Josée in Ottawa

Square peg. Round hole.

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Square peg, round hole by sfllaw (Flickr Creative Commons)

Square peg, round hole by sfllaw (Flickr Creative Commons)

Though I’m not looking forward to turning forty, I have found some benefits to getting older.

Over the past few years I’ve realize that forcing myself to do things I don’t want to do is not a good idea. I used to get it into my head that if something needed to be done and it was in my day planner (remember those?), then it had to be done when my schedule called for it. I finally realized that sometimes putting things off has its upside – a chore I’d been dreading suddenly became something I wanted to do, and because I wasn’t searching for a distraction while doing it, I completed it twice as fast.

This works for me in all areas of my life. At work, when I’m having difficulty writing a report, I’ve learned to just set it aside instead of trudging through it. After a few days I pick it up again and somehow it seems so simple to complete. If I don’t feel like preparing my paperwork and doing my taxes, I just don’t. Eventually it just seems like the right time to do it and I attack the job willingly – possibly with a glass of wine in hand and some good music in the background!

What happens when I put off an unpleasant task? I think there are a few different factors at work:

  • I firmly believe that our brains are subconsioulsy working on thorny issues while we do other (hopefully more pleasant!) things. When I come back to my difficult report new solutions just pop into my brain and I often know just what to do.
  • The knowledge that an unpleasant task does have to get done percolates. Eventually it seems like more of a relief to get the work over and done with than to keep stressing about it. When that tipping point comes for me I find it a lot easier to complete an unpleasant task than to keep worrying about it.
  • Sometimes after I’ve put something off a long time, I decide that it just isn’t worth doing. About a month after we moved to the new house (and before I started down the minimalist path) we had a yard sale. At the end of the day I packed up all the things that didn’t sell and put them in the garage, with the intent of posting the sellable items on UsedOttawa and Kijiji. As the weeks went by, the thought of sorting through all the stuff in the garage was really nagging at me, and I just didn’t want to do it. Finally one day I decided that the stress this unfinished task was causing me just wasn’t worth the money I might make by selling a few items. I loaded everything into the car and donated the lot. Problem solved!
  • Sometimes lack of time is a good motivator – as the saying goes, “If it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would ever get done“.


Obviously my method of putting unpleasant things off won’t work very well if you leave everything to the last minute – but I don’t typically work that way. I’ve stopped trying to put a square peg into a round hole, and magically I find that one or the other transforms itself until they fit nicely together!


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