Procrastinating the unpleasant

Decades ago, on my mother’s insistence, I visited an optometrist. Not to my surprise, I was told that I needed to wear specs, because I was myopic. It wasn’t a surprise to me because I had been aware of the ‘issue’ for a few months now, but had chosen to do nothing about it. Wearing spectacles wasn’t something desirable and so I kept procrastinating it until the headaches got too bad to go on with.

Fast forward to a few months ago. While attending a training program on ‘Personal productivity’, the trainer asked us if we put aside emails that were from difficult people or on difficult topics, responding to them only after a few days or sometimes after an escalation? I was yet again not surprised to see that I wasn’t the only one raising my hand.

It is human nature to procrastinate the undesirable to the extent possible. It can be attributed to our inherent need to minimize or even completely avoid (perceived or potential) threat. It could be meeting a difficult client, having that crucial feedback conversation, or confronting your friend/partner on a sensitive matter.

And yet, just like with my eye sight, things rarely get better unless we address them. Procrastinating addressing the issue, however unpleasant, does little to make them go away or even minimise the unpleasantness. It only prolongs it, and causes stress.

Brain Tracy in his book ‘Eat that frog’ suggests that we should first identify the frog – the most difficult and undesirable task on our list or in the mailbox, the one we are most likely to procrastinate, and then ‘eat’ it. That will give us energy & momentum for the rest of the day, and not stress us out by playing on our mind.

What’s the frog on your list today?

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