Have you ever had something that stayed on your to-do list for days, months, even years? It’s not uncommon. Often there’s a good reason these things stay on the list for eons…it’s called procrastination!
This month we are serving up a variety of solutions for overcoming procrastination. Whether you’re procrastinating on organizing your garage, revamping your closet, or on putting together your will or other end-of-life documents, these 10 procrastination-busting tips, courtesy of Perri Kersh of Neat Freak Professional Organizing, LLC *, will help!
ORGANIZER FAVORITE: This is a great portable "action box" for your regularly-used action-related files.
#1 Just Get Started
Often the anxiety, the incessant thinking about a project, is far worse than the project itself. Just start. It can help to tell yourself, “I only need to commit to 15 minutes of work on this project”. You’ll very often find once you get started, you get into the groove.
#2 Brighten the Task
Create a happier, sunnier atmosphere in which to do the task. Enlist the help of an energetic, positive friend. Play music. Institute a personal rewards system: "If I work on this right now, tonight I will reward myself by________".
#3 Review Goals
Your goals can motivate you to break through a procrastination period. If you are procrastinating on your photo organizing project but you have a goal of creating photobooks for all of your kids for Christmas, that important goal can give you the push you need to get started. Keep your eye on the prize (the end goal)!
#4 Take One Step at a Time
Often we procrastinate because there are SO many steps to a project and we are overwhelmed by the volume and commitment required. Take a moment to write down all the steps that are needed to finish this project from start to finish. You can even include estimates of how long each step will take. Then, do just the first step.
ORGANIZER FAVORITE: Prefer keeping your notes/to-dos in a notebook rather than electronically. I love this cheerful red moleskin notebook that is sleek and soft to the touch!
#5 Create Deadlines
Map out the steps that you need to take to complete this project (see Tip #4) and create deadlines for when you will do each step. It often feels much more manageable to have incremental steps (with deadlines) that lead up to the big “finish” deadline.
#6 Use the Premack’s Principle
The Premack’s Principle, also known as the relativity theory of enforcement, states that more probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviors. Kersh used an example from her own life to illustrate…she hates emptying the dishwasher but she loves coffee. She has made a habit/pattern where first thing in the morning, she doesn’t have her coffee until she has emptied the dishwasher.
Creating a sort of interdependency of these two activities, with the coffee being the reward for the dishwasher emptying, Kersh successfully completes a task regularly that she would typically avoid. She is going to have her coffee every morning no matter what; but to tie that enjoyable activity in with the less enjoyable chore ensures that the “chore” will get done. What “chore” can you pair with an enjoyable activity (checking social media, surfing the web, watching television, drinking coffee or having a special edible treat) to ensure that the chore gets done?
#7 Practice Acknowledgement
There can be something powerful about acknowledging the fact that we are procrastinating. We often provide excuses for why we’re not doing something: "Well, I work so much, there’s just no time" or "Well, my family comes first...I can’t be putting that project ahead of my family". Often we just don’t want to do that particular thing so we try to justify our not doing it with excuses.
Just OWN it! Consider what about the project is so distasteful to you. Is it the guilt you feel about not doing it already? Is it the fact that it’s boring? Does it remind you of someone or something that’s no longer in your life? You may find this type of introspection tedious, but if it gets you past your procrastination, isn’t it worth it?
ORGANIZER FAVORITE: I LOVE this aqua tray that I use as my inbox (for any papers that require an "action"). I have the matching tape dispenser and pen holder too! Aqua is the color of happy! Think Tiffany's :)
#8 Use Positive Imagery
Positive imagery is effectively motivating, especially when you are procrastinating on an organizing project. Imagine the room in question in its best state, without all the clutter that’s there now. What will you do in the room? How will you feel? What will the room look and smell like? Who will be using the room? Draw a rough sketch of the room or write down the things you will see, feel, and enjoy when the room is organized to your liking. This will be your roadmap and your destination point!
#9 Assess Perfectionism
Perfectionism is often the root of procrastination. We worry that we don’t have the time or energy or the (fill in the blank) to do a task or project perfectly, so we put off doing it at all. As the Italian proverb made popular by Voltaire suggests: the perfect is the enemy of the good. So what if it’s not perfect? You can tweak it later as needed. Tackle the original hurdle of getting started and you’ll feel much better, even if the outcome is not perfect!
#10 Get Support
Sometimes, you simply need a buddy to help you get over the initial inertia of your own dreaded “to-do”. Enlist the support of a loving friend or family member, or hire a coach or professional organizer to be your accountability partner in the process. Give that person permission to speak candidly to you while also supporting you in this struggle. We can accomplish so much more together! Plus it’s also a lot more fun.
*Perri Kersh shared these tips in her class “Fundamental Organizing & Productivity Skills” course offered through the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals.