How many times have you said, 'I will do it tomorrow' today? How many times did you say this yesterday? That is a pattern most of us fall prey to. I struggle with procrastination and have consistently surrounded myself with tools to help minimize it. I was given solace years ago to understand why and was told that it is part of the depression I suffered. When I decided to take charge of my life and step out of the dark hole, I realized something major, everything I have put off, I would sit down, comb through and identify what was important. Basically, I used my wardrobe clearance system - whatever I hadn't worn in 6 months would be given away and if it didn't fit, big or small, it would suffer the same fate.
Thus began my journey to control being overwhelmed by an endless list of to-do's and will do's as well as trying my best in any situation. You realize that you can't do it all, and you shouldn't think that you can. So what I had put off for years, I let go of and what I hadn't done in months, I asked myself, why hadn't I completed said task? If the reason did not present itself, I labeled it a non-starter. This was difficult but following this exercise, I made the best decision of my life by deciding to account for my activities from when I woke up until I knocked-out, every day for one week. I categorized them all, mummy tasks, work tasks, family obligations, friends. I found out something fascinating, I did not have time coined out for ME.
I must state that during this week I did not add any new obligations and I made myself unavailable to anything that was not a priority. I had literally run out of time in the present and future by piling up everything I procrastinated upon alongside my daily routine activities. I was overwhelmed. I decided to change how I spent my time. Here is how I learned how to focus on the NOW, leave the past and hope for the best in the future. The key to overcoming procrastination is planning, self-honesty, and accountability! I hope I haven't lost you there. Stay with me, I promise it will be worth it!
- Planning. Everyone who knows me understands this phrase 'let me check my diary'. Friends have made a jest of me on numerous occasions when I send them calendar invites for a coffee meet. One of my closest friends always comments when I call her at the exact same time every day. This is because I have planned that segment of my day. I find it attractive when a person uses a planner or sends me a calendar invite. This means I am important enough for them to set a reminder to make sure they do not forget their obligation to me. This simple effort is a lifesaver so I do not disappoint others. It also makes sure I have enough time to get to appointments, meditate and take that one hour a day to do me. I do not joke with that time, in fact, it is blocked out from my diary for any event unless it's a mummy emergency. So try it for a week and plan! You will find you are less pressured that week. I hope you find it beneficial enough to continue on.
- Self-Honesty. At some point in our amazing life journey, we learn to understand ourselves better. We also get to know our limits. You must be honest with yourself about what you can do in a day, in a week, in a month. I book appointment 2 weeks ahead and avoid overnight or late night events on school nights. I leave Friday nights and Saturday mornings for socials, and so on. I am about to turn 35 and it has taken me over 30 years to take control of my time and how I spend it. I have, to be honest with myself and say, NO. I find that if I give myself realistic expectations, I do not disappoint myself or others. You do not need to risk procrastinating, disappointing others and yourself by taking everything on. Most will understand and if some don't, it is OK. This is because you know how you spend your time and that if you overextend yourself, it will affect you. You do not need to justify your decision.
- Accountability. Have you found yourself feeling guilty because you did not complete a task or fulfill an obligation especially when you know there was time to do so? If you feel that way, could you have taken too much on? This is where my 1 week-activity diary helps. It is the same concept used for meal tracking when you are trying to lose weight. In today’s world, our mobile devices take a huge part of our time without us knowing. I could find myself lost pinning or liking social media posts for a good hour. When I lost my me-time to this and started to get stressed, I made a conscious and hard decision to switch my phone off once a day for one hour. As a single homeschooling parent, this can be challenging but I became a better person for it. I also decided to coin out times for checking emails during the week, not weekends, removed notifications from my devices so I do not get distracted and made sure I did not take calls after 7 pm. In making myself accountable, I realized that I could perform 3 tasks to perfection every week. No matter what, I would not take on more than I should. This is easier said than done but if you use tools to track yourself, you will find that it is easier done, than said.
Documenting my experience led me to develop an exercise in Biabook to help users work on procrastination because I found that when I became aware of how I spent my time, I could manage my business activities better so they did not overwhelm my personal life or disappoint clients. I fall off the wagon sometimes. Today, I will complete this post but don’t tell anyone that I am 2 days off. This is because I tried something new without accounting for the dedicated time I had for writing, editing, artwork sourcing and so on. I was spontaneous, my true self! However, I know better to make a promise, I must deliver. So in sharing my true life accounts and how I sometimes struggle with staying on track, you can join me on this journey not to conquer and self-manage your time by honoring how you spend it.
Remember this series was about how time is spent and how no condition is permanent once you set your mind to not live in the past. I wonder what the next installment would be like. See you there!