Overcoming Procrastination

Updated: Jul 21, 2019

By Dianna Kasprzak

I've had it on my mind to write this blog, but couldn't get it off the ground, because quite frankly ... I was procrastinating! Procrastination is first nature to me. It's a lifelong negative trait that I've had to work to overcome. I've seen firsthand how delaying action robs me of time and daily joy -- and how being a person of action, has brought many good things to my life. If you identify with a tendency to procrastination, I invite you to come along on this blog journey.

The literal definition of procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something. There are a million-and-one examples to be found in our daily lives. Take laundry, for example.

The laundry pile is heaping, but we decide to do it tomorrow, in favor of doing something fun (fill-in-the-blank). That evening, someone needs a certain pair of jeans or top for the next day. We stay up late, getting it done. We're tired, so take out what is needed and leave the rest in the laundry basket (or dryer). A couple days' later, we do the folding, which takes longer because everything has gotten wrinkled. We leave the folded clothes in the basket. More clothes are needed and pulled out of the basket. Now, the basket is a mess and needs refolding. Oh wait! Aren't those dirty clothes now mixed in with the clean?

So you see, procrastination has a way of boomeranging. One delayed action today can create challenging situations tomorrow. We do ourselves a favor when we begin to face the procrastination habit in our lives and begin doing things promptly. It has been said,

The art of succeeding is doing the thing

you have to do, when it has to be done.

Diligence should be one of the first lessons we learn in life. It's the key to ongoing success! But it's difficult to teach if we haven't first learned it ourselves. We do our children a great favor when we conquer this giant within ourselves, then teach the little ones and bigger ones self control, that is, doing the things they need to do, when they need to be done, whether they feel like it or not. (Taken from Dr. David Jeremiah.)

Here are a few practical tips that have been helpful to me in overcoming procrastination.

1. Don't over-estimate the size of the job and talk yourself out of doing it.

I've discovered there are many tasks that seem daunting, that I imagine to be time-consuming, but they really are not -- it's only because I have told myself it is going to be difficult. For example, my husband said, "Let's clean the garage today." My first reaction was an internal groan. There were many other things I wanted to do, that I felt I needed to do! He went straightaway into the garage and cleaned his side in an extremely short amount of time, then announced to me he was DONE -- and it was now my turn. He offered to help, but because I dilly-dallied, he became busy with other things and I had to face the task alone. I scanned over the area and made a choice to view it as an easy task, changing my mindset. I began by breaking down cardboard boxes and returning items to shelves, then putting that box of thrift store items in my car trunk with a mental note to drop it off tomorrow. Really, how hard was all that? It took only a few actions to bring a sense of tidiness to the garage (not perfection, but good enough).

So to overcome procrastination, we need to begin addressing our self-talk and change what we are telling ourselves. Let's not talk ourselves out of doing it....let's just jump in and do it!

Some wise words spoken to me by my husband on many an occasion are, "You can't finish what you don't start." So let's skip the mind games and just get started.

2. If a task can be done in 1-3 minutes, do it now.

Keeping up with daily chores can make such a difference in the overall appearance of our homes. But it comes down to doing little things right away. For example, a morning routine might include making your bed when you first get up; putting last night's clean dishes away; starting a load of laundry. Evening routines are important too: Doing a quick scrub on the bathroom sink and toilet; emptying the waste baskets; sweeping the floor. But this mindset applies to other things as well -- making the phone call for that appointment; texting a response to a friend; cleaning out our email inbox, paying a bill, etc. Set your timer and see how FAST you can accomplish these tasks. You will be surprised at how valuable even 30 seconds can be in accomplishing the million-and-one-things that need to be tended to daily.

A case in point: I took a break during this writing and went to the kitchen. I saw the compost pail needing to be emptied. I really did not feel like doing it and my mind told me it would take a long time -- and really, didn't I need to get back to my blog writing?! I set a timer and made the trip leisurely to the compost bin, then back. Less than 60 seconds! Another 20 seconds and the pail was clean and shiny -- ready to be filled again. Getting that little task done was so quick and easy. It also brought a sense of calm in "restoring order" to the kitchen, to see the pail empty and clean!

3. Make a daily list and do the most difficult task first.

I admire how my husband has got this one down to perfection. He doesn't do the easy tasks first -- he works on what is the hardest, getting it done -- and then moves on to the rest of the tasks on his list. He gets a lot done each day, and can work circles around most. He's a great example and I'm learning from him!

A daily list is so helpful. It keeps us focused and helps avoid distractions. When so many things are pulling us in multiple directions, we can look at our list and it keeps us on task. You might use a piece of recycled printer paper, cut in fourths, or a small notebook.. My Dad had a little notebook in his pocket and carried it with him daily. He was productive, right up to the end of his life, doing car repairs, home repairs, mowing the lawn, and a myriad of other things. He was such a great example to me.

4. Break large tasks down into smaller tasks.

In today's culture, few of us can devote a day or a week to deep cleaning our homes, like women did 50 years' ago. So if we want to get at those tasks, we need to find another way, and that is by breaking them down into smaller tasks. For example, in the living room, we might start by doing a declutter of things that don't belong in that room (or are not needed altogether and can be given away). Remove them out of the room. Then put the objects back in place to where they belong. If there are bookshelves, make that a project and remove the books and dust. On another day, take down the curtains and wash the windows. Move and clean behind furniture on another day, finishing off with washing (or vacuuming) the floor.

I'm a project person myself and love to do big jobs, start to finish. That's my preferred style and I can work focused and long hours with that method. But I've had to resort to this method of doing a little every day and I can do it -- but it requires a mind-shift. Also, as we grow older, out of necessity we need to break tasks down into smaller bite-sized pieces. I saw my Mother do this and it was amazing what she could get done, even with a heart condition. What a great example to me!

What big task is really bugging you? How can you break it down into manageable portions and begin getting it done? Imagine how GOOD you will feel when the task is accomplished!

5. Delegate.

If we live in a family setting, remember the power of the Team! We don't have to do everything by ourselves. We are the CEO's in our home, the managers, who oversee what gets done and how it gets done.

When we were raising our sons, I had a Saturday chore list that I would print off each week. The boys could put their names by the chores they wanted to do. They took care of cleaning the downstairs and I did the upstairs. I didn't have to do it all and their help was much appreciated. In a couple of hours (or less), everything was spiffy and ready for the weekend and upcoming week.

Sometimes we forget to ASK for help -- then complain (or pout) because no one notices the "pressure" we are under. (Yes, that comes from personal life experience!). Communication is key and we can do it in a nice way to get everyone involved.

6. Take time to experience the JOY of a job well-done.

We can get so busy, that even when we accomplish these tasks in our home, we are off-to-the-next-thing, not even pausing to reflect and be thankful and grateful for the provision of home, of adequate possessions, of a family that we can love -- and who loves us! Bask in those blessings and let them fill your heart to overflowing.

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