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Procrastination: 3 simple ways to beat it

One of the biggest stressors on family life is the never ending list of things that need to be done. How often do we allow unfinished tasks to compete for our attention at times when we should be focussing solely on our spouse, our children, our extended families? We feel the pull of the work undone but for some reason simply cannot find the motivation to complete it. It’s not that we don’t have the time to do it. Usually, it’s that we don’t feel like spending that time.  We procrastinate until we don’t have a choice anymore. The problem with this mindset however is that we still devote attention to the task regardless. We waste valuable mental energy worrying about it, wondering how we will ever get it finished and finding more and more imaginative ways to avoid getting started.

This was once my reality. As a primary school teacher, every weekend there were lessons to plan, work to mark and resources to make. Knowing that I had plenty of time to complete the work I would try to forget about it all weekend. In reality it was never that easy. It was always there in the back of my mind spoiling everything I was doing, whether it was walking along the beach with my children and the dog, indulging in a spot of retail therapy or watching a movie with my husband. Unfortunately it wasn’t until I stepped out of the classroom that it occurred to me that I was going about it all wrong. If only I had known then what I know now, I could have saved myself so much angst.

Use these 3 mind tricks to avoid procrastination and convince yourself to get started on something you would rather avoid:

1) Pretend that it is urgent.

How easy is it to get started working on something when it is due to be completed tomorrow? There is no greater motivation than a deadline with other people relying on you.  What can you do however when one does not actually exist? You can set one for yourself. Create your own sense of urgency to get the job completed. For example, you can tell yourself ‘I need to get these taxes completed tonight because it is the only opportunity I have between now and the end of the financial year, or ‘This needs to be done this morning because we are going out to zoo this afternoon and I will not have the time afterwards’. It doesn’t necessarily need to be true.

2) Give yourself permission to stop by following the 15 minute rule.

Sometimes it can be difficult to begin a task because we are put off by the complexity of the work or the time required to complete it. However, if you make an agreement with yourself that you will work on the task for 15 minutes and once that time is up you are allowed to stop, you will find it so much easier to start. 15 minutes is such a short amount of time that it hardly feels like a chore to devote it to a task. Once you have done it however, there is a sense of accomplishment that you have done what you said you were going to do even if the task is nowhere near finished. A lovely side effect is that often, once you have actually started, you realise that the task was not as difficult as you thought, you get on a roll and do not actually stop until the whole thing is completed.

3) Image the task completed.

This can be difficult to do but if you are able to project into the future and imagine how you will feel once the task is finished, you can talk yourself into getting started earlier rather than later. Imagine what it will feel like to spend time with your family knowing that your work is completed and there is nothing to pull your thoughts away from them. Imagine the sense of relief knowing that you don’t have to think about it again and can fully relax. Imagine achieving that thing that you have always said you wanted to do and the sense of satisfaction you will have. If you combine this with imagining the same situation with an unfinished task hanging over your head and picture yourself worrying about it not being done, then the motivation to get up and begin can be very strong. If not, perhaps you need to ask yourself whether the task is something you ever intend to do or should simply be crossed off your list altogether.

There are so many things we put off doing. We put off starting a savings plan, taking care of our health, looking for that new job. What we procrastinate about is different for every individual but whatever it is, whatever we say we want in our lives, the lack of it usually occurs for no other reason than that we have simply not begun the work. Maybe we think there is plenty of time, maybe the task seems too overwhelming or time consuming, maybe we don’t really want it badly enough. Whatever it is, the reason for avoiding the task is often stronger than the reason to begin it and if it’s something we really want or need to do, we sometimes need a little encouragement to start. Give my three mind tricks a go and see the difference you can create in your life.

Read my four simple steps here for managing your schedule to get it all done.

