Ask me after midnight


Tomorrow is a very busy day for me.

It is when I’ll finally sort out a healthy eating plan, organise a structured exercise regime, start that DIY job that needs done in the house, renegotiate my relationship with SKY to get a better deal on my subscription, settle down and start writing the novel I think I have within me, and book the flights and accommodation that will whisk me off on holiday to a foreign shore.

The thing is, though, that tomorrow is a long way away. It’s always in the future, sometimes barely visible on the horizon. It’s such an easy way to assist with prevarication – “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

That makes putting off the inevitable much more palatable and believable. It adds legitimacy to not doing something.

It’s not that I’m saying no, just not now.

So, at the stroke of midnight, it’s a new today and tomorrow is still in the future. All those things I said I would do tomorrow have, by definition, been kicked further down the timeline. And done so in a safe, controlled, measured way.

I can understand why I would put painful stuff off as much as possible, but I can’t fathom why things that are likely to have a positive outcome get the same delaying tactics applied to them. What on earth is so wrong about managing my health, getting a cheaper deal on my TV subscription, or planning a holiday that allows me to postpone doing anything about it?

Maybe I have become a victim of distraction.

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, 24-hour News and Sport, daytime television, a new coffee-making machine – this list of things to occupy my time are innumerate.

The difference between the tasks that are really important, and those other distractions is immediacy.

Losing weight takes months, getting fit is just as much of a slow burner.

DIY, at least when I do it, makes more mess than anything else until the final few moments when it all comes together – and then there is all that setting up and tidying up to do.

Much as I love travelling, the time it takes to search for flights, ferries, accommodation, things to do and places to eat takes forever – almost longer than the holiday itself.

And as for the novel, I know I’ll get stuck at “once upon a time”

Of course, science claims to have the answer. Industrial psychologist Piers Steel of the University of Calgary has developed a procrastination equation (actually, temporal motivation theory, to give it its proper title).

U = E x V / I x D, where:

U is the desire to complete the task;

E, the expectation of success;

V, the value of completion;

I, the immediacy of task; and

D, the personal sensitivity to delay.

In summary, for me, without a defined deadline, the incentive to start and finish the task is much lower. Saying “tomorrow” is not definitive enough.

I suppose knowing why I procrastinate is helpful in beginning to change my behaviour.

I’ll start tomorrow.


“Never put off till to-morrow what you can do day after to-morrow just as well.” Mark Twain

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