My office is very organized when I need to mail a package. I am not a fan of packing and mailing things. Admittedly it is a simple task yet I have such ridiculous dread associated with it that I simply avoid it at all costs.
For many months I have had 2 ‘package mailing’ chores on my task list. They had been on the list so long they practically became invisible. I wonder how much unconscious energy I wasted blocking them out. When I finally ‘see’ them the guilt kicks in, and instead of mailing the packages I do other productive but unrelated tasks, like organizing my office!
Do you ever procrastinate? Apparently we all do. And we like to read about it on the internet. Googling procrastination resulted in over 13 million hits. It also led me to reunite with the brilliant ideas of Neil Fiore, author of the Now Habit, a favourite book on procrastination.
Cycle of Procrastination
Fiore talks about the ‘cycle of procrastination’ which goes something like this – the more you procrastinate, the more you criticize yourself, the more you lose confidence. I am so late in mailing these books to clients that I am beyond embarrassed so I avoid it further and the cycle continues. Its especially awkward since I am a productivity consultant and time management trainer!
Break the Cycle
So, how do you break the cycle? The first step is awareness of when you are procrastinating. Then figure out why you are doing it. Try monitoring your habits for a few days. Keep track of what you are avoiding and jot some notes on your feelings associated with the dreaded activity. This can reveal blocks such as uncertainty about the value of the task. Or perhaps the project is not in alignment with your goals? Maybe the idea needs to percolate a little longer until its ready for action. Or maybe you just don’t enjoy the task. Use these findings to assess your to-do list and focus on what’s really important.
My challenge with mailing stuff is that I despise standing in line at the post office. It feels like a colossal waste of time. To overcome this, I planned a few related errands to justify the trip and get it done. However I still did not feel motivated until a kick-in-the-pants came along in the shape of this photo from a fellow productivity ninja.
Grace Marshall, one of our Productivity Ninjas over in the UK, clearly hasn’t got the same issues as me related to package mailing. Not only did she do her chore promptly, but also took a lovely photo to document her packaging skills! Maybe that’s what I need to do – make a celebration of it. Anyway, when I saw this photo I realized today was the day to get these packages out the bloody door.
I am posting this blog upon return from the post office, bank and dry-cleaner. And all of that only took 29 minutes. I am back in my office recharged and tremendously relieved to have it done. Maybe that is why I avoid it…so that when I actually do it I feel a great sense of accomplishment and relief. Sad, but partly true.
Think of Your Own Procrastination Triggers
• Do low level tasks to feel busy and sustain the illusion of productivity? For example; organize your office, do the dishes etc…
• Wait for the pressure of an imminent deadline to spur you into action?
• Blame interruptions or other people for not getting things done?
• Resist doing something for fear it will not be done perfectly?
• Avoid doing something for fear of success and thus attracting more work?
Ask Yourself: When Can I Start?
Once you have a sense of your challenge areas Fiore suggests replacing the “I must finish” mentality with “when can I start?” So, with my mailing task, I limited the thinking about the task to just starting it – focusing only on the first step. Then moving on to the next action:
• Wrap the books in brown paper
• Write address on package (opted not to print labels as that felt like too much work)
• Plan a few other errands….. and off I go.
It’s not rocket science. Just get started and let the momentum carry you.
Our next post will be about how Pomodoro can support you to combat procrastination.
Or if you struggle with procrastination, consider our Time Management Workshops program.