September 6 is National Fight Procrastination Day, and who among us has never delayed an important task and suffered as a result? According to this article from The Emotion Machine, some of the things we commonly postpone include:
1. Going to the doctor
2. Paying the monthly bills
3. Answering email
4. Doing homework
5. Starting a workout program
6. Getting the car maintained
Sound familiar? But procrastination certainly doesn’t have to be about the bigger tasks or goals. Postponing small things, like emptying a wastebasket, filling the car with gas, or even just getting out of bed on time, causes us additional stress and snowballs into more issues. Not to mention that sick feeling in the pit of the stomach, the sweaty palms, the guilt feelings that pop up when we miss a deadline. It’s a sick way to treat ourselves, isn’t it?
Many times when I’m working with a brand new client, the anticipation of the task at hand has them stymied. Just opening up one drawer or box fills them with the dread akin to contemplating the zombie apocalypse. And why? Usually it’s because they are looking at their disarray, dreaming about an end result that rivals pages from the IKEA catalog, and aren’t accurately visualizing the steps they need to take in between. I hear, “But if I pull those out, I’ll have to look at these too, and then I’ll need to clear out the whole storage closet, and then I’ll have to have shelves installed (which will also necessitate painting said closet), and then no one will know where the printer cartridges are, and then…” I call this technique Putting It Off By Piling It On. Some of you are masters at it, but starting and finishing a task really doesn’t have to be so complicated.
Something else that can cause delay tendencies occurs when we create a “relocate” bin or pile. These are the items that need to be kept, but should be stored somewhere other than the space we’re working in. About a half an hour before the end of a session, we stop, and I suggest that we’re going to put those things away (at least into the correct general area). Typical responses include: “Oh, you mean…now?”, or “I thought maybe I’d just do that LATER”, and “Gee, I wouldn’t want you to have to do that.” Granted, folks are getting tired by this point, but really? You hired me, told me all about how overwhelmed you are, how you’re missing important stuff, how you’ve got to get things under control before ______(insert stressful event here), and you’re stalling on taking some puzzle pieces back to the correct box? Even with my help?
There are all sorts of articles, books, and blogs giving advice on why we procrastinate, who it affects, and how we should handle it. But in some ways, I believe giving a name and process to our delay tactics can give them too much power. “Oh, I’m a Procrastinator!” takes over our imaginations like some weird badge of honor.
How about we go for results, and not excuses? Let’s get over ourselves and just take the first step:
1. Pull out the assignment, open up the file, go through the stack, make the phone call…whatever it is, get started.
Many times, that’s really all there is. Who cares why we’ve delayed in the past? I know of only one way to complete a task on time, and that is to do it.
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach, wife, mom, and serial list-maker. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?