Why do we put off to later what we can do now? For some reason most of us can’t resist. It’s a problem so common that we even gave it a name, procrastination. Back in college I had a realization that turned my room into a sideshow—but it also helped me get things done.
The Power of Now
I don’t run around preaching the good word of every self-help book I read. Not that they’re bad, it’s just that few are excellent.¹ One of the few excellent ones that I’ve read is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. He was a big deal after writing this around 2008. The thesis of the book is about helping the reader be more present. Hence, ‘now.’
It took me a day and a half to read it. I couldn’t put the book down. The ideas within captivated me, right from the first story about how he had an epiphany that changed his life.
Afterwards I was hooked on a newfound appreciation for the present moment. My thoughts were tugging me away from it all day, and I was constantly having to remind myself to let them go. Unfortunately I was having a hell of a time trying to make it happen. One day my desire to be present clashed harder than ever with my inability to do so.
To The Next Level
Back then I lived in a small dorm room that was just big enough to fit a twin bed, a small desk, and a fridge. All three pieces of furniture were within a foot of one another—the whole room wasn’t much larger than a walk-in closet. There were art supplies tucked in every nook, which served me well on this fateful day.
I threw my hands up in frustration. Expletives poured forth and mingled with sounds that floated up into my sixth floor window from the corner of 23rd and Lexington. I slammed a large format sketchbook on my paint-stained desk. My hands tore through my art supplies for the boldest writing instrument I could find. Finally, I scored—a fat blue Sharpie.
I scribbled “NOW,” bright and wide, filling up a page. I tore it off and filled another page, and another, until I had a stack of blue NOW’s ready to go. Then I proceeded to Scotch tape them on every wall and surface so that, no matter which direction I was looking, I would see a NOW. That included the floor, ceiling, and yes, even the shower.
It was rudimentary. It was aggressive. But my method worked. Within a few days I was more present than ever before. I left those pages up all year, and the effect still lingers to this day.²
It’s your turn to try it out. You can read the book, but you don’t have to. And I don’t expect you to plaster your home or workplace with NOW’s, either. Try it on a small scale: Grab a sticky note, write our little magic word, and put it in a place you’ll see it.
1. Self-help books are great. They get a lot of flack, but in reality they’re written by others who have figured out something about life that most of us haven’t. I’m all over that shit.
2. Being present isn't a magic bullet, but it does improve life in a lot of ways. My personal relationships grew deeper, my design and drawing work developed profoundly—and I became happier overall.