My accountant requires that I get my tax info to him by March 18. I was impressed at how much resistance I felt as I considered this rather straightforward task. I decided to study my thoughts, feelings and behavior toward this task as a way of illuminating the dynamics of procrastination.
Starting in February, I mentally set time aside on numerous occasions for completing the task. There was plenty of time available for the couple of hours I needed to gather and organize receipts, and fill out a few worksheets. Still, I watched myself blow off every one of these planned work sessions, each time telling myself I’d do it later.
I felt a visceral jolt of reluctance whenever I tried to make myself begin, and I could hear an inner voice stating “I do not want to do it.” In my mind, that box containing a year’s worth of receipts and W-2 forms represented an agonizing, tedious burden that would exhaust me and waste too much of my precious time. I reminded myself that these thoughts were a gross exaggeration and a distortion of reality, but somehow that realization didn’t make me more able to face the project.
On the other hand, I knew it would be best to do the task sooner rather than later, and I did not want to file an extension. It was like a responsible parent and a rebellious child were having an argument inside me. The kid was winning.
As March 18 approached, I felt more tension about the issue and thought about it more frequently. I began calculating how much time I had and how long the taxes would take. Intellectually I knew that it wasn’t that tough of a job, but still I resisted until the final hour. Literally.
Finally, in a state of intensity and dread, I buckled down on the afternoon of deadline and feverishly pawed through my bin of paper and reports. Within a couple of hours I had things organized in pretty good shape, and I reminded myself that if I forgot something, I still had a month before the accountant would send them out. I drove down to his office and proudly delivered my packet, a few minutes before he left for the day.
This familiar experience of the procrastination-binge cycle impressed upon me, once again, how powerful the dynamics of avoidance are, and how easily our intentions and goals are foiled by irrational aspects of our own mind.
I made the deadline. I deserve a refund.