Do you procrastinate?

Summertime with its long daylight hours, a little less rain, and the garden in full bloom is the perfect time to get to those big projects around the house done. Many people have great ideas, but find themselves procrastinating about getting started and completing projects. Sound like something you can relate to? You are not alone!

Procrastination – the dreaded word, the dreaded concept. Why do we procrastinate when we know we shouldn’t, wish we wouldn’t, and yet… we continue to do it over and over and over. What is it in your life that you are currently procrastinating about? As a single mom, I have so much to do that I often procrastinate because things can feel so overwhelming. After having just accomplished something that I was avoiding and feeling utterly miserable about for approximately six months, I began to analyze my procrastination and thought that I could offer something of what I learned and some concrete suggestions which could help you.

“Just Do It!”

Don’t you just ‘love’ the Nike slogan “Just Do It”. I wish it were that simple. If it were, we would all accomplish just about anything. Procrastination is a complex issue with negative connotations and unpleasant feelings. I don’t think anyone can say they have never procrastinated at one point or other in their life. Some people procrastinate occasionally and some chronically. Whenever we procrastinate we are left with a feeling of overwhelm, anxiety, and guilt. It is these feelings that produce the negative effects in our behavior, mind, and body.

When we become overwhelmed, we naturally get anxious and then feel stressed. Stress occurs from thinking we are not able to do something or not able to do a good enough job when this is important for us. When we are stressed, we tend to waste time, perform poorly, and miss opportunities. Guilt causes us to make excuses and avoid people who depend on us. Both the stress and guilt cause a great deal of mental and emotional anguish, which further debilitate us accomplishing what we want to.

Determine Your Needs

So why do we procrastinate? People procrastinate for many reasons; however, first it is necessary to figure out a few things about what you are procrastinating. This can mean the difference between finding fault with yourself or just having good reasons for putting something off. So, ask yourself the following questions:

Is it a priority to get it done?
Do you know how to do the task?
Do you have time to do the task?
Are there competing commitments for the time you could spend doing the task?
Do you need something else to help you get the task done, such as a vision, money, space, materials, etc?
Is there something else that needs to be done before you can actually physically do this task, such as clearing clutter, painting, organizing files, purchasing organizational items, permission to do so, etc?
Do you need help?

Answering yes to any of the above questions can give you direction in finding out how to remedy the problem and help inspire you. Breaking things down into do-able parts can make all the difference in helping you feel motivated and have success versus continuing to procrastinate and feel bad about not getting the job done.

After determining that the job is a priority for any reason (it needs to be done, it bothers you because it is not done, others are depending on you to get it done, it is aesthetically unpleasing to look at, etc.), you can then work on answers for the other questions.

My Dreaded Project

Let me use my procrastination project as an example. To do some repair work in my basement, I took everything out of it and put it in the garage. With my small garage packed this meant I could no longer park my car there. Now this led to a number of unpleasant experiences twice or more daily of getting through the basement, garage, and then in and out of my car parked in my driveway (I’ll spare you the details!). Some months later, I ended up bringing a number of things into the basement but they were all over the place, plus I dumped a bunch of junk from my upstairs down there as well. Now I really had a mess in two places and I felt completely overwhelmed to look at this seemingly gigantic and endless piles of stuff spread high and wide. Due to the desire to park in my garage and feeling miserable every time I passed through my unavoidable basement to the laundry and get to my car just outside the garage, I knew it was a priority to get this job done. Despite the priority, I continued to procrastinate for several months until I found good reason to clean it up.

Getting It Done

Here are some suggestions that will move you forward:

Create a need that is so big and so important that you must succeed.
Make a deadline which can motivate you to get the job done. For me, it was an appraisal of my home, which I believed would be higher if my home was aesthetically pleasing to be in. That meant no messes, no clutter.
Figure out what you need to get the job done. I didn't really know how I was going to organize such a mess into a small space I wanted to look tidy. I knew I had too much stuff. There were some spots on the walls that needed painting before I could bring things in. I needed some shelves to create places to put things. Some of these needs meant spending a bit of money. Having the tools, resources, and plan makes the task seem do-able.
Schedule a time for the project to be done. There will always be competing commitments for your time. Making an appointment with yourself, a kind of date, an assigned space in your schedule in the future that you reserve for your task will increase the likelihood that you will actually do it. Finding time is hard for all of us. Making a date with yourself makes the time allotted feel "official."

Get Help

When I realized the enormity of the job, and how easy it would be for me to avoid it, it became obvious that I couldn't do it all alone. So, I called a friend and we scheduled a time to attack this project together.

I insisted on paying her as I considered it an unpleasant and challenging task. I didn't want to take advantage of our friendship. She was great. Not only did she help me lift and carry, but she kept me on task. She hounded me about what things I used, what things I wanted to keep, and various empty storage places in my home. We worked together as she sorted, packed, moved and organized my things.

And, I was extremely grateful.

The Pay Off – Feeling Good

What I noticed the most when my basement was clean, tidy and functional and my garage was once again available for my car, was that I had a sense of calm and peace within me when I was home. I have had a newly energized feeling to keep my home clean on a regular basis. I have been excited to show my downstairs to everyone who comes to visit!

It has really helped me to feel good about myself and successful as a divorced woman, single working mother and homeowner.

My procrastination was more about determining the help I needed rather than a flaw in my character. If only I had seen that from the start and not beat myself up for so long!

So what project is it that you are procrastinating on - gardening, painting, home repairs, building a deck or fence, or cleaning up a mess? Ask yourself the questions above and get yourself going!

Summer is the perfect time to get things done. If the answers aren't in these questions, see if you can figure out what your procrastination is about so you can problem solve it through and get going in life. Feeling good about yourself and having personal success is essential to your mental health.

Eilise Ward