As darkness sets upon us incredibly early and we’re feeling like it’s 12A at 5P, dialogues about procrastination multiply. At risk of sounding like a blind optimist (I’m not) – what a wonderful growth opportunity! Lack of vigor can put our priorities under a microscope and help us with time management. What needs to happen now? What can wait? What matters? How long would this task take on a feel-good day?
We all know stringing along nonproductive days and falling into the abyss of scrolling through social media is harmful to our self esteem. Not far better is when we get incredibly sidetracked doing simple chores for far too long. Ever make laundry into a multiple day process as a result of avoidance? Do you end up with wrinkled heaps of clothes like I do? Here are five of my personal favorite techniques when my energy is down and getting things done feels out of reach:
(1) Remember that you can say NO to old habits. While there are various demands that must be met, there also tend to be some tasks that are part of a routine that no longer serves us. For example, for years, I didn’t think my day could commence until my bed was made. Although I far prefer a made bed in the evening, on days when it would be suite me better to get to answering some emails, I’ve dosed myself to shut the bedroom door and get to work. While this example may seem minut, I encourage you to assess your musts. Do you really need to take care of all the daily habits you’ve gotten used to in order to succeed?
(2) Scheduling > planning. While to-do lists can be helpful in the longterm, if any goal really needs to be a priority, I encourage you to schedule it. If you treat the goal with the same respect you give to a doctor’s appointment, you’ll likely find yourself being successful. Make appointments with yourself. I make a “take some minutes to do a puzzle, take a long shower…” reminders in my calendar all the time.
(3) Procrastination is an emotional regulation problem, not a time management problem. We ultimately procrastinate to avoid potential feelings of failure. We prioritize avoiding discomfort in the short term and avoid thinking in the long term. Here is where tools like vision boards or earning a treat can be helpful. I understand questioning the capitalistic regime of earning rest, but I’ve found that delayed gratification with treats in between helps trick my brain out of self loathing.
(4) Tech breaks. I can think of less than a handful of folks who don’t struggle with technology. The truth is, our caveman brain cannot possibly keep up with the level of stimulation & distraction offered to us through our iPhones. Find a manageable way to take a take break. Would it feel helpful to take a break for a week? I’ve personally found that setting my phone on “sleep” mode past 8P helps me decompress. It will be hard. But, if nothing else, noticing how often you reach for technology as a procrastination strategy will convince you it’s time to reassess your relationship with your phone.
(5) Engage in a self compassionate inner monologue. Act it out! When I am about to start a task that makes me anxious, I assess whether or not it is based on an old memory. For example, while my adult self is pretty good at arriving to appointments on time, my young adult self was awful at this. So, when I’m late or anticipate being late to start a task, a 15 year old memory comes flooding in. Suddenly all the skills and confidence I’ve acquired go out the window. Here, I try something like this: “I’ve disappointed myself and been irresponsible in the past. I’ve worked on it and learned from my experience. Being a couple of minutes late doesn’t mean I’ve lost all my cool, adulty skills or am not on top of it.”