Kicking Procrastination in the Butt
Now that my Thanksgiving dinner for an intimate group of 30 is over, my house feels remarkably empty with just me and my furry roomies. It would be easy to allow the sudden silence and lack of activity to lull me into a soporific stupor, and at times, I’ve been tempted.
Drowsing my days away won’t, however, help me achieve my goals, hopes and dreams. Yet, there are a multitude of excuses whereby I might delay my efforts. What to do?
One of the marks of a procrastinator is our ability to be easily distracted by, well, almost anything. In my case, it might be chores, or administrative tasks or a book that falls on my head. So I set out this week to eliminate all possible culprits.
I sit here now with my bookkeeping chores complete, my bills for the month paid, all piles of laundry washed, folded and put away, and the remnants of Thanksgiving tucked away until next year. I also have a freezer so packed with food I can’t even find room for single servings of another pot of chili. (and I’m down to my last 2 containers, so I need to make room soon!)
The issue now is how I’ll avoid going off on still more tangents which inhibit forward progress on those aforementioned goals, hopes and dreams. So, how do we keep ourselves on track towards achieving our goals, hopes and dreams?
Step 1: To Do Lists
I am a great list maker, and for awhile, I’ll even stick to them. The key is to make them simple and actionable. Too many long-term projects on the list and you’ll get discouraged. When you get discouraged, the list will go out the window like so many other things you’ve tried and given up on before you had a chance to see if they’d actually work.
Step 2: Break it Down
If you’re like me, you have a tendency to set huge projects for yourself, then wonder why nothing ever gets done. I liken it to being a hoarder who wants to reform. You stand in the doorway of a room full of stuff and feel overwhelmed by the project before you even start.
I’ve learned through a great deal of trial and error that every project can be broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces. This way, you start seeing successes right away. By deciding how quickly you need to see results, you’ll know how much to break those projects down.
One of my biggest projects is to clean up my garage. Somehow, things always get tossed in there when I don’t know what else to do with them, and soon, everything is falling off shelves and onto the floor where it gets tripped on, stomped on and otherwise scattered around. Recently, while looking for my staple gun (which sadly, I still haven’t located) I faced down the mess which had accumulated in front of my tool box. In about 15 minutes, I had cleared the clutter, re-organized the bottom shelf where I keep the power tools, and swept up the crud which had been coating the floor for years. Yes, I did say years!
The best part is, the space in front of my storage room is now completely clean and clear, making it easier to get in and get to what I need (like, for example, the boxes of wrapping paper and paraphernalia necessary to make beautiful Christmas packages for my kids). I can even accomplish it without aggravating myself with false promises to someday clean up the mess. Why? Because the mess is gone!
Step 3: Set Goals
We all need something to strive for. Just like the hopes, dreams, and goals we have, there is a feeling of accomplishment when we achieve the simplest things; clear the clutter from the dresser, dump the cat food into the bin and put the bag in the recycle barrel, wash the load of towels that’s been accumulating in the garage. Get the picture? It isn’t about getting the whole house clean or all the laundry done. It’s about getting something done. If you’ve made some progress with Step 2, you already have the hang of breaking those goals down into manageable pieces. Here are some examples of small daily goals I set myself. I’ve found they make it easier to set and achieve the larger ones which might span a week, a month or even longer.
- Wash the dishes
- Scoop sandboxes
- Make the bed
And here’s an example of how I break down the larger chores:
- Wash clothes
- Fold/hang up clothes
- Put away clothes
Do you see how you can give yourself credit for each step, and while you’re at it, get something off your list? Not only that, you’re not giving yourself time to stare at the pile of clean laundry for days before you just use it up by wearing it every day. I don’t know about you, but the sight of a laundry basket full of clothes in the middle of my room is a constant reminder of the many things I have to do but haven’t. It’s also a cat magnet in my house, and it’s hard enough to leave the house with minimal fur on my clothing when they’re put away in their proper place!
Step 4: Congratulate Yourself
This may sound silly, but we all need an attaboy now and then. Why not give it to yourself when you check something off your list? Over the last couple of years, I’ve slowly managed, in spite of the ADD which has me starting something, only to go into another room with an item to be put away and start something else, to clear a number of spaces in my home. Many of these spaces are part of larger projects, but the clean spots inspire me. They not only let me know that I am capable of clearing a space, but show me how pleasant it can be to have those clear spaces.
Step 5: Make it Fun
The best way I’ve found to make myself get things done is to turn work into play. It might be something as simple as music in the background or dancing with the vacuum. Or maybe you turn a project into a game, or a competition with yourself (How fast can I…? How many…can I in…minutes?). Think “Whistle While You Work” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Step 6: Reward Yourself
I know you’re thinking you don’t deserve a reward for doing things you should do anyway, but nothing could be further from the truth! Just because you should do them doesn’t always mean you do them willingly, much less, cheerfully. So why not give yourself a treat? (Having spent years fighting my weight, I don’t recommend an edible one unless you’re one of the lucky few who burn off everything you eat!) Here are a few examples of my treats of choice:
- A couple of hours of reading for pleasure
- Watching/going to a movie
- A visit to my local bookstore
- A foot massage
For you, it might be a hike or a run, a walk on the beach, a nap, a long bath. Use your imagination, and make it something you’ll truly enjoy. Give yourself small rewards for getting one or several of the small things done, but make the reward really special when you get a large task (that you’ve broken down into several smaller ones, of course) completed.
No Excuses. Make that Dream Happen.
Now that you’ve managed the stuff you have to do, you’ll find you not only have more time, but more energy to go after those things you really want. You’ve also acquired a few skills which will make achieving them easier and maybe more fun as well. Use the time and the skills to map out that dream you have of building a business or writing a book or showing your art. It doesn’t matter what it is. What matters is it’s something which makes your heart sing with joy. It’s something you don’t have to do. It’s something you want to do but have put off because you don’t think you have time.
By simplifying your life, by making it more fun, you’ve suddenly found hours you didn’t even know you had! I wish you many dreams-come-true.
Don’t Forget the Gratitude
My gratitudes today are:
- I am grateful for the lessons I learn and the words with which to share them.
- I am grateful for the things I’ve accomplished by simply following the rules I found for myself.
- I am grateful for making my dreams come true.
- I am grateful for keeping it simple
- I am grateful for abundance; love, dreams, goals, hopes, friendship, success, writing, published work, readers, followers, clients, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.
I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!
Photo courtesy of Orin Zebest via Flickr