What a Headache Taught Me About Procrastination


My head is throbbing.

My neck hurts.

My eyes are sensitive to light.

My shoulders are tight.

Yes, I am suffering from the common malady: a headache.

It’s not my first rodeo. In fact, I know exactly what I can do to help it go away. And they are all pretty simple to do:

  1. take two Excedrin.
  2. drink a bunch of water
  3. have a snack, preferably with protein
  4. sniff some peppermint oil (trust me, it works)

And, presto, within a half an hour I will feel considerably better.

Yet for the past two hours or so (since the headache started) I have done none of these things.

What I have done is felt sorry for myself. Oh and I also complained to my 15 year-old daughter. I texted my best friend to tell her about it.

Then I felt sorry for myself a little longer. And then I remembered I forgot to write this blog post, so I started this.

But I haven’t done anything to actually try to cure the headache.

I know. It doesn’t make any sense, does it?

Because of my inaction, I remain in pain. Pain I am very much in control of overcoming.

For a smart person, I am pretty stupid.

Then it hit me: this is a fantastic analogy for many of the small, annoying problems of life. It perfectly describes procrastination.

How often do our figurative headaches grind at us. and yet we choose not to do the simple acts that would solve them.

So, what was I thinking?

If I ignore it, it maybe it will go away. Maybe if I just ignored it long enough, my headache would go away without me having to do anything about it. While in this case that is likely true, why wouldn’t I do something to speed up the process?

It’s really not that bad, so why bother. As far as headaches go, this is not a serious one, so instead of dealing with it quickly before it gets worse, I do nothing. Yet, wouldn’t it be better to deal with a problem when it is small, instead of when it is large?

It is really inconvenient to deal with this. I didn’t want to get out of my bed. Plain and simple. It’s warm and cozy in here. Not so warm and cozy not in here. The things that would help me get over my headache were not immediately in front of me. I would have to go downstairs to get food, a bottle of water and the Excedrin. I would have to find what I did with the peppermint oil. I would have to stop my other activities (watching TV, wasting time on the internet and writing this blog post) to take care of the problem.

But really, let’s be honest, the big barrier was leaving my bed. In other words, in favor of avoiding short-term discomfort (getting out of bed) I put up with longer-term discomfort (a headache).

I don’t want to ask for help. I know that if I asked my daughter to get me the water, aspirin and make me a snack, she would. I am even sure if I asked my best friend to come by with peppermint oil, she’d be over within 15 minutes. But I was unwilling to ask them because I didn’t want to appear lazy to my daughter (which I am, see reason just above) I didn’t want to inconvenience my best friend (which it would, but she would have done it because she is an awesome friend).

The lesson: My ability to deal with any “headache” is in direct correlation with my willingness to take care of it.

A half an hour has passed since I decided to pause writing this blog post. I did, in fact, go find Excedrin, make a snack and drank a huge bottle of water. And –surprise—my headache is gone!

In fact, I feel pretty good.

How long did it take me to do all of the things that resulted in me feeling better? Less than 5 minutes.

How long did I suffer from the headache needlessly before I was finally motivated to deal with it? Over an hour and a half.

How stupid am I? Don’t answer that.

Will I remember this next time I have a headache—literally or figuratively? I certainly hope so.

Are there headaches in your life that could use some attention?