Procrastination is a problem that has followed me around since the early years of elementary school. As a kid, I remember flipping through TV shows the night before class and trying to immerse myself in the content before me, but failing to as anxiety filled up inside me at the thought of the assignments due tomorrow. Shouldn’t I get started? What if the work took longer than I’d expected? Would I be able to finish it in time?
Despite these thoughts, I often became so overwhelmed at the thought of starting perfectly, as I was certain that the only way to do a task well was to begin it well. This led me to continue putting things off, which eventually caused my consistent procrastination. Unfortunately for me, these habits of procrastination did not fade as time went by. In fact, they became even more pressing as I grew older and responsibilities began to pile up on my plate. When I was prompted to make pivotal decisions, my mind would immediately turn away, determined to put them off for long stretches of time. Behind my frequent procrastination was my perfectionism, which told me to not even touch tasks if I wasn’t sure I would be able to do them to the best of my ability.
Since the pandemic forced me to stay inside and I started spending more time working alone, I grew more aware of my tendencies to procrastinate. To combat them, I eagerly clicked on videos and posts that claimed to share tips and tricks that would help me beat procrastination once and for all. Along these suggestions were, lay out your goals, create a strict schedule, and reward yourself along the way, all of which I tried and found to be of little or no help.
In the end, I was still a pro at procrastinating, causing me frustration like no other—why couldn’t I be the kind of student who did her homework the day it was given? Why couldn’t I start important projects before the pressure became too much and forced me to begin? Why couldn’t I just… start?
I spent days and nights torn between beginning the task that was nagging at the back of my mind and would ultimately choose to ignore it just a little longer. I’d face the consequences of my choices afterwards, and through this repeated cycle, I realized that I was simply afraid to start.
I thought it would be impossible to obtain a great result if I messed up from the start, and so I convinced myself I was waiting until I was completely ready. What I was so afraid of was, plainly put, failing. I knew that a single mistake didn’t make me a failure, but I wasn’t sure how to recover from my faults and confidently move on. I was scared that my mind would fixate and ruminate on the bad choices that had brought me to those failures to the point where I couldn’t pick myself back up. I was convinced that starting something on the wrong foot meant I would be limping the entire way, leading me to barely reach the finish line. Wasn’t a successful journey supposed to begin with a successful start?
However, the truth was that the time was never going to be just right. Even if I started a task, adamant not to make a single mistake, I was bound to mess up at some point. It was unrealistic of me to hope for a smooth path from beginning to end with absolutely no bumps in the road. The important part was getting back up and carrying on, and in order to do so, I had to force myself to start running. Starting opened the doors to everything that came after, and I couldn’t do anything without it. Although many tasks could seem daunting at times, once I started, they began to appear much more doable, and that gave me the push I needed to keep working hard.
There were two incredibly significant things that I earned solely from the simple act of starting. One, if I only made a small error in the process, I was left with most of what I’d created, which was evidently more than nothing. And secondly, if I made an error large enough to force me to start over, I was now equipped with newfound lessons gained from that mistake. From that mistake, I was unlikely to fall down the same path again, and much more likely to come up with an improved result. I did not have to be hindered by these obstacles, and I would continue moving forward.
Of course, starting isn’t the only thing that matters when tackling a task. It doesn’t make much sense to start something and abandon it for the next few hours or days with the excuse that technically, I’ve started it. However, if I don’t start, there’s nothing that I can work with and expand upon. Starting, in the sense that it provides the foundation on which I will then build my ideas upon, is an amazing feat. It can be difficult, but it’s definitely worth it.
Aristotle once said, “Well begun is half done,” to explain that starting well guarantees success and prosperity for the rest of the venture. I agree for the most part with this quote, but I would suggest a slight revision to it to instead say, “Begun is half done.” There’s no reason to hold my work to standards that exceed expectations from the very beginning. Sometimes, it’s more than okay to be proud of yourself just for starting. Reminding myself of the knowledge that it’s okay to trip up and what truly matters is that I started, and will continue to improve upon what I have created, is what will propel me towards a satisfactory outcome.
If you’re reading this article and to-do lists and due dates start floating into your head: the stress will only build as you let them simmer. So sit yourself down at your desk, sharpen a pencil, open up a new page of a notebook or a new document on your laptop and just… start.