I recently watched the movie Monsters Inc. with my grandson. This silly carton movie gave me an epiphany about my life. As I thought about it, everyone suffers from this same issue: Monsters in the closet.
We all have things we need to accomplish that we put away in “the closet” because we imagine they are hard to do or require a long time to complete. So, we put them off until “tomorrow.” Unfortunately, tomorrow takes a lot longer to arrive than one would think.
These monsters are not as bad as we imagine. As I watched the movie, I was struck by how scary the kids imagined the monsters in the closet to be, when in reality, the monsters were not only far from scary, but they were actually afraid of the children!
What is buried in your closet because you are “afraid” to face it? Cleaning out the garage so you can get the car in? Adding a water softener to your home? Doing CME requirements? Clearing the field behind the back yard? Asking for a raise? Getting a better job? Retiring? Writing a book?
I have had items on my to do list that have stayed on my list for weeks without getting done. After recopying them to my new to do list for a few weeks I finally did them. Doing these, what I image are monstrous projects, are never as hard or as time-consuming as I imagined. After completing these projects, I almost always ask myself why I didn’t start it sooner.
Over 2,300 years ago, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle stated that, “Well begun is half done.” The issue of procrastination is as old as mankind. But why do we procrastinate so much when life would be better if we just completed these projects as they came up?
I think the biggest problem is overemphasizing how big and scarry the monster is when we decide to put it into the closet to be dealt with at some time in the future. Let’s look at a few of the issues we overemphasize.
Overestimate the time required
This is a big problem I face. I usually overstate the amount of time I feel I will need to complete a project. Yet when I do the project, it almost always takes less time than I estimated. If we tell ourselves, it will take all day, it may be a very long time before we feel like we have a full day available to tackle the project. Thus, it sits on the back burner for a very long time. Then when we finally take the time to do it, it doesn’t take all day. In fact, it might only take a couple of hours to complete.
Unfortunately, we don’t tend to remember this fact the next time we put a project safely away in the closet because we imagine we don’t have the time to do it right now.
Overestimate the knowledge needed
I don’t know how many times I have avoided a project that I didn’t want to pay someone else to do because I thought I should be able to do it, but I felt it would take too long for me to learn the special skills needed to complete the project.
When I finally get to the project, I do a Google search and watch a seven-minute YouTube video to get the little piece of knowledge I was missing. I was less than ten minutes short of the knowledge I needed! Yet, I waited three months before starting the job.
This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We keep putting things off until the closet is so full, we don’t know where to start. So, instead of picking a project, we scroll through Facebook for an hour.
What we really need to do is empty the closet and then stop putting things into it. When we stack up a closet full of procrastination on top of an already busy lifestyle, where will we ever find the time to fit all this stuff in?
I thought when I retired from medicine and didn’t have all those work hours using up my week, I would be able to catch up and get my closet emptied.
Unfortunately, that is not what happened. The state of caught up doesn’t exist. My closet didn’t get empty. As fast as I got something out of the closet, I would hide three more things in it.
Frankly, we never have a time where we will not be overwhelmed by things we need to do. So, we might as well start getting with the program and doing them when they come up, instead of storing them for later.
Fear of Failure
This is a big issue. As a surgeon, failure is not an option. When we look at a project we are not confident about, we see the possibility of failure, and that can be a big deterrent to getting started.
No one likes to fail. The more confident we are about something, the less we feel like we might fail. But what is the real cost of failure? Calling a pro to finish the job? Every project we finish without calling the pro is a big win financially. So, if sometimes we still need to call the pro, is that really a failure?
When I asked my father to become the maintenance person for my 64 rentals, he said he didn’t have the knowledge to do it. He didn’t want to screw anything up. I told him that he should do what he felt comfortable doing and call a pro for the rest. Every time he did the work himself, he saved me money. It was OK if he couldn’t finish something and needed to get a pro. When he called a pro, he watched what they did and increased his knowledge.
So, he started doing the maintenance. And every year he called the pro a little less. Over time he became confident at what he was doing. All he needed to do was get started. The rest worked itself out.
This might be the most important reason that a monster seems to grow in the closet. We can’t get started until we know we can do it right. The problem is, you will never learn to do it right until you get started.
The first article you write will not be perfect. The first book you write will not be your best. You will never be fully ready when you decide to retire. There will never be a great time to have your first child. The first time we play a new song, it will sound bad.
We can’t wait until we can do it perfectly. We must learn to start, and the quality will rise with time. Doing something over and over many times is what makes us advance toward perfection. And even then, we will still not be perfect.
These things and many others are what make the monsters in our closet seem so scarry. But we have the power to tame those monsters and even make them go away. The first step is to start. Pick one monster in the closet and go after it. We will always find that our imagination has given that monster so much more power than it actually has. We can’t let our imagination stop us from doing great things, or even small things that need doing.
Each day pick one thing that you have been putting off, tackle it, and get it off your list. The fewer things like this we have hanging around, the less overwhelmed we will feel, and our chance of burnout will decrease as well. Make 2024 the year you tame your monsters.
If you need help with increasing your performance, contact me for a free one-hour session of High Performance Coaching. You have nothing to lose by seeking help with taming the monsters in your closet.
Or if one of my six books will help you, contact me in the next two weeks and I will ship you an autographed copy of any of my books for $15 including shipping and handling.
Stop putting monsters in your closet because you are running out of closet space. And don’t even think about buying a bigger house with more closets.