“Procrastination is a habit and not a fatal flaw that can be overcome by developing new habits.” — Institute for Challenging Disorganization
To procrastinate is to delay an action or decision until a later date. Procrastination is closely linked to disorganization because the only way to keep your space looking neat is to choose a place for things to go, what to keep, and what to eliminate. Although I am writing from a point of view focused on organizing “stuff,” the tips for overcoming procrastination can be applied to any aspect of your life.
Greg Vetter, author of “Find it in 5 Seconds,” compares procrastination to the feeling of carrying a bag that gets heavier with the passage of time. In other words, you might start out with a few things that you are delaying doing but more will be added to the list and the burden will only get worse. Maybe you had a pile of papers that you wanted to get to and now two months later it looks more like a mountain. Procrastination can lead to additional stress, embarrassment, guilt, and other feelings of inadequacy. In relation to disorganization, I have met many clients in the past seven years who have expressed similar sentiments when they finally called me to help them get back on track. Leaving things for the last minute means that there is no leeway if unforeseen circumstances occur and threatens to decrease the quality of the work. You may argue that you perform best under pressure, but I would respond by asking if you have ever completed a project when you were not under pressure and measured the results. After all, there is a difference between doing your best and doing the best that you could at the last minute.
There is a long list of reasons as to why you may be dragging your feet on things that you need or want to accomplish. The most common answer is because you are overwhelmed and have no idea where to start or how it will get done. You may have overestimated the amount of time needed and figured that your schedule did not allow for that much time. Conversely, you may have thought it would take a short while and realized later that you did not allot enough time before the deadline to finish. Some people are afraid to fail, others are afraid to succeed, and yet others are so consumed by perfectionism that they get stalled or frustrated when things do not work out the way they wanted. In other cases, you might prefer to do something else instead, expect that it might go away if you wait long enough, or you enjoy the last minute adrenaline rush. Regardless of what you are leaving for later or why, the good news is that everyone has the power to change their habits for the better.
- Simplify the project by breaking it down into several smaller steps or action items. Consider writing a plan or outline that lists each of things that will need to be done. Each bullet should contain a clearly defined action that needs to be taken. For example, “Remove clothing that no longer fits” as one step towards the project of re-organizing your closet.
- Use a calendar to schedule mini-deadlines for the action items.
- Re-assess your list and decide whether you can delete anything that is no longer important.
- Commit to as little as 10-30 minutes of work even when you do not want to. Small spans of time will add up to a finished project in the future and you might get on a roll and continue working. One organized dresser drawer at a time ultimately leads to a tidy master bedroom.
- Plan personal rewards for meeting big and small deadlines that help you associate something positive with the end goal.
- Ronni Eisenberg, author of “Organize Yourself,” suggests starting with the least daunting or simplest part of the project.
Vetter suggests getting help from a friend, coach or mentor, sharing your deadline with others who will hold you accountable, delegating tasks, or hiring someone to do it. In the case of your clutter, you can hire a professional organizer to guide you through the task of getting better organized. Do your best to overcome procrastination but do not be too hard on yourself if you struggle. David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done,” claims that creative, sensitive, and intelligent people procrastinate the most because they have the highest number of undecided things in their lives. Allen goes on to say that bright individuals have the capability of freaking out faster and more dramatically than others. Next time you find yourself avoiding a task or decision remember that you have the power alter your thinking and your actions by using the tips listed above.