Walking Away From Dirty Dishes

Jul 14, 2016

Imagine you've cooked a delicious meal and enjoyed it thoroughly. You're full, you're comfy, and you're happy. But the dirty dishes are still on the table.

You really should get up and wash these dishes right away. It's not a lot of work - put the plates and the cutlery in the dishwasher, clean the pan, be done with it. But your couch is really comfortable right now, so you decide to let them sit and watch a movie instead.

The next morning, as you're leaving for work, you get a glimpse of your kitchen table and smack your forehead. However you don't have time now - you have a meeting starting in a few minutes, can't miss that can you?

You get home after a stressful day, think of the kitchen and decide to order fast food. You're much too stressed out to clean the kitchen now, let alone scrubbing the stuck food from the plates - you can't just put them in the washer anymore.

A fresh Saturday morning dawns, and you're headed for breakfast with your friends. You spend a wonderful day outside, go out in the evening, and come home late. You sleep in until noon and decide to cure your hangover by ordering pizza. You walk into the kitchen a few times and shift a few things around, but these dirty plates really mess with your stomach, so you let them sit.

On Monday, that cute girl from work finally agrees to go out with you that evening. YES! You've been dreaming about her for weeks! You meet up after work, go out for a romantic dinner and a movie, and you somehow manage to convince her to come to your place for coffee. Happy but nervous, you unlock your door, turn around and -

that utterly disgusted look on her face will haunt you for weeks. The plates on your kitchen table are barely recognizable under the layer of modly leftovers. How could you only forget that? That girl is gone forever, and she'll probably tell all her friends about that experience. Bad luck, Romeo!

I could take this further, but let's stop the analogy now. Surely you've figured out by now what these dishes represent. I like this little story because it contains a lot of truths about procrastination. The initial task is often inconvenient, but small and quickly dealt with. If we keep postponing it however, it becomes old, smelly and increasingly disgusting. In the worst case, we miss promising opportunities because we neglected to do our job.

There's something even worse than the additional time we need to spend to clean the dishes after they've sat in the kitchen for a week. Not only does the actual job get harder to do. We invest a lot of mental and physical energy into dealing with the side-effects of procrastination - thinking about cleaning, needing to shift things around instead of doing the actual cleaning job, getting unhealthy takeout instead.

Time that could be spent productively is used fixing the mess that our procrastination has created. It's like paying interest on our unfinished work - the longer we postpone it, the more time and energy we need to get it done in the end.

So let's not do that. Let's clean these dishes right away.