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April 29th, 2021
Putting off a necessary chore is a strange sort of torture. The longer the wait, the worse the effect. And such things are always far less painful than we imagine. It’s almost as though the procrastination creates an intensifying anticipation, and the entire experience before anything happens is the actual experience.
Then once the task is done, all of this inverts: stress turns into relief, and even a sense of achievement. But the longer it’s taken to get to this point, the less time is available for it. The sooner we get something done, the sooner we can enjoy this relief and achievement. The tradeoff is not, unfortunately, proportional.
We might sense more relief after because there’s been more negative anticipation, but no degree nor intensity of relief can really make up for lost time spent. That resource of time is surrendered forever to a past that was marked mostly by an experience of stress.
The obvious lesson is, of course to do what needs doing as soon as can be done, and ideally the less desirable the task, the higher the priority it should have. But the point of exploring the topic is to realize the tradeoff that cannot be rectified by waiting. And beyond this, the neuroendocrinology, as laid bare by researchers like Dr. Robert Sapolsky, it actually becomes harder to get the right thing done with this sort of stress, and the longer we wait, the harder the task actually becomes because the additional stress further impedes our ability and motivation.
It’s a vicious cycle in the it’s simplest form, one that extends to the neurological level. It’s not just a coincidence of psychology that things get harder to do the longer we wait, it’s a cascade of neurology which cements the fact with time.
Getting to the task on time isn’t just a matter of prudence but a matter of being able to get to it at all, because wait long enough, and it might as well be impossible.