Stop Procrastinating Do It Now

Life Balance

Johanna Stein 200x200
Johanna Stein, Writer, Director & Comedian

By Johanna Stein

You’re gonna be dead soon.
That’s what I tell myself every morning when I look in the mirror.
And no, it’s not my nuclear-strength morning breath rising up into my nostrils that inspires me to say it. I say it because if I don’t remind myself that I’m on the morgue-train, then I may spend another day watching Victoria Principal infomercials, reading ex-boyfriends’ Facebook posts, and obsessing about the time I asked a bikini-wearing woman “When are you due”?  (You can pretty much guess what her answer was.)
Basically, if I don’t remind myself daily of my own mortality, then I spend my time wasting it.
We have a bad habit in this culture of casually forgetting that each one of us has an expiry date.  We behave as though we’ll all be hanging around for eternity, wearing jetpacks and experiencing virtual sex with robots.
The unfortunate truth is, we probably won’t.
All this points to one thing: I’d better get my ass in gear.
I have stuff to do.  Not just bill-paying, thank-you-card-writing type-stuff --  important, give-life-meaning type-stuff.  The stuff that is really frickin’ easy to put off, because it’s really frickin’ hard to try.  Or, more specifically, to try and then fail -- like “write that book,” “take that class,” “say that thing” and “live a life that will make my daughter proud” (not an easy one, considering I have the sense of humor of a 14-year-old boy).
I don’t go much for self-help books, spiritual tchotchkes, or weekend retreats filled with yoga, tofu and crying.  (The first time I lit a meditation candle it proceeded to burn my bedside table, my curtains, and my relationship with my landlord.)  Don’t get me wrong – if these things work for you, then do them, buy them, attend them.  I’m all for it. 

But me, I get inspired by telling myself “You’re gonna be dead soon.”  That’s my version of a positive aphorism.  I just need that little kick in the ass to remind myself that life, health, and time are fleeting.  That big ol’ party-crasher Death is coming for all of us and I’ll be ding-dong-danged if I’m gonna let that cross-dresser stand in the way of me and my plans.
Those five little words force me to tackle the biggie questions, like:
What do I want out of life?

What am I putting off?

What would I regret if tomorrow I were to choke on a cherry pit or get my guts gored out by a bull?
If you’re having trouble asking these questions of yourself, ask a pal to do the prodding for you.  I prod all the time.
When my friend says she wants to start a flower business, I say, “Get on it, your daisy-pushing days are just around the bend.”  When my neighbor says he loves his girlfriend but he’s not sure if he’s ready to take the next step, I say, “Figure it out soon, time’s a-wasting and so are you.”  When my mom says she’s thinking about taking salsa lessons, I say, “Hurry up ma, it’s hard to dance with rigor mortis in your legs.”
And when the editor at asks me if I have something I want to write about, I say to myself, “Do it now, Stein.  This is important and they may not have Internet access in the afterlife.”
Here’s the ironic upside.  Once you accept that you and everyone you know will be dead one day, when you attack your goals with death-defying fervor, you find yourself less attached to the outcome.  So maybe that script you write won’t win a squizillion Oscars.  Who cares, you're gonna be dead soon!   And so what if you suck at trapeze lessons… who gives a Flying Wallenda?  (They don't, they're dead!)  And yeah, I once asked a chubby woman if she was preggo, but what’s the diff?  In a hundred years, nobody's gonna remember (other than her kid, because I swear that woman was pregnant, she just didn’t know it).
So do it.  Everything you intend to do. 

And smile.  Because the news is good.  You’re gonna be dead soon.

Johanna Stein is a writer/director/comedian/forward/slash/abuser whose work has been seen on Comedy Central, Disney, PBS, The Oxygen Network, The Movie Network, Showcase, VH-1, Noggin, CTV, CBC and on the Worldwide Internets.  If you'd like to learn more about Johanna, see more of her work, or send her an email, then click on over to her website:

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  • LOL I also get myself out of procrastinating by thinking about death, and sometimes I use old age... :D it never fails!

    Posted by FourthDecade, 27 October 2010.

  • I loved the article by Johanna Stein. The backward way of positive motivation was very inspirational. At 65 years of age my girlfriends and I are aware of time running out. We don't dwell on only this topic. Yes, we do talk about it rather than surpressing it.And yes, we do laugh out loud with our personal comments on our kids. It brings us to realize the little things to get together..Wills, jewlery, things and most inportantly, impressions of love to get across to those we love and especially becoming aware of how to really make the time to deliver them. To become an aware person of everything that you want done, and to come to the point of possitive acceptance and fun exploration takes a network of really great friends. This took time and is an ongoing project. You will be suprise, how much you can accompolish in life, by exploring all the things you would like to leave behind. Especially Love....

    Posted by karminsky, 14 March 2010.

  • Oddly...very inspiring and I'll 'nap' when I'm dead - thanks for the ass kick - I needed that. I figure at 56 if it all goes well, I have about 20 or so good years -- I'm on it, I'm all over it. Loved the article.

    Posted by Tracey A. Jacobsen, 24 November 2009.

  • OMG!My scary sign was the old man next door who watched TV the whole day. That scared me and I never watched TV since. I figured when I'm old and crinkly I will have the time to watch it. I worked since then.
    Now, it brought it up a notch. Yes, I will die soon, so I better get a move on. Thanks

    Posted by TheSexyHomeChef, 16 November 2009.

  • Nope. I ain't gonna procrastinate on this one. Great article. Loved it!

    Posted by Nadine Judge, 12 November 2009.

  • That's not my nickname...Anyway being a fine tuned procrastinator all my life. I have changed a little. Cancer is my friend who reminds me of expiration date. Although I'm one of the lucky few with a treatment that will give me a long life. (It costs 50 000 thousand a year and it is paid for! Boy does that prove universal health care works. I can't get cent out of my private insurer to cover the 800.00 $ drug deductible, 'because they are not up to date on current treatments', I have to get yet another letter from my Oncologist...sorry back to what I saying.) My situation is...I will never be cured unless they come up with one, so I wait and see. Just like everybody else really. Yes facing the end will motivate you. Everything has a deadline. Time eats us slowly and if you face something that may swallow you quickly, you really give your head a shake. I really don't worry about little things anymore, and yes I want to do all I can in the time I have. Cancer is my friendly reminder. Don't wait for Cancer it's not for everyone but death is, and it's the only sure thing in life, that and taxes. Anyway...I really enjoyed the article...and I have managed to avoid my own writing...see I've only changed a little.

    Posted by James Durham, 12 November 2009.