Interruptions. They are incessant. And, if you are like me, it isn’t just your children or customers interrupting you. It could be your friends, family, and co-workers, too. But the worst interrupter of all, for me, is myself. An idea pops into my head the moment I begin to relax and then leads to another and another. I think of all the things I need to remember at the most inopportune times! I catch myself jumping up every other minute to take care of some small task I don’t want to forget. I just can’t find an uninterrupted moment to take care of things that require being focused or left alone.
Learning to Rotate Through Priorities
When I was an office manager, I was the only one answering five phone lines. It was nearly impossible to make an effective outbound call. “Hi, I was calling for …. excuse me. Will you hold please?” As a mother it has been no better with my children finding all kinds of reasons why what they have to say can’t wait.
I wasn’t procrastinating on purpose, but the interruptions plus my apparent inability to recognize what was realistic led to constant frustration. Now I can’t believe I would try to make outbound calls while I was answering all the phones or try to call people with all my little ones underfoot. What was I thinking?
Learning to rotate through priorities (something different is most important to do each day) rather than keeping a static list of priorities (that matched my unchanging hierarchy of values) was revolutionary for me. Just because I value it the highest does not necessarily mean it is the most important thing to do today. I have also found other ways to “getter done” and “Eat That Frog” (a great book by Brian Tracy on fighting procrastination).
Examples of How to Beat Procrastination
One way I beat procrastination is to schedule it. For example, I put exercise on my calendar and into my life by registering for group fitness classes. Self-care, especially exercising, seemed to be one of those things like phone calls that just never fit in or worked. Scheduling a class helped me to prioritize it. It legitimized that spot in time so that I didn’t give it away.
I’ve found that scheduling things is a double edged sword. I personally feel more stressed with a lot of things scheduled. I prefer a flexible schedule so I can respond well to everything that comes my way–sick kids, a friend in the hospital, etc. I feel stressed if I always have to watch the clock and prefer to get lost in what I’m doing at the moment. But for things that really matter to me, that I would choose over almost anything else because of it’s true value or importance, this works really well.
The second way I beat back procrastination is by setting a deadline. An arbitrary deadline, meaning one that I just picked out of the sky, that is just something I thought would be good has never, ever worked for me. Some part of me just knows it isn’t for real. No one would really care if it got done by that particular time. I am the kind of person who needs a real life reason for respecting deadlines over immediate and pressing concerns. So, it seems like this would not work for me, and usually, it hasn’t! But having no deadline hasn’t worked, either. So much of my work is up to me that some things, especially those important only to me, got pushed back indefinitely and never got done. I could “be there” for others and serve them, but couldn’t do the simplest things for myself. (Remember, what stays at the bottom of the list falls off.)
The way I now set a deadline that works for me is by putting it into my weekly routine. I set aside Wednesday after my children leave for school as my anti-procrastination day. It is a weekly line in the sand and the category of what is most important to do that day. On Wednesday morning I prioritize and tackle first anything that is still on my to do list from last week that can’t be deleted, delegated, or delayed another week. If I need to delegate it, I do it right then. I make the dreaded phone calls. I tackle the problems too small or too large to deal with on the rest of the days when my life is busier or more distracted. And, I do it first. I never schedule any appointments Wednesday morning. Everything else must wait while I clear away these roadblocks that are clogging up my list and weighing down my emotions.
Scheduling and setting deadlines my own way is a new take on an old solution.
These practices have been so freeing.
I love to feel free!
My challenge for you today is to notice what you’ve done in the past to conquer procrastination. Has it worked for you? If not, see if you can find a new strategy that does.
Continue to search until you find your path to this freedom.
It is so worth it.
DarEll S. Hoskisson
DarEll S. Hoskisson loves to do hard things, but not too hard. She shares her own challenges, goals and experiences as she guides you into a realistic path of self-reflection and self-improvement. She shares tips on how to find, know and trust yourself so you can decide if other’s suggestions are right for you. DarEll has the world a little upside down—where work is play and play is work. She actually thinks other people’s problems are fun to try to solve and lights up with a personal challenge. She loves people, harmony, and excellence. She also loves useful things like tools and ideas that make work faster, easier and more fun. DarEll married in 1993 and graduated from BYU (1995) with a bachelor’s degree in English and Secondary Education. Since then she was adopted by 5 children and has worked with many non-profits. She is currently a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor—leading pilates and yoga at her local YMCA. DarEll lives in Florida where she enjoys her family, nature, her work, and encouraging people to live well. She periodically posts her poems, what she is learning, and service opportunities on her personal blogs: https://personalabridgements.wordpress.com and https://darellhoskisson.wordpress.com