Overcoming procrastination


You have heard it a thousand times, 'don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today' and that classic 'there’s a place for everything and everything in its place' – well it’s all too easy to say, but hard to do… why? Because you are a busy person.

I’m sure you have heard yourself say a thousand times.. “I’ll get to that when I have more spare time” or “I’ll do that after I finish washing the car”. And how about “I’m too tired now, I’ll do it tomorrow”. Let me tell you right now…. that is so, so, so normal.

As a psychologist, I absolutely understand that kind of self talk. I have been in the 'changing' human behaviour business for nearly 30 years. Hence I know better than anyone how hard it really is to do something when you just don’t feel like doing it. We are creatures of habit and most of us hate change. Not only that, we love to engage in behaviour that is enjoyable, and avoid behaviour that is unrewarding, that’s why we put things that are not enjoyable off until tomorrow or the day after or the day after that ……… not to mention, never ! So how do we change all that? There are three things to consider when trying to avoid procrastination:

Reward your self

If you don’t want to put that job off any more, perhaps you might think of rewarding yourself when it is done. Decide on the reward first - just like men who look forward to that beer after they have mowed the lawn on a hot Sydney summer's day! Treat yourself to 30-60 minutes of uninterrupted (whatever tickles your fancy time) - reading the paper or book; do your nails, give yourself a facial, go shopping for this season’s cossie. You see, after doing that unrewarding task, you can engage in any of the above, guilt-free. You have done something that needed to be done or perhaps has been nagging at you and now that it’s been done you have permission to reward yourself. Yay that’s a win-win in my book.

Pick your battles

Only tackle one sorting job at a time – I know it's never ending, but decide on your target. Take baby steps, choose a relatively easy job until it really feels good to live in a tidy functional house. Then perhaps this time next year, you will devote a couple of days to spring cleaning the whole house.

For now, you may want to sort out one kitchen cupboard at a time or pantry perhaps? Drawers? Crockery? Or part of your – shoes, underwear. You get the idea. Seriously, if you think about it – it should only take you one hour at a time – you can be listening to your favourite CD or radio segment while doing the job. I know you can do two things at once. Try it. See how you go then modify the process.

Timing is everything

Make sure you are in the right frame of mind – remember there is never a perfect time only time that is more conducive to the task at hand. It is not perfect but it is the time that you set your mind to. Look forward to your reward and plan to do the job in advance, perhaps while the kids are out playing, or during after school activities. Perhaps just after dinner – come on…… 1 hour while listening to music. I know weekends are either busy or sacrosanct. But if you plan it, you can make it happen. Remember, once you allocate an hour every now and again, it becomes a habit.

Seize the day

While you are sorting and tidying, take the opportunity to throw stuff out that you either haven’t put your hand on for ages or that is worn out or broken. This is a great opportunity to do this as it’s not something you would think to do unless you are in that mind set.

As you pick up an object, look at it and think: when was the last time I used this? Wore it? How useful is it? What was I thinking when I bought it? Is it sentimental? If you are an impulse buyer (and most us buy on impulse which is what the manufactures and advertisers rely on) then you will have things that deserve a better home. But first they need to go to the Salvation Army second hand store or Sydney City Mission Australia – you get my drift.

Like most things, this all sounds easy but it’s the 'doing' that is difficult. I know how hard it is to implement – we are all time poor. However it all depends on how much the mess bugs you or how important it is to you to not waste time looking for things.

Figure out what matters most. What can you delegate? (to the other half of course! Don’t worry if he doesn’t do it as perfectly as you – he doesn’t need to.) They can do lunches, make dinner, help with homework or fold washing. What about unstacking the dishwasher …. The list goes on.

It doesn’t have to be every day but this is how you can find an extra hour every now and again. Decide on what you wish to tackle. Do some old fashioned goal-setting, prioritising. Try to do less and you can achieve more.

Remember, there are a finite number of hours in every day, so take the time to decide what really matters most to you; think of other people who can help or you can turn to in order to steal an extra hour (neighbour, sister, groceries delivered) And if all this fails and its too hard – we are here, just give us a call at dotorg – that’s your fall back!


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