Preparation vs. Procrastination

Woman cutting parsley with a chef’s knife

I was thinking about doing something about this for the podcast, and I still might, but I felt like writing about it today. I suppose that’s a problem with writing blog posts and recording podcasts.
We occasionally get orders from one of those “here are the ingredients and the recipe, this will be easy to make” companies. the meals are usually pretty good, but often take a lot of pots, pans, and other cooking related implements if you follow the directions to the letter. They also often take longer to make than they say.

The other night I was making my family dinner with one of these “easy to make” meal kits, but I knew I needed to take my daughter to one of her lessons in preparation for her upcoming bat mitzvah right in the middle, come back and finish cooking before my wife got home because they were going to visit family out of town that evening. I decided that I should do all the prep before taking my daughter to her lesson and then do the cooking when I returned. 

While the recipe said the whole thing should take 25 minutes to make, I ended up spending more than 30 minutes rinsing, trimming, and chopping the vegetables and then left with my daughter. It was often tedious work (prepping mushrooms in particular), but when I got back it was great to have the vegetables ready to go, the pan waiting for me on the stove, and the recipe at hand. I was ready to cook the vegetables then put them in a bowl while I cooked the meat (it was a recipe for ginger beef) and then toss everything together.

The prep was tedious, but needed to be done to make the rest of the experience run smoothly. Using these kits has taught me to do all of the prep first before I start cooking to keep me from having the run in all different directions in the kitchen. I make sure I have all of the cookware, measuring tools, cutting boards, bowls, ingredients, and anything else I need ready to go and do what I can with the ingredients, often before I’ve turned on the stove.

The more complicated something is or the more resistance you might feel toward something, the better it is to prepare ahead of time. This may mean prepping your ingredients before you dive into cooking, putting your workout clothes next to your bed at night, filling your water bottle part way and sticking it in the freezer a few hours before you go out on a hot day, or making sure you have your laptop charged before sitting down to write.

What’s important to note is that each of these example of preparation move you forward. They’re not ways to procrastinate (the way that cleaning your house before you sit down to write a paper may be), but rather things that you do that are directly linked to you being able to do the thing you’re preparing for. I do or have done each of the above examples, including cleaning some other part of the house when I should be writing.

If there’s something that you want or need to get done think about what needs to happen first. If you want to get up in the morning and exercise, then setting your workout clothes next to your bed is a good step. Checking Facebook is not. Want to make sure you stay hydrated while out on a hot day? Planning ahead by filling some water bottles is a good way to prepare. Pre-ordering some coffee from Starbucks is not.

Preparation moves your forward while procrastination does not. Which do you spend more time doing?

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