Words of Wisdom About Immigration Procrastination from Bob Marley and David Allen

For many foreign nationals–even high achieving foreign nationals eligible for visas or green cards based on their record of high achievement–procrastination is a bug they cannot easily get rid of, especially when it comes to immigration. Does this description remind you of yourself?

Bob Marley and David Allen have a message for you.

You may have been saying for a while now, I’ll get started on my EB-1 or EB-2 NIW case tomorrow. Then tomorrow comes, and you don’t get started. Instead, you tell yourself you’re overwhelmed by other important tasks, and your to-do list looks a mile long. If this sounds like you, then Bob Marley and the productivity expert David Allen sure do have a message for you!

In “Running Away,” one of Marley’s slow, hypnotic songs, he sings:

Ya running and ya running and ya running away.

Ya running and ya running, but ya can’t run away

From yourself,

Can’t run away from yourself. 

Ya must have done (background vocals: must have done),

Somethin’ wrong (background vocals: something wrong).

Why you can’t find the place where you belong?

He could be singing about the sense of uneasiness that, according to David Allen, high-achieving professionals feel when they break promises.

You know, like all mature adults know, that there is an automatic price you pay in a relationship when you break an agreement. You, to some degree, disintegrate the trust in that relationship. Whether you like or not, that’s an automatic price.

And, when you tell yourself that you will get started on your immigration case tomorrow or that you will choose a firm to handle the case tomorrow, there is an implicit agreement that you’ve made. With whom? Yourself. You think there’s any difference in the price you pay when you break the agreement with yourself? Not at all, David Allen says.

Often, people feel grief and uneasiness and they tell themselves their feelings sprout from having too much to do. But, according to Allen, these feelings–the feelings of grief and uneasiness–are the automatic price you pay for breaking an agreement with yourself. And you can fool all the people in the world all the time, except yourself! You can’t fool yourself, not even for a fraction of a second. You can’t run away from yourself.

Did you tell yourself you would find a law firm to handle your EB-2 NIW case yesterday, but instead you ended up down a YouTube rabbit hole? Come on in, grief. Did you tell yourself you would get started on your EB-1 case last week, but instead you spent the day cleaning your house? Hi, uneasiness, make yourself right at home in the tidy living room. That’s the price you pay.

These feelings of uneasiness and grief are the resulting symptoms of the disintegration of self-trust, according to David Allen.

But don’t fear. There are two simple options to get rid of the grief.

The first option is to not make the agreement. So what you’ll be “out of status” and have no way to stay in the United States legally! So what you’ll lose future career opportunities! So what you might eventually be detained and deported! Life goes on, doesn’t it?

What the hell? That option one sounds horrible, you may be thinking. It sure does. It sounds horrible and it is horrible. But there are only 168 hours in the week, and most of us sleep a third of that time, and most of us spend considerable time eating, travelling, sleeping, showering, and talking with friends and family. You’re lucky if you have 50 hours, across the entire week (weekdays and weekends), to work. When you realize how little time you actually have, then the first option–getting rid of the agreement–looks more and more attractive. But, alas, there is a second option.

The second option will also rid you of the uneasiness that comes with breaking promises you make to yourself. Ready to hear this option? It’s simple. The second option is to keep the promises you make to yourself. But, how do you keep the promise?

You do so by making things easier! Were you thinking about trying to get through the EB-2 NIW process or the EB-1 process on your own? Forget it. Hire a law firm instead. Is deciding on which law firm to hire what you’ve been procrastinating about? Give yourself a hard deadline to decide, then limit the number of firms you talk (no more than a few), then hire the first immigration firm you find with a lawyer who passes the “airport test,” who has integrity, intelligence, and energy. (Keep in mind that the ethics rules prohibit an attorney from taking case that the attorney cannot competently handle.)

Keep promises you make to yourself, then you can look in the mirror and feel self-trust. Who doesn’t want that?