Scott Postma

A blog about the Great Books, the Craft of Writing, and Human Flourishing.

Why We Procrastinate

There’s a Chinese Proverb you’re probably familiar with. It says the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago… The second best time is today.

A tree we planted twenty years ago would be mature and mostly maintenance free. Had we done the work of planting then, we could be relaxing in its shade and indulging in its fruit now. And this is precisely why we procrastinate.

Next to perfectionism, it’s the biggest reason we don’t create our art, start that important project, or pursue our dreams. We’d rather beat ourselves up for not starting sooner. Then we dwell on the what-could-have-been and grieve about all the lost potential. We spend too much time thinking about what we should have done instead of thinking about what we can do today.

Reality should remind us it’s impossible to turn back the clock, while wisdom teaches us the ultimate form of procrastination is spending our time fretting and complaining about what we should have done yesterday.

Today, I’m planting a tree I should have planted years ago. It’s a small one, nothing grand now, but, Lord willing, in twenty years I hope it will be the size of one of those venerable cottonwoods that grow along the river and fill the air with fluffy white pollen in the springtime.

What tree should you have planted twenty years ago? What’s stopping you from planting that tree today?

Share your story in the comments.

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About Scott Postma

Scott is a writer and teacher living in North Idaho. He loves teaching the Great Books, writing and blogging, and collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

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One Reply

  1. Elizabeth

    What a truth. Good word!