Did you read the post title and groan? I did, and I'm the one who wrote it. I hate procrastinating, but it's my favorite thing to do. It's been the root of more problems in my life than anything else I can think of, and has caused more stress and grief to my family than I'd care to admit.
I know I'm not the only one who struggles with procrastination. We procrastinate for so many reasons, and it has so many consequences in every area of our lives. This series of posts is meant to explore some of the zillions of causes of procrastination, and what we can do about it. Today I want to talk about environmental and habitual causes of procrastination.
(No, I'm not talking about global warming and the polar ice caps.) Sometimes procrastination is caused by your environment. These are usually the easiest problems to correct, as they generally don't require expensive trips to the psychologist to relive your childhood. Perhaps the root of your procrastination is simply disorganization: You don't have what you need when you need it. The solution to this problem is relatively simple.
Say, for example, you absolutely hate paying bills because the stuff you need is all over the house. Pens are in the kitchen drawer, envelopes are in the office, your checkbook is hiding in the depths of your purse, and you don't know if you have any stamps left. Once you finally track down the supplies you need, now you have to gather the bills themselves. Some are in a folder, others are in a pile of mail, and more are hiding in stacks of paper on the table and counters. This is just asking for trouble.
Start by making a simple list of everything you need to pay your bills (or to do whatever it is you're procrastinating). Now gather everything on that list. For some items, like envelopes and stamps, you'll probably want to keep some with your bill-paying kit and others in the office. Put everything in a basket, file folder, or some other container. Whenever you get a bill in the mail, immediately put it with your bill-paying stuff, or in a file folder dedicated to bills to pay. Now, when it's time to pay bills, you have everything you need at your fingertips. It's so much easier to get things done when we have what we need at the ready.
Another environmental cause of procrastination is trouble focusing. Using the above example, it's hard to pay bills when music or the TV is blaring, dinner is boiling over, and the kids are tugging at your skirt. It's time for some changes! This may mean changing when or where you do the task. It might be easier to pay the bills in the evening, after the children are in bed, or perhaps first thing in the morning. You might work better at a desk instead of the kitchen table. And for heaven's sake, turn off the TV! If you must do something while the children are around (as opposed to squeezing all of your homemaking tasks into woefully-short naptimes), either give them something quiet to do or give them a way to help you. Stuffing and stamping envelopes, or even just playing with a calculator, can make children feel important and let you get things done.
Ah, habits. I hate that word. It conjures up all sorts of guilt and self-loathing. We have all sorts of bad habits that keep us from being productive. You throw the mail in a pile on the counter until it threatens to collapse on you. You sit down to read your email "just for a minute" and suddenly realize it's lunchtime. Yes, we have all sorts of bad habits and time wasters, and they've got to go! The best way to get rid of a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. It may be something you want to do gradually, or you might prefer to get it over with all at once.
For example, in the case of dealing with mail, you might want to get a basket to throw the mail in. Then bring the basket to the couch in the evenings to go through it. On the other hand, you might just want to force yourself to sort it before you ever put it down. Put bills with your bill-paying kit, shred junk, and put mail to deal with in a folder or basket and jot a note down on your to-do list.
Let's say you're in the bad habit of getting up late in the mornings. When you are roused to consciousness by your toddler jumping on your stomach (elbows and knees first, of course) or sneaking up to the bed and shouting "boo," it is not a good start to the day. (Ask me how I know this.) Well, it's time to replace that habit with a good one. Set an alarm: I like to use the alarm function on my cell phone and keep it under my pillow (with the keypad lock on). That way it doesn't bother my husband. Make sure you've got something enjoyable and/or productive to do first thing, ideally the same thing every morning. Have your quiet time with the Lord, get a head start on your housework, or do a Sudoku puzzle to wake you up. The idea is to be excited about your morning. Replacing a bad habit with a good one will help you be more productive "automatically."
You may also be in the habit of letting things pile up. (I never do this... Ahem.) You forget about doing laundry until your husband doesn't have any underwear. Dishes sit in the sink until you're out of glasses. Housework gets put off until the Environmental Protection Agency calls. It's so easy to let things go until they demand our attention right NOW, but that's hardly an enjoyable way to go about life. Just ask my husband as he's trying to get dressed for work.
Obviously, the solution here is to keep things from becoming huge, unmanageable jobs. Some things are best done a little at a time; what those things are is up to you. You might decide to do one or two lauds of laundry a day, from start to finish, instead of trying to do it all every week or two. Get in the habit of doing the dishes immediately after every meal.
One thing I like to do, although I admit I've gotten out of the habit lately, is to wipe down the bathroom each morning. I take a disinfecting wipe or a rag and spray cleaner and quickly wipe down the sink and toilet. When I take a shower, I bring in a washcloth and scrub the tub while I'm in there. This takes me an extra five minutes a day, tops, but the benefits are great! My bathroom is always clean and I never have to take an hour to scrub it because it's gotten really bad. A little at a time goes a long way.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Go Get Something Done!~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
There are many more causes of procrastination, but right now, there are things I've put off doing for too long. (I wasn't kidding about the underwear.) Next time we'll deal with incorrect thinking and excuses. I'll also be working on some fun forms and checklists for you to download that will hopefully make your life (and mine!) easier. I hope you'll come back again to read the rest of the series. If you'd like to subscribe to this feed, please click the Subscribe button on the left-hand side.
I'd welcome any comments you might have, as well as your own ideas for combating procrastination!
"Procrastination is the thief of time." -Edward Young, English Poet (1683-1765)