Sometimes, what we want to do, and what we need to do are two very different things. We're all guilty of it. Procrastination: the intentional and habitual postponement of an important task.
We need to go through mom's over-cluttered, filled-to-capacity closet that boarders on hoarding, and get rid of the junk. But we want to take a break, and just kick our feet up. It's been a rough week. We need to get our taxes done – and dad's, too – we've already filed an extension. But it's such a beautiful day, it would be a shame to waste it indoors, so we want to take a walk with dad.
When we procrastinate too much for too long, important things don't get done. It starts a vicious cycle. You wait until the last minute. Then you're stressed because you've run out of time. You feel tremendous amounts of guilt. You're angry at yourself for being in this position, again. Your self-esteem plummets.
So what can you do? To stop procrastinating, you will have to break old habits and develop new ones. Here are 10 tips to help you to stop procrastinating and start living your life more productively. The key is to take the first step – it won't be as bad as you think!
- Create a To-Do List
Not a mental list, but one written on a piece of paper. Something about the process of writing it down makes you focus on the tasks at hand. Prioritize your list. What must be conquered immediately? Next, estimate how long each project will take and time your day accordingly. Don't overbook. Leave some extra for life's interruptions that will no doubt come up.
- Break it Down
Break large jobs into smaller, more manageable tasks. Plan and complete a start-up task, no matter how small. Tackle each piece, one by one.
- Set Short-Term Deadlines
Set deadlines for completing a job. Assign yourself small-scale deadlines. Work in small blocks of time instead of in long stretches. Take a short break once a part of the task is complete. Still not convinced? Here are more tips to help caregivers stop procrastinating and start living a life with less stress, guilt and anger:
- Tell Someone
Sometimes we need someone else to help us stay on track. We are less likely to procrastinate if we know there's accountability. Telling your husband or best friend, "I'm going to get it done," could provide that extra bit of motivation to follow through. We want to avoid the lecture that is sure to come if we don't get it done.
Develop a clear mental picture of the completed task and how you will feel at that time. Focus on the end result, not the process. Feel the weight lift off your shoulders. Think about how good you will feel when you're finished.
- Remove Distractions
Turn off the television, the phone ringer, and anything else that might keep you from your task. If necessary bring in respite care for mom or dad for a few hours, so you won't have to be pulled away from the job at hand.
- Change Your Expectations
Striving for perfection and feeling that things should be a certain way are stumbling blocks to beating procrastination. If you are waiting until you can do something "perfectly" it will never get done. No one is perfect. Do your best.
- Just Do It
Next time you catch yourself saying, "I can do this later," think like a Nike commercial: Just do it! Push through the feelings and do it now. Dive right in. Once you've taken the first step, you realize "hey, I'm doing this," which motivates you to keep going. The feeling of accomplishment you get when you finish will be better than any relief you get from putting it off.
- Cross It Off
Literally, go back to your list and cross off tasks as you finish them. Putting that pen to paper provides a sense of accomplishment in its own right. It gives you visual confirmation that you are getting somewhere.
- Reward Yourself for Accomplishments
Set a reward for yourself once the job is done. But, if you don't earn the reward, don't take it.