Let me confess something to you.
I used to be the most accomplished procrastinator on the planet! Even today, I occasionally go down that path. I marvel at the profound qualities and depth of procrastination expertise I have acquired over the years by focusing on what doesn't matter while everything else - worth doing - stands still.
I see procrastination as a defense mechanism to avoid discomfort as a result of not properly seeing the reward that waits at the end. We perceive discomfort as a whale and the reward as plankton – instead of the other way around.
Any discomfort is an obstacle to our pleasure-seeking nature and there is a lot of discomfort to be found in cold water. It’s a significant struggle to earn just a little bit of joy—or as my swim buddy Robin validates, "The 20% of the ordeal is very wonderful." No reward is earned free of struggle, because what really matters doesn't come with ease.
The most challenging moment of every swim is entering the water, especially now in wintertime when the body screams profanities the moment it touches the chilly water's edge. The anticipation of the cold can be just as discouraging as the sensation itself. As you can imagine, the desire to postpone that torture is constant.
In the past, I relied on motivation to swim in the cold. It was easy, since it was a new adventure. I didn't know exactly what to expect and was looking forward to each new surprise. Now, after enough repetitions I know with reasonable certainty what awaits and how my body responds to the initial discomfort.
To rely on motivation to push through hesitance is problematic because motivation cannot be sustained in the long run. It lacks consistency. It vanishes the moment we have a bad day, are tired, or simply don't feel like it.
We procrastinate in patterns. Skipping a swim might not seem consequential, but there are other things we might skip with the same ease that are more meaningful. Learning to handle procrastination with lower priority items trains us to better handle the things that matter the most.
If we train to be just a little uncomfortable on a daily basis—through small tasks—our tolerance for discomfort in other areas of our lives improves significantly.
I can’t think of a better way to train than submerging into cold water. I do it every single day.
I believe that our ability to overcome procrastination lies in our strength to overcome the discomfort of getting started. All we need is two minutes of effort to push us through that roadblock.
The most reliable tool I have found to combat procrastination is commitment. It is stronger than motivation as it doesn't care how we feel on any given day. Once we commit, we shift our focus from motivation to accountability. Our perspective changes so there is no need for bargaining anymore. We just go and get it done.
We learn to understand there is a whale of a reward awaiting and we will see it the moment we pass the 2 minutes of necessary plankton.