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{ 17 comments… add one }
  • lifewrangling@gmail.com March 21, 2016, 5:45 pm

    Is there something you have put off doing but really need or want to get started? I have been putting off filling in some important paperwork because it just seems like hard work. I know that if i just get started it won’t be as hard as I imagine it will be. My plan is to create my own short deadline for the task so I am spurred into action.

  • Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid March 26, 2016, 1:08 pm

    I am a big fan of the 15 minute (or sometimes 20 minute) rule. It’s a great incentive to get things done, and even if it’s a longer task, I find I can be much more productive and it’s much more pleasant when it’s broken down into chunks. Setting deadlines is also a cracker – I think there is an app that gives you a set time to complete a task on the computer and if you don’t finish in time, it wipes all your work! There’s never a better incentive to get stuff done!

    • lifewrangling@gmail.com March 26, 2016, 7:07 pm

      Wow! I’m not sure I could cope with something that deletes your work if you don’t finish in time. What an incentive though.

  • Emma @ Life, kids and a glass of red March 26, 2016, 4:51 pm

    The 15 minute rule sounds like something I need to implement!

    • lifewrangling@gmail.com March 26, 2016, 7:10 pm

      It truly works for me. I can’t recommend it enough. I was able to complete a promotion application portfolio that most colleagues take 18 months to finish in just 7 weeks in the evening with two young children and a full time job. The 15 minute rule was my lifesaver.

  • Janet Yarwood March 26, 2016, 5:47 pm

    I am the queen of procastination! Definitely going to put some of these to use and try to get stuff done!

    • lifewrangling@gmail.com March 26, 2016, 7:11 pm

      Great to hear Janet. I hope you find them helpful in your endeavours.

  • Shannon @my2morrows March 26, 2016, 6:31 pm

    It’s so much easier these days to procrastinate. I’m so guilty of it but these are great tips. I always find it best to tackle the hardest task first so you get it out if the way. Everything that follows is then so much easier. Xx

    • lifewrangling@gmail.com March 26, 2016, 7:12 pm

      It’s like a challenge to find something else that is more important to do sometimes isn’t it? Tackling the hardest task first is definitely a good idea. Get it out of the way, feel great and then get on a roll to get the easier things done.

  • Mommy Muddling March 27, 2016, 8:40 am

    Oh how procrastination can steal my joy! Great recommendation. I have heard the 15 minute rule before but have forgotten to actually apply it. Thanks for the reminder!

    • lifewrangling@gmail.com March 27, 2016, 2:57 pm

      It’s true that we think we are doing well by putting something off until later but if we are then feeling guilty or thinking about it at the wrong time, putting it off has not served us at all.

  • Paula March 28, 2016, 8:56 pm

    Hi Jen! I wanted to let you know that this post in one of my Monday Special Features this week 🙂 Thanks for linking up!

    If you’d like to take a look here’s this link 🙂 http://www.lifeasweknowitbypaula.blogspot.com/2016/03/monday-special-features-4_28.html

    Have a great week!

    • lifewrangling@gmail.com March 28, 2016, 10:10 pm

      Hi Paula,
      Thank you so much for featuring my post. I hope the ideas here can help people to stop putting off those things that they know they should be doing and help them feel lighter as a result. Jen

  • yvonne March 31, 2016, 10:57 pm

    Oh I like the 15 minute rule. I often find that once i have started something it doesnt seem so bad, it is just getting the motivation to start in the first place 🙂 #Alittlebitofeverything

    • lifewrangling@gmail.com April 1, 2016, 8:34 am

      I agree, it’s the thinking about it which is often the worst part. If we realised that it would be easier just to start, I believe many things in life would be so much easier. #ourownworstenemies

  • Karin @ Calm to Conniption April 1, 2016, 6:59 pm

    I am the Queen of Procrastination! Time limits work for me too, I just have to get really stern with myself.

  • Morgan Prince April 3, 2016, 5:25 pm

    Some great tips here, I’ll definitely be putting them into use. Thanks! 🙂
    #MMWBH

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