“I’ll think of it tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.”
― Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
It still amazes me that with my frequent inability to focus, I was able to read Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind more than once when I was a teenager. I’ve never felt like I was as tough as Scarlett, but I have understood her ability to ‘think about that tomorrow’. Putting things off until tomorrow has caused me frustration and trouble. Why, oh why, do I put off doing things I know I need to do?
You might be interested to know that 20% of Americans report they suffer from extreme procrastination. I think it’s a greater number than that, but people don’t want to admit their flaws. While there are many reports from the medical world explaining why we procrastinate, knowing the fascinating reasons hasn’t stopped my procrastination. In my attempt to find Freedom in ‘15, I am determined that if I can end, or at least lessen, my procrastinating, I will add freedom to and subtract frustration from my life.
I seem to end up with many things on my plate that I agree to do for people, and somehow when push comes to shove, I manage to take care of them with a smile on my face. How that makes me feel, though, that working to the last minute, is not pleasant. I feel anxious and stressed. Most students know exactly what I am talking about because they wait until the night before an assignment is due to begin work on it.
Do you have piles of papers on your desk needing to be filed?
Do you have stacks of clean clothes on the chair begging to be put away?
Has the light on the dashboard been flashing as a reminder for service needed?
Do you have phone calls you should have already returned?
Oddly enough, our ‘to do’s’ seem rather unimportant when you could be playing with a child, reading a book, watching a movie, listening to music, painting a picture, or taking a nap. The only problem is that while you might enjoy doing those other things, the object of your procrastination is still unfinished, and the weight on your shoulders gets heavier the longer you avoid whatever you need to do.
Having read much of the research on why people procrastinate, I am relieved to learn that laziness is not to blame when we put off certain chores. In fact, most people really don’t want to procrastinate, but if a person feels he doesn’t have the tools or knowledge for the job, he’ll most likely put off the task. Not able to visualize a quick reward? You’ll probably delay whatever needs to be done, and then you’ll be frustrated with yourself. It’s definitely a brain thing! Does that make you feel better? Well, it should. The important thing is to help yourself overcome procrastinating.
- Picture where you will fit your task in today. Visualize yourself doing the task. Don’t just put it on the ‘to do’ list and keep moving it to tomorrow’s list. (Surely, I’m not the only one who does this)
- Recognize your negative feelings about getting started on whatever the task is, and tell yourself you’ll spend two minutes on the task. Often, once you get started, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and will want to continue to work a little longer. Progress is its own reward and the dopamine your brain produces will make you feel great!
- If your task is large, break it down into bite-size pieces. Simply giving yourself doable tasks will take away much of the overwhelm you might feel at a large project.
- For you, it might be too many papers. Separate papers into stacks in one sitting, then attack one stack at a time over a number of days.
- For me, this will be my garage. I’ll divide it into sections, and not beat myself up over the unfinished work.
- Do it now. Much like picturing where it fits in your day, getting in the “do it now” frame of mind for tasks that can be done quickly will allow you to train your brain. What are “do it now” tasks?
- Hanging up clothes or putting them in a hamper when you take them off
- Putting junk mail in the trash or recycling bin as soon as you open it
- Putting a stamp on a letter and walking it to the mailbox (Confession: I have found many letters in purses through the years that needed a stamp and a walk to the mailbox. I can’t explain it, but I just seem to frequently put off the final step in the letter-writing process)
- Placing dirty dishes into the dishwasher instead of leaving them in the sink or on the counter
- Delivering laundry as soon as it leaves the dryer instead of stacking several loads on a chair, only to have to run them through the dryer again to release the wrinkles
There is no time like the present to accomplish a task that has been staring you in the face. Two minutes is all I ask. Just spend two minutes doing one thing on your ‘To Do’ list. Cross it off and find two minutes to do another thing. Take down the Christmas decorations before the Easter bunny arrives. File the taxes before next year’s taxes are due. Pull a few weeds before so many invade that you feel it’s an impossible task. Unless you, like Scarlett, have a plantation to save or need to get Rhett Butler back in your life, whatever you face probably isn’t as problematic as you’ve allowed it to seem.
Turn off social media and email, make a list, set a timer, and enjoy the feeling of success!