiculous in my avoidance of getting wet.  It is not that I do not enjoy the water.  I do.  I love to swim and dive in and out of the waves.  Once in, I am fine. It is just the inertia to get into the water.  I feel quite comfortable being dry, warm and sun-kissed as I sit on the sand and don't have any desire to move. 

But there will come a moment in our beach attendance when I need to go into the water. (e.g. All the other family members are going in, I am getting way too hot on the sand, or I just need to move and get up from sitting/lying down.) I approach the waters edge, stick my toes in, look out into the dark, vast ocean and think, "Ahh, not today. I am going to sit back down."   Then I think, "Don't be ridiculous. You do not have that much time or opportunity at the beach.  Take advantage of this beautiful day.  Just go in.  Once you are in, you know you will enjoy it."  I am paralyzed in the overthinking of the dark, vast and reflective expanse of water in front of me. All sorts of silly ideas float in my head along with the Jaws soundtrack.  The water before me seems so ominous.

Yet, I know that when I exit the water, all that water between me and the land looks so inviting and warm. It is green, clear and seems so familiar.  Not at all like the dangerous seas I imagined as I first looked out in the distance. It is just my perspective.  The water hasn't changed. 

So, in order for me to first enter the water, I will walk in, turn backwards looking at the beach and the "pleasant" water in front of me,  lean back into the water and voila.  I am finally in.  Gone are the days when I would immediately run and jump in.  I have had to try another method to achieve the same thing. 

When I cannot get my act together for a project or activity, I have to trick myself into thinking that I am either in the middle of that project or almost finished with it.  If I don't worry about the start, but just go right to the middle, I can get over my paralysis of the not-yet.  Many writing experts give the suggestion of just jump right in the middle  when you feel stuck in starting a writing project.  For instance, if one is starting a novel, one might get overwhelmed to have the perfect opening line.  Sometimes it is better to begin writing a "middle" chapter and then go back.  We trick our minds so that we do not get paralyzed in perfection and in having to know how it will all work out from the get-go.  Sometimes a different approach keeps things interesting. It gives us a little mystery and unfamiliarity which helps keep things fresh. 

What about you? What are your "have you ever..." experiences?   Have you ever had to change your method or approach to looking or doing something?  What was it?  

Do you feel currently stuck in the not-yet or paralyzed by the not-done?  What can you do to freshen up your approach to it? 

Have you ever wondered why you put off a task?