An assembly of recent strangers and now acquaintances were sitting on a sunlit patio in Italy at the end of a consensus conference. They agreed on next steps for a new educational program and were congratulating themselves on surviving the two-day journey of “storming” and “norming” (as they say in group formation speech). It was then, in the last moments of this meeting of minds, that one of the participants, Janet, said “We have ten minutes. Let’s go ahead and pick our case studies.”
Everyone groaned and protested. They felt they had worked so hard, and now deserved a rest from the doing of anything. But Janet persisted. In that ten minutes they selected two stories to turn into case studies, outlined the contents, and nominated the working groups.
Janet did this time and again throughout my association with this particular organization. Some people rolled their eyes, and protested, but in the end her gentle insistence won out, and progress was made. I came to call this “the power of now”, and it is one of the greatest lessons I learned from Janet.
Procrastination, one could argue, is a general human tendency. If it isn’t urgent, life-threatening, or otherwise pressing, why do today what you can put off for tomorrow. While living in Italy, I became familiar with a phrase embracing this concept: Doppo domani. As in, I’ll do it the day after tomorrow.
I used to procrastinate, somehow feeling like a hero for staying up until 3 A.M. to put together a shoddy paper less than 24 hours before it was due. While I have been able to whittle this mindset out of my life, it does still exist in various incarnations. Do I get gas now, or put if off for the morning? Do I do that less desirable project now, or prioritize something over it? Do I take these last five minutes in my working day to be productive, or do I slide through that time? Do I write this post, or zone out on facebook?
Here’s the thing; procrastination takes so much energy and is much more painful than just doing the task on a normal timescale. I have never once regretted doing something now, which could be put off for tomorrow. More often than not, I’ve been grateful to have tackled something on my ever-expanding list of things I want to accomplish.
There is a more philosophical tack to take on “the power of now”. None of us know how much time we have in this existence. A friend of a friend suddenly and unexpectedly lost her soulmate. In these moments we reevaluate things we consider important. When we are on the threshold of leaving this existence, what parts of our lives will bring us joy, and at what parts will we despair as distractions from the heart of living? We can all use the power of now to build a more fulfilled life.