It took me far too long to learn this lesson, and it cost me a considerable amount of money, time, and aggravation.
If there's something you don't want to do, there's just about two good strategies for dealing with it:
Strategy #1: Understand the consequences of not doing it, and decide against doing it the first time you see it.
When you live in China as a foreigner, you're supposed to register at the police station within 24 hours of your arrival. While it's not particularly time-consuming (15 minutes max), it meant breaking up a day to walk to the station, paperwork, etc.
I did research on what would happen to me if I didn't register, and it turns out there's lots of local jurisdiction / judgment on it. The area I was living, a moderately foreigner-populated upscale part of the Chaoyang Business District, turned out to almost always issue a warning instead of fining you. Your registration info wasn't checked when you left the country, and it wasn't necessary for 99% of daily activities.
I was in and out of China multiple times on a business visa with "M" multiple entries. For a while, I said, "I'm too busy, I don't have time to register, I accept the consequences if the worst should happen." Even the worst wasn't so bad -- it was just a fine that capped at $500, and I thought it pretty unlikely I'd get one.
This is frequently the wrong call to make, not doing things you don't want to do. But if you really are going to punt on something, you're best off doing it quite early, making peace with the decision, accepting potential consequences, and then you can stop thinking about it.
Strategy #2: Do it quickly to get it off your head.
Later, they changed the visa rules and I was no longer easily eligible for the M multiple entries. I had to extend my visa regularly in Beijing.
At that point, I needed to register at the police station. So, my new way became just registering as soon as possible. One time, instead of going straight home from the airport, I stopped at the police station on the way back. Then I didn't have to think about it.
It's the strategy I take with taxes -- get them done as quickly as possible. Same with paying bills -- I try to pay as soon as they show up, so I don't have to remember it any more.
I wasn't always like this. I used to delay and put off stuff I didn't want to, and then wind up scrambling around at the last minute. Sometimes I'd be forced to pay expedited fees for a visa I procrastinated in getting, or other paperwork. Sometimes I'd need to FedEx someone a document instead of using the cheaper regular postal mail. Sometimes I'd have to get a more expensive flight, or I wouldn't be able to get the hotel or apartment I wanted to rent because I waited too close to the date of arrival and no space was left.
Why do people do that? Well, obviously we have a natural aversion to doing things we don't want to do.
But there's a gigantic downside to waiting too long, and it's not the missed opportunities or extra fees --
It's that the stuff lives on as a nightmare in your subconcious.
When you have something hanging over your head you don't want to do -- or worst, when your lifestyle involves delaying painful or annoying activities as long as possible -- you wind up living in a whirl of nagging commitments that are stalking you, ready to turn from little annoyances into bigger problems.
It's not a good way to live.
The rule is, "Get it off your head!" You want to eliminate annoyances as quickly as possible, if you're going to do them. If you let them live on in your psyche for a while before doing them, they drain you.
Are there other ways? Could you delegate away, throw money at the problem, or get creative?
Sometimes, yes -- but that's handling it and getting it off your head, as described above.
And sometimes... you actually just can't. There's been plenty of times when I spent two or three times as long trying to get creative to avoid doing some pain in the neck thing, instead of just doing it.
It's really not recommended.
Make your mantra this -- Get it off your head.
You don't want nagging annoyances living in your head. Decide right away not to do it and accept the potential consequences, or do it ASAP. It's the only way to live if you want to be productive, engaged, and not have neurotic stress creeping up on you all the time.
This is something I could be better at. I think for me, the subconscious reason I procrastinate on stuff I don't want to do is that I have this lurking fear that there is an infinite amount of it, and so I think, well, if I start doing it all as soon as possible I'll never have any time to myself. I'll always need to clean or follow up on some email or do laundry or do investment maintenance or find a mechanic to fix that weird thing with the brakes or whatever. So my reaction is to say, well, I'll just have to steal time for myself from the endless stream of minutiae.
It's not good because it leaves me with a low-level anxiety, always feeling vaguely guilty and trying to forget about things, the judge and jury in my head always saying well I should be doing something else. I agree I'd feel a lot better if I were absolutely on top of all this stuff.
Do you find that you actually get to where you're on top of it all? Or is a continuum, and you're still at some point just deciding to be OK with kicking some other cans down the road because there's not enough time in the day to do every last thing?
I should write about making things sacred, which is a key part of this. I do whatever I've marked "sacred" in that time period before I do lower level stuff, nuisances, etc.
The big gain in quality of life comes from accepting the consequences to not doing some things you don't want to do, and then quickly doing the ones you do decide to do. I'll try to write more on it at some point.
Totally agree: "Make your mantra this -- Get it off your head.
One of the reasons I like David Allen's work so much is he has a similar perspective - "mind like water."
Brian Tracy calls it 'eating the frog.' If you have to eat a frog, might as well get it over with!
I read Eat That Frog back in '09 and I was wholly convinced it was the way I was going to live my life from then on.
Turns out it was really hard. Eating frogs first thing in the morning is a bitch.
I've been following your blog for quite sometime now and your recent post struck a chord with me. I've found that I have no passion. Instead, I have a passion for the passionate, in the abstract. When I'm working near people who love what they do, can see their grand vision and have a pathway to the future it inspires me. From a chef to a programmer, if I meet a passionate person, I immediately want to be them.
I've made numerous blogs covering different topics. I've started a variety of different groups at university. I've even switched hobbies from martial arts to programming to yoyos. Nothing seems to stick. It seems I need a mentor of sorts to make sure I stay on track otherwise, some voice in my head is "ooh! try this! no no no! try this!"
My main question is, how to continue? How do you know when you should cut your losses or when you're just being a pansy? Help me focus Sebastian!
I know where you're at and I've got a number of thoughts.
First and foremost, did you see Miguel Hernandez's replied? I wrote "Passion Emerges From Action, Not Contemplation," I asked for Miguel's take because he's a sharp guy.
When I was a kid, my parents would tell me to do something reasonable like clean my room. I'd probably do it, or at least make a token effort. Sometimes I wouldn't do it, and my mom would do it for me. Or maybe I'd be out at school and she'd be sick of me having a messy room, so she'd just clean it without asking me to do it first. In school I'd be assigned stuff to do. Usually I'd do it, but when I didn't, there weren't really any consequences. I'd get worse grades, but the impact of one assignment on a grade always seemed so tiny, and I never really cared about grades beyond not getting in trouble with my parents.
I got used to the idea that if I was supposed to do something, but didn't do it, it didn't really matter. Maybe someone else would just do it for me, or maybe the problem would just go away. There are probably a million different reasons that people procrastinate, but this was probably the biggest one for me. It wasn't that I thought that I would prefer to do something later-- it's that I sort of subconsciously thought that if I didn't do it now, maybe I'd never have to do it.
In real life, though, this isn't how things work. If I don't do something right now that needs to get done, then I'm going to need to do it later.
I remember the first time I came face to face with this. Two thousand three was the first year I made a significant amount of money gambling online. I think it may have also been the first year my parents stopped filing taxes for me. They told me to take care of my taxes and even told me how to take care of them. April fifteenth came around, and I kept thinking about how I should realy get to those taxes, knowing I wasn't actually going to do them. On the sixteenth, taxes felt just like a missed assignment. Too late to do anything about it now!