Overcoming Procrastination...Habits Worth Having

We all want to work smarter, not harder, to feel accomplished, successful, and significant in our work and at home. And yet, we get in our own way when we put off doing the things that are the most important and most likely to move us toward our goals. Whether or not you consider yourself an organized person, we all experience times when we procrastinate.

Fortunately, procrastination is not a fatal flaw; it is just a habit that can be changed by substituting it with better ones.

So what does this look like? There are foundational skills and patterns that have a positive influence on most of us regarding procrastination. Motivation is what gets us started and moves us into momentum. Habits of working at our peak performance times, conquering fear of failure and anxieties, and setting up productive work spaces are all important in maintaining momentum. And yet, we procrastinate. Why?

We procrastinate when we lack focus or direction.  You wouldn’t just get in your car and start driving and expect to arrive on time to your destination if you haven’t determined where and when that is.

The first step is making a plan.

We all know that written goals are more likely to come to fruition. I begin each year with a free-formed list of all the ideas and goals and tasks as they come into my head. I don’t worry about content, order, or structure at this point. Once I have 100 things written down, patterns emerge and I begin to see what is important for the year ahead.

The second step is to be clear about your core values (i.e., compassion) and your business mission (i.e., inspiring others to find more joy and less stress as they manage their belongings, their living spaces, and their time).

Your core values really don’t change much from year to year, but reviewing them is useful as you decide where and with whom to spend your time, money, and energy. Your mission statement should reflect who you are now and who you are becoming. When these are in alignment, moving forward into action becomes easier, and you will have a clear direction.

I look at my 100 Things list and ask myself if the things that are listed are congruent with my core values. If they are, they stay on my list (i.e., attend NAPO National Conference). If they are incongruent, I know they won’t be a priority for me – and that is okay. It doesn’t mean that I don’t do them, but they fall lower on my list of priorities.

Next, I look for the tasks that can be easily scheduled onto my calendar. Writing them down is a commitment to yourself, and allows you to move on to the more difficult task of breaking down the projects on your list into manageable steps.

For me, mistaking projects for tasks is the primary reason I get stuck. When the big picture is broken down into manageable tasks, I feel more in control of my days, and by extension more successful.  And I feel a sense of accomplishment and completion. By breaking down projects into tasks, I have learned to appreciate how much time it truly takes to do certain things and have become more reasonable in making lists and prioritizing my time.

Finally, we procrastinate when we lose sight of the big picture and allow perfectionism to cloud our judgment. It is important not to make assumptions and to gather the information that we need to make intelligent decisions about our work and personal lives. But continuing to overthink and over-analyze, allows us to put off the difficult task of making a decision when we already have what we need. Be confident in your ability to make decisions. Trust yourself. Get back to the task at hand.

Remember, what is delayed is often forgotten. Make your lists. Schedule your time. Break it down into component parts. Keep going. Do this every day until it becomes second nature. These are all habits worth keeping.

Regrouping...what about the days that fall off the tracks?

We know the value of creating and following habits that keep all of our ducks in a row. My morning routine is usually streamline although to an outside observer might look like I am rushing around doing several unconnected tasks. I'm not. There is actually an order that makes sense for me.

The truth is, I am looking at the big picture as I let the dog outside, feed the cats, start a load of laundry, open the blinds, and put the kettle on to make tea. In the time it takes me to tend my pets and my home, my muscles have warmed up, I have shaken off the morning "sleepies" and I am ready to ask myself what is the best use of my day and ready to begin my plan, which by the way,  is written on the dry erase board on my refrigerator. These days are my Plan A days, and I feel on top of the world.

But what about those days that you over sleep or something unexpected happens that takes priority over everything else? We all have those days and it is okay to allow ourselves a moment of panic, anxiety or temper without judgement. It is also important to get back on the rails as quickly as possible. How this looks will depend upon what works for you.

Something I have found useful in my own life, is to take a look at my scheduled tasks for the day, the ones that are on a timeline. If there is something that can be moved to a later time, I will make those shifts to open up the morning to settle myself and do my soothing morning rituals. And, on those days that this is just not possible, then I move directly to the most important thing. Period!!

Those little things you do to start your day, will get fit in somewhere else. The dog will still adore you, the cats may leave a special present to announce their displeasure, and the laundry may pile up, but at the end of the day, no matter what happens next, you will know you did the most important thing. These end up being some of your highest value days, the ones that define your character, and allow you to practice creative problem solving.

Lastly, expect to have Plan B days.  I am a big believer in setting the bar high and believing in your dreams, so don 't misunderstand me when I say this. It does NOT mean that you are giving up, but rather that you are being flexible and kind to yourself. When we are tired, busy or over-fill our schedules for whatever reason be it the nature of our jobs or over enthusiastic scheduling, or are faced with an unforeseen emergency, there are little things we can do for ourselves ahead of time in anticipation of those inevitable, tightly scheduled days.

This will look different for each of us, so ask yourself, "What do I wish someone else would do for me?" And, then, do it. Do it for yourself. This may seem a strange suggestion, but if you have you ever set something out the night before because you had a few minutes and acted upon this good idea, you know what I am talking about. It could be as simple as counting out your vitamins the night before when you usually set them aside in the morning. Or clearing your desk and setting the mail by the front door with your car keys rather than wait til morning. Then when the phone rings, and you need to rally to Plan B, you will be ready. It is a little gift to yourself and who knows better what you need than YOU?!

Spring Cleaning...time for joy, time for cheer

Finals, projects, graduation and end of the year dance recitals signal summer vacation is quickly approaching! Cherished rituals all!! And then summer slips in as a sweet reward for all the hard work.

I LOVE summer, the change in routine and the opportunity to shift focus. My goals for this summer are to have a clean pallet to begin with and to truly embrace the summer months with my family. I won't be bogged down by the clutter this year...having done so much to open the spaces, makes cleaning a quicker process and leaving tables and surfaces available for new experiences...sewing projects, trying new recipes, and exploring our beautiful city and beyond, camera in hand!

So today I am in full cleaning mode, gloves on, buckets and rags ready. Yes, I could hire someone else to do this for me, and have done so when I could not clear my schedule, but there is something to be said for the immediate gratification gained from doing it yourself. Ideas for changes and tweaks in each space occur to me as I move through the house. Not quite a runner's high, but similar.

Stopping to make changes that can be implemented immediately is a choice that I make, so cleaning is not a straight line for me as I interrupt myself often. I accept this and actually enjoy the process more making a game of it all.

For instance, I am sitting here blogging, gloves still on because, I am, honestly, heading into the bathroom that my teenagers use. I am listening to downloads from American Idol and Smash. Aaaahhhhh...lovely ear candy!!

Keeping your favorite tools handy means you can just plunge in when the day opens up. No need to run out to the store which is important for someone like me who is easily sidetracked. : )

Here are a few of my must-haves, beginning with the most important:

music (cranked up loudly)

thin, disposable gloves (saves my hands)

Swiffer dusters

clean rags



Mrs. Meyer's lemon cleaning solution (smells like heaven and environmentally          gentle)


Wish me luck! And as always thank you for visiting my blog. Feedback is welcome!