"Procrastination is the thief of time"—we all have heard that a thousand times, but many of us are still struggling! Josie Ortega reports on the battle against procrastination, from the trenches.
My offering any public thoughts on conquering procrastination borders on the fraudulent.
Like all great writers (see what I did there?), I wait until the last minute. Before tackling this post, I started a load of laundry and faced other undesirable household tasks. I completed an online video assignment for a Spanish class that doesn’t even begin until late next week.
Maybe this procrastination is an unconscious psychological strategy, in which doing something unrelated gives the brain space to work on the problem.
Maybe we can explain procrastination based on personality type.
Or, the root of the procrastination could be: fear of failure, distraction, tiredness, lack of discipline, problems with impulse control. The task one’s avoiding may be simply unpleasant. There’s also plain laziness, formerly known as sloth, one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Yikes. When you put it that way . . .
For me, all of these things have been true at one time or another. The irony, which I understand but often have a hard time applying, is that after I finally complete the task, I feel wonderful.
Once you do it, you’re free to move on! In the words of William Wallace: FREEDOM!
Is it even possible to change? Or is this something I’ll struggle with my entire life?
Yes and yes.
It sometimes feels like I never meet any of my goals. (Hello: “learning Spanish” is on my New Year’s Resolution list every January. I should go ahead and create an annual calendar reminder.) Having said that, there are plenty of other areas in which I’ve improved over the last few years, and I bet the same is true for you.
There’s research showing that young mothers develop skills as they meet the needs of their children and simultaneously handle everything else they already had going on in life. And we’re more efficient forevermore afterward.
I'm still an amateur, but I've gathered a few tricks up my sleeve to combat procrastination. Here’s one thing I’ve gotten better at recently:
. . . also known as quitting something, or asking for help. But delegation sounds like the marketable skill of a business executive, so let’s stick with it.
This strategy to combat procrastination is kind of a workaround, but I think it still counts.
When an item has remained on the to-do list for a length of time with no movement, it may be a good candidate for elimination. We don’t have to do everything!
If the task can’t be eliminated—truly, someone has got to do it—let’s ask ourselves whether that someone can be . . . someone else.
Here’s a recent example from our household. I was lamenting that I still haven’t scheduled the ballet lessons that our daughter received as a Christmas gift from a relative. My husband gallantly replied, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll handle it.”
He’s a functioning adult human. We should’ve assigned it to him in the first place. After all, he typically takes charge of our kids’ weekend extracurricular activities, giving me my stay-at-home-mom union-mandated break.
Delegate! Cross those items of the list, and allow others to be competent!
You know, like, “Little ditty, ‘bout Jack and Diane” . . .
Here’s another random strategy to stay focused. You did not expect this one.
The background: In a women’s group, I once heard a mom with adult children share her story about overcoming procrastination. Some of us young mothers (me, me, me!) knew that we needed to hear whatever she was going to say. We were the procrastinators.
Others in the group didn’t consider themselves such, until Beth talked about how she used to get so much done before leaving the house in the morning—responding to emails, cleaning the kitchen after breakfast, etc. Yet she still felt rushed getting her kids out the door, and they were often late.
While Beth’s multitasking was productive, she wasn’t doing the right thing at the right time. It hit her one day as she buckled her little girl into the car seat. The toddler looked at her and asked, “Hurry, Mama?”
Although all of us get a lot done in a day, sometimes our priorities are out of whack.
I adapted the little chant Beth developed to keep herself on track in the mornings: “Do what you need to get out the door, once that's through, maybe more."
In other words, First Things First. My kids are hearing this ditty more and more on school mornings. (No, don’t start a weird art project . . . go to the bathroom and put on your shoes!)
I’ve heard several moms talk about how developing a shorthand reminder chant has helped in their day-to-day, such as Meg Tietz checking for “phone, keys, kids” before getting in the car. Don't knock it 'til you try it.
I clearly remember another observation Beth shared in her talk to the moms group. She said that the women she knew who were the most diligent also had the most fun.
When we work diligently to take care of the important things, we’re able to “clock out” and enjoy life when work is done—instead of being just kinda stressed all the time.
Doesn’t that sound like a goal worth pursuing?
To foster diligence, consider the George Washington Method: our admirable first president focused on one task per hour. Uni-tasking or single-tasking as opposed to multitasking.
The Pomodoro Technique is similar to the above. Use a timer for a chunk of work time, say 45 minutes. Then enjoy doing whatever, walking around, unloading the dishwasher for 15 minutes.
Like I said, I’m a work in progress, but the strategy of naming time blocks allows me to focus without guilt on one particular area or category of work. And when the day is done, grab a book! A friend! A margarita! Guilt-free.
Check out Beth's website for faith-based resources to Put Off Procrastination. Good luck and Godspeed!