I’ve often found great comfort in the idea that work is never wasted: even if a project doesn’t go the way I hoped, I will still have learned something from the attempt, and I’ll carry that knowledge and experience forward with me. However, it recently occurred to me that work done is not the same as effort spent. If I spend effort in a way that doesn’t advance my goals, then that effort is indeed wasted.*
One of the ways I don’t advance my goals is by procrastinating. Usually, when I put off some annoying job, I don’t do fun things or some other useful task. Instead, I do things that don’t fulfill any goal at all, because it feels as though if I were to exercise any self-control, I would have to do the thing I’m avoiding. At the end of the day, I’m exhausted from the internal struggle with nothing to show for it: I find myself wishing that, given that I didn’t do the annoying thing, I could have at least had some fun instead!
I had been mystified by this phenomenon until recently, when I put it together that
Procrastination takes effort!
(even though it feels like avoiding effort)
And, since procrastinating doesn’t align with my goals,
That effort is wasted!
(because you still have to do the thing when you finally stop procrastinating)
I’ve found it very helpful when I’m tempted to put something off, to remind myself, “Effort spent procrastinating is wasted.” It makes it feel like the less painful thing is just to get it over with and do whatever needs to be done. Which is true!
How about you? Have you ever experienced that terrible sense you put something off for no reason at all? Do you have other strategies for keeping yourself from procrastinating? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
*Two caveats: First, I know that some activities produce variable results, where sometimes advancement is made and sometimes it isn’t, and you can’t tell which before you try. Here I’m referring to activities that predictably don’t advance your goals. Second, effort that is wasted from one person’s persepective could still be beneficial to someone else. (A certain segment of the tech industry definitely profits off encouraging people to distract themselves!)