While my wife was enjoying a well-deserved night out with her book club a few days ago, I herded the kids upstairs to bed, came back downstairs to start a load of laundry, learned from my son that a defective water bottle had flooded the bedding in his gerbil cage, cursed silently and mightily for a couple minutes, went back upstairs to help clean the cage, switched the laundry, fended off the usual bedtime stall tactics, said goodnight and then settled down, fittingly enough, to finish reading a great article about anxiety.
I did all of that in an hour. But it’s also true that I’m a world-class procrastinator in the face of certain challenges. Take, for instance, the avalanche of spam this blog began attracting last year.
Every time a comment comes into my blog, I get a message in my personal email account alerting me to its presence. It used to be that maybe 20 blog-related messages a week came into that account – usually half of them spam. By last summer, however, I would get hundreds of messages a week – usually 99 percent of them spam (Blatant plea for my self-esteem: Leave me a real comment. Please?).
I would look at my phone in the morning and delete 75 messages from that account. By lunchtime, another 75 would be there. It was also necessary to permanently delete these spam messages from the blog itself. If a few days went by, there might be more than 2,000 of them – and I couldn’t figure out how to erase more than 20 at a time!
Even thinking the word “blog” began to freak me out. And the thought of writing more posts that would attract even more spam seriously dampened my enthusiasm for blogging at all.
My wife began encouraging me to get a spam filter installed, and that sounded like a good idea in theory. In reality, I’m a techno-idiot, which meant I’d need to find somebody to help me do it. And that meant one more thing on my to-do list. Plus, being a techno-idiot, I doubted that a spam filter would really help anyway.
And so I kept on dejectedly deleting spam, all through the fall and right into the holiday season, when the problem worsened. Finally, about two weeks ago, I couldn’t stand it anymore.
I asked a buddy who’d helped set up this blog what I could do about this disaster. He immediately recommended a filter that took us 10 minutes to install. And not a single piece of spam has slipped into my blog since then.
Obviously this is great news. The couple hours a week I’d previously devoted to deleting spam can now be invested in writing blog posts and cleaning the gerbil cage, and the overall sense of relief that this situation is under control is immense – much greater than it should be really.
But that’s because I let the problem linger way too long in the first place. This whole thing could have been solved months ago in a matter of minutes if I’d simply put it on my list and asked for help. Why didn’t that happen? I honestly don’t know.
The lesson, I suppose, is that inertia threatens us constantly, like water searching for a way through a roof. Even when we manage to keep it at bay at 50 different points, it’ll find a way to slip by on the 51st. The question isn’t if we’ll fall victim to inertia – but when. And how quickly we’ll identify it and take action.
What’s your equivalent of my spam debacle? And what simple steps can you take today to turn it around?