Procrastination is probably my biggest flaw. I’m always working to finish just as the buzzer sounds. Why? Some people procrastinate as a form of rebellion, it excites them to push their own limits. Me? I find that all of a sudden I can focus that much harder when I have that pressure on me. But clearly if I can focus then, I should be able to focus from the minute the task is assigned. And yet every time I’m working down to the wire.
Many of the clients I meet with say that they’re waiting to start eating better or regularly working out until they feel ready to do it. Everything needs to click into place and they’ll be ready to go. Line everything up perfectly before we can take the first step. That’s procrastination. The problem with that is that by the time they’re ready to change (or by the time a medical condition forces a change) we’re so far behind in the game that we almost always fail. We resort back to our normal habits because in reality, the deadline passed before we even started. Every diet starts tomorrow. Every exercise program starts at 6 am the next morning. But we squeeze in that last cookie before our diet, and stay up extra late so that we get that extra hour of freedom before that serious workout plan. And then we feel like crap when it’s time to go. We’re setting ourselves up for failure.
My solution? Defeat evil with evil: Cheat.
From our very first standardized test in elementary school, we’re told “do not open the test booklet until instructed to do so.” “Line up at the door before going anywhere.” “Stay in line.” ” Wait your turn. ” “Do not start the race before the gun goes off.” So we spend huge amounts of effort trying to develop the perfect start. We try to line everything up exactly as it needs to be. We do whatever it takes to shave hundredths of a second off our reaction time to start the race fractions of a second before anyone else.. We try to cram as much as possible in between these imaginary “start” and “deadline” times, but we’re always confined by those limits. Really want to win? Cheat. Start early.
Start thinking outside the box of limited time frames. In real life, we can cheat and start early, and nobody will ever know. Got a project due at the end of the semester? Start it before you even know the project guidelines. Even if you do it completely wrong, you still have all of the research completed. If the research is irrelevant, at least you’ve already developed a process for getting the task done. Trying to lose weight? Got a weight loss competition going at work? Got time before the “weigh in” and the official start date? Cheat. Start early. You’ll have all the details ironed out by the time the rest of those guys even get started, and who knows, maybe you’ll have already lost a couple pounds. Diet starts Monday? Cheat and start Saturday night. Working out at 6 a.m. tomorrow? Start your program early and go to bed even earlier than you had planned. Even if you mess up and don’t get everything right, it won’t matter, because the mistakes happened before regulation time. Afraid of getting a disease in 20 years? Guess what, you don’t have to wait 20 years to deal with it. Start winning the battle today. By the time you would have gotten the disease, you will have built your body up to resist most health problems. Just taking one step, or having one extra healthy meal ahead of time will get you ahead of the rest of the pack.
Best of all, this kind if cheating is actually good for you. The same excitement of finishing in the last few seconds can be found in starting just a few seconds before everyone else. Look at all the people around you– you have a leg up on all of them. You’re a mile down the road, and they haven’t even started yet. Suckers. If only they knew how easy it was to cheat just a little. If only they knew how to cheat time.