In my struggles with procrastination, I’ve tried inner appeals to duty and responsibility, organizational systems, you name it. I’ve gotten better over the years but it’s still hard. Then, some months ago, I had an insight that seems to be helping.

I was in a hurry to leave, and grabbed my sneakers out of the closet. I often pull my sneakers off without untying them, a minor but real act of procrastination that means that the next time I wear them, I have to undo the double knots before I can put them on my feet. But this time I found the laces untied and ready to go. It was as if someone had left me a small, thoughtful present. That someone was myself.

When I took my shoes off later that day, I remembered that feeling. I wanted to give a gift to my future self. I’d give her sneakers that were ready to wear. So instead of saving my current self a few seconds by pulling the shoes off still tied, I untied them.

I’ve been remembering this and building it up to more significant acts of just-do-it-now, for lack of a better antonym for procrastination. I dislike the task of putting my clothes away each evening, but my future self is grateful not to have a pile to sort through after ten days. I have a goal of finishing the first draft of three sections of a writing project before the end of the weekend (i.e., tonight); last night, even though I was disinclined to work on it, I did a chunk rather than leave it all for today. The feeling of having received a gift that eases my way is a better motivator than duty or any other I’ve tried.

Have you struggled with procrastinating? What has helped you?

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