Photo by Heather Buelow http://www.Flourishinthyme.com
Procrastination is something we all struggle with from time to time. But for some people it is more of a lifestyle than just an occasional struggle. Have you ever wondered why you don’t do that task that has been on your to do list for weeks or maybe even months? Many times it seems like such an easy thing to do. So…….why don’t you do it?
There isn’t one easy answer, but I have a few ideas that might help explain it and then hopefully you can develop strategies for overcoming it.
For example, on your to do list you have “make an appointment with the dentist”. That shouldn’t be hard right? Well, maybe it’s a little harder than you think. When you call to make the appointment they will most likely be booked for several weeks. How are you supposed to know if you will be free 6 Wednesdays from tomorrow at 3:00 pm? They might also want updated information about insurance. Where did you put that insurance card? Is it in your wallet? You are uncertain. They will want to know what the problem is and which tooth it is. “Third tooth from the eye tooth on the right side of your mouth,” you say. That isn’t sufficient. They will use language to describe the tooth that is like a foreign language to you. How are you supposed to know the correct name and number of the tooth? You aren’t a dentist! You get the picture. Bottom line here is that the reason this is hard is that the dentist will want information from you that you are uncertain about. And so……..you procrastinate.
Another example might be “clean out my email inbox”. Simple right? Wrong. About an hour into the task you realize that the half hour that you set aside to do this task is grossly insufficient. Between deleting, moving to folders, reading, clicking on links and making decisions about each email, your time is up. But you have barely gotten started. And so…….you procrastinate.
Still another example might be to return the pie dish to the neighbor who was kind enough to bring you some pie last week. That should be easy. But you know if you go to her house she will invite you in. Then you will have to make small talk. She might even invite you to sit down and have a cold drink. That could turn into an hour or more. Yikes! You don’t have that kind of time! And so…….you procrastinate.
We could go on and on looking at your to do list and noting that the things that seem to be simple and easy aren’t so simple and easy. You need a strategy. Here’s what works for me. I ask myself “what’s so hard about this task?” The answer usually falls into one or more of the following categories.
- Not enough time
- Not knowing the answers to questions
- Having to make decisions about time, space, etc.
- Having limited information about what will be required of you.
After I identify what is so hard about the task I can generally come up with a strategy to overcome the obstacle. If time is the problem, I can go to my calendar and block off time to do the task. (Note: I usually double the time that I think it will take because I am not so good at estimating how much time things require).
If answers from me will be required I try to anticipate what the questions will be and have the answers ready. If a question comes up that I don’t know the answer to I can say. “I’m not sure, but I will find out and either text, call, or email you”. If decisions regarding time or space are needed I can anticipate this and make the decisions prior to starting the task (for example I might need to create folders to put my emails into or purchase additional office supplies, or create a space to put the finished project).
If I need information about what will be required from me I can simply ask. Or, for instance, if I want to return the pie plate, but not risk getting pulled into something that might take more time I can say “I only have a few minutes, but I wanted to return your dish and thank you for the delicious pie.” By saying this up front, I have created an out for myself if needed.
The takeaway from this post is that when things stay on your to do list and never seem to get done, it is most likely because the task seems hard to you even though on a conscious level you think it is easy. So ask yourself “What’s so hard about this task”? Then come up with strategies. Sounds easy right? Sometimes it is easy, sometimes not. If you would like help with this give me a call. I love coming up with strategies. It will be fun!