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Two Important Lessons from My Much-Procrastinated Trip to the Dentist

The whole process took thirty-eight minutes...

Yesterday, I finally went to the dentist. I was due for a check-up in July, and for the last eight months, I've been moving the reminder card around my office and coming up with new excuses about why I couldn't make an appointment.

I made the appointment last Thursday, went in, and the whole process took thirty-eight minutes from the time I picked up a magazine in the waiting room to the time I walked out the door holding my bag with freebie toothbrush and floss. I walked the twenty-five blocks to get there, too, on this beautiful spring afternoon, so even half of my travel time was well-spent.

From this experience, I draw two lessons for myself -- both of which were quite apparent to me, although I neglected to act on them:

1. Procrastination is itself draining. That reminder card cluttered up my office and cluttered up my brain. Repeatedly thinking "I, I'll wait...but I really should...but not now...I'll do it later..." etc. just weighs me down. Just do it! Or decide when I'll do it, and then do it when that time comes.

2. I have plenty of time for the things that are important to me. I kept telling myself, "I don't have time to go to the dentist." Really? For eight months? During that time, I went on vacation, got my hair cut, met friends for coffee, and went on kindergarten field trips, so clearly I'm not so pressed for time that I can do nothing but work. The fact is, it wasn't a priority -- which is fine. But I should be honest with myself.

I've found that saying "I'm too busy" makes me feel harried and distracted. Now, instead, I tell myself, "I have plenty of time for the things that are important to me." It's more important to me to go to the bread factory with the kindergarten class than to go to the dentist. That's my choice. But telling myself that I "don't have time" makes me feel out of control.

Do you find that procrastinating makes you feel drained and overwhelmed? And yet it's so hard just to do those things which ought to be done, without delay. Two of my Twelve Personal Commandments are Do it now and Do what ought to be done, and yet I struggle with this mightily.

* I keep thinking about this post from Love That Max -- "a blog about kids with special needs (and the parents who adore them)." In Helping kids with special needs fit in: I did not buy the purple Crocs, Ellen wrote about deciding not to buy the purple Crocs that she knew her son would love like crazy, to help him in a way that he couldn't see. I think this is an issue for all parents -- resisting the delight of doing something that will make our children very happy, in the present, out of love.

* Mother's Day is May 8 (in the U.S.). If you want a free, personalized bookplate for a copy of The Happiness Project that you're giving for a gift (or for yourself), please drop me a note soon! I want to make sure that my letter with the bookplate reaches you in time. Yes, I'll mail them anywhere in the world, and feel free to ask for as many as you like. Email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com, and don't forget your mailing address.

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