We all have a lot to get done. And if you are anything like me, you are really good at ignoring the things you don’t want to do. (Like the dishes. I hate doing the dishes.) When we put things off until later, it compounds our to-do lists and almost always causes problems. Procrastination creates unnecessary stress in life by complicating what should be simple (doing the dishes) and it clutters our minds with all the things we haven’t done yet (the dishes). Delaying the unavoidable (the dishes) steals focus from the essential things we want to do. By eliminating procrastination from your life as much as possible you gain a greater sense of peace and lose that inner nagging voice reminding you of all you haven’t done yet. Here are my six favorite methods for scrubbing your life clean of procrastination.
1) Think of your “future self”.
I recently picked up the concept of your “future self” from this video by The Clutter Diet. The idea is that you think of yourself as two people; your “present self” and your “future self”. When you notice that something needs done, view it as an opportunity for your “present self” to give your “future self” a gift by completing the task now. For example, when I notice the laundry needs folding I do it now so that later, when my “future self” walks into the room, she’s blessed with an empty laundry basket. I have put this approach into practice for a while now and it works! I feel so much better about all I carry out each day.
2) Make it fun.
Certain tasks must be done. However, there is no reason we have to miserable doing them. Appeal to your inner four-year-old (or your actual four-year-old) and make a game out of tidying up the family room. Have a dance-off while vacuuming. Blast N’Sync from your stereo while cleaning out the car. Watch junk food television like Marriage Bootcamp while you’re on the treadmill. Incorporate fun into the mundane as much as possible. You will be more motivated to get it done if getting it done is fun.
3) Have a plan and prioritize.
When a project is big and complicated the idea of completing it can become overwhelming. A task can seem simple, but yet you never start on it because deep inside exists a fear of where to begin and what to do. A typical response is to kick the thing to the curb and leave the problems for tomorrow. A better solution is to break it down into manageable tasks and rank them. Pick the top three (only three) things that need done and start there. If you know you only have three little things to do you are much more likely to get going instead of being stuck in fear, and once a project is moving it is much easier to gain momentum and keep going. So create a plan, write your top three tasks on paper, and get started.
4) Set a timer.
You can do anything for 15 minutes. If you have avoided a list of phone calls you need to make, set a timer for 15 minutes and start calling. Putting off cleaning the bathroom? Set a timer for 15 minutes and get to it. Haven’t done your workout yet? Set a timer! Knowing that the clock is ticking can help you focus and you will accomplish so much more than you expected in a short amount of time. When the timer goes off allow yourself to quit working or take a short (timed) break, this way you will avoid burnout and the timer will keep up its motivating power.
5) Agree to accept imperfect results.
Perfectionism is the enemy of completion. When your standard for a task is too high, you will never reach it and you will never feel like you have accomplished much. Be willing to accept that most of the toys are put away, and that three loads of laundry are done even though you haven’t finished vacuuming. Look for the positives and remember that half done is better than not at all.
6) Decide if you can skip it entirely.
Sometimes a task is not worth doing. Just because your mother was religious about dusting does not mean you have to be. Instead of dirtying up your plates at dinner tonight, use paper dishes instead and avoid all the post-meal scrubbing. Look for ways to make life easier. It isn’t laziness to skip unimportant tasks; it is essentialism and it frees you up to focus on what matters.
Is procrastination a problem for you? How do you avoid it